What if an art gallery offered nothing to see? How might visitors visualize the sounds they hear? "Fermata," an exhibition at Artisphere, answers those questions with new ways to experience sound. (Jessica Rosgaard & Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post)

The most exciting gallery show this spring is one you can take in with your eyes closed. But leave your ears (and your mind) open.

“Fermata” — the title is musical terminology for a sustained note — will showcase approximately 25 sound artists, each of whom will use an array of speakers to present his or her work. Aside from a seating area across from a bank of 40-some speakers, Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery — a space that in the past has hosted photography, painting, printmaking, sculpture, industrial design, video and an installation of silver balloons designed by Andy Warhol — will otherwise be empty.

The show is largely the brainchild of Artisphere’s new-media curator, Ryan Holladay, who is organizing “Fermata” in collaboration with his visual-art counterpart, Cynthia Connolly, and his brother Hays Holladay. (Outside Artisphere, the Holladay brothers work under the name Bluebrain. The musical duo has produced site-specific sound experiments and interactive concerts featuring boomboxes.)

According to Holladay, the range of artists will include such pioneers of electronic music as Ryuichi Sakamoto, local sound artist Alberto Gaitan, whose self-described “data-aware” compositions have been known to vacuum up sound files from around the Internet, and astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz. Walkowicz, who Holladay says wouldn’t even necessarily consider herself an artist, will contribute a sonic star-mapping piece made from light data gathered by NASA’s Kepler space telescope.

Promotional art work for the audio-based show “Fermata” at Artisphere. The image depicts a mock-up of what Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery will look like covered in audio speakers for the exhibit. (Courtesy Artisphere)

“Fermata” will be presented in three consecutive sections, or what Holladay calls “movements,” spread out over its three-month run. He hopes that visitors will not just pop into the gallery once — each movement runs about an hour or less — but return to experience the entire program. So why an art gallery and not a downloadable podcast? Holladay strongly believes that by situating “Fermata” in a physical space — one traditionally set aside for stuff that you look at, not listen to — he’s inviting visitors to reevaluate their preconceptions about how sound — and its synesthetic evocation of the visual — fits into the world of fine art. He notes that one of the artists featured in last year’s “Soundings” exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, Christine Sun Kim, will be in residence at Artisphere for the duration of “Fermata.” Deaf since birth, Kim is known for art that explores the physical dimension of sound (vibration, say, or musical notation). She’s the only “Fermata” artist who will also contribute visual work to the show.

Increasingly, Artisphere is becoming known as a venue where new media and old media collide. According to Holladay, “Cynthia and I are homing in on what I think Artisphere’s place is in the art world. We’re trying to find our voice here, and I think we have.”

April 24 through Aug. 3 at Artisphere, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. 703-875-1100. www.artisphere.com. Free.

Five others to mark your calendar for


This may be the ticket for those with a taste for the surreal. Green’s sculptural installations, which incorporate toylike robotics, hover between twee and disturbing. Shaheen, a ceramicist, also walks a fine line between the accessible and the outré.

Feb. 21 through March 18 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW . 202-628-2787.www.mortonfineart.com.


A presentation of Curator’s Office, which recently shut down its 14th Street location, this exhibition will showcase the work of a talented local photographer, whose portfolio includes dreamlike images of food suspended in Jell-O and clinical close-ups of body parts.

March 21 through April 19 at Studio 1469, 1469 Harvard St. NW (entrance in rear alley) . 202-518-0804. www.studio1469.com. Free.


An outgrowth of a series of podcasts in which artists Annette Isham and Zac Willis invited artists whose work they admired to submit to a Playboy-style centerfold Q&A, this exhibition is a veritable hipster Who’s Who, and will include contributions from Bridget Sue Lambert, Matthew Mann, Victoria Fu, Hedieh Javanshir IIchi; Bradley Chriss, Larry Cook and Nikki Painter.

March 29 through May 3 at Project 4, 1353 U St. NW, Ste. 302. 202-232-4340. www.project4gallery.com. Free.


It’s been two years since Ko’s last solo exhibition, but the acclaimed Washington sculptor — whose sensuous works are created by wrestling thick, tightly coiled rolls of adding-machine tape into elegant abstractions — is back with a fresh batch of work .

April 5 through May 17 at Marsha Mateyka Gallery, 2012 R St. NW (Metro: Dupont Circle). 202-328-0088. www.marshamateykagallery.com. Free


In a partnership between the ultimate insider and ultimate outsider, Stout — at 55 one of the city’s best and most lauded artists, whose works explore spirituality, identity and transformation — will display collaborative sculpture made with Odinga Tyehimba, a 41-year-old, self-taught artist based in Durham, N.C. Like Stout’s, Tyehimba’s art is known for its evocative use of African American cultural symbols.

April 24 through July 5 at Greater Reston Arts Center, 12001 Market St., Ste. 103, Reston. 703-471-9242. www.restonarts.org. Free.

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