All articles are written by YJDP Student Correspondents and edited by mentors from The Washington Post prior to publishing.
Tucked behind the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., Hillyer Art Space feels defiantly small. The brick building stands just two stories high; visitors filter through a repurposed garage door, and just three rooms comprise the whole of the gallery.
Nonetheless, Hillyer’s monthly “First Friday” event on Nov. 7 drew considerable crowds for the launch of three new exhibitions, all centered around photography and digital media. As DC art buffs flocked to the showing, the space quickly filled up, with people clustering around the most pronounced works.
“We’re looking for artists who have not had a solo show within the last three years,” Gallery Director Allison Nance explained. “Most of them are emerging, but some are underexposed. They’ve been making art their whole career, and they just haven’t had commercial success recently.”
Each month, Hillyer introduces new exhibitions -- a key to the gallery’s success, according to Nance. “It’s pretty fast-paced,” she added, “but it brings out crowds like this, and it brings out different people. Each month has a different layer to it.”
Interspersed in the crowds were the artists themselves, adding to the gallery’s intimate, local feel. Christine Pearl, whose exhibition featured black-and-white shots from demolition derbies, mingled with her patrons.
“When you drive through a place you’ve never seen, you look out the window, because you want to see it. And that’s the analogy for my project -- it enables the viewer to look at something you wouldn’t have looked at before.”
For Pearl, the exhibition allowed others not only to take part in the derby experience but also to share in her personal struggles. “I got a neurological disease five years ago and basically had to learn how to walk all over again,” Pearl shared. “Photography became a way for me to face my disability.”
In the back room of the gallery, Anthony Palliparambil, Jr. presented an aesthetic wholly distant from Pearl’s. His exhibition consisted of 96 four-by-four-inch photos wrapped around the room, all heavily filtered and edited.
“It started with Instagram, because two years ago a friend of mine said something disparaging about Instagram, and that bugged me, because there’s no reason that a platform like Instagram and iPad tools can’t be used in a creative way,” Palliparambil said.
Palliparambil’s method centered around moving photos from app to app and applying new effects. “Sometimes I know what I’m going to do, but sometimes, it’s kind of ‘let’s just see what happens.’ There’s even an app that I can’t really control, and I just guide it as much as I can, and I let it do what it wants to do.”
The final exhibition, “Visible Iceland,” presented works by five artists who had traveled to the country over a period of several years. While the works all shared in a muted palette of blue and green, Katrín Elvarsdóttir’s series captured simple shots of lone trailers, adding to the sense of geographic isolation.
Elena Sheehan, another one of the “Visible Iceland” artists, aptly summed up Hillyer: “From what I’ve seen, I think it’s important to have small galleries like this for artists who are working who aren’t world-famous, who aren’t showing in New York... there’s some good work here.”