Capital Skyline Hotel
Having reached a second year, the (e) merge art fair is no longer the newest kid on the block, and it has settled nicely into the status. When it opened last fall, there was a lot of buzz about the fair itself, and the feeling was that it had a lot to prove.
But the show has assimilated fairly quickly into DC's contemporary art scene, partially because we're a city that deserves a fair. So this fall (e)merge drew very good, solid art from galleries all over the world, and several great local artists, all emerging and without gallery representation. The galleries show in 'booths' in hotel rooms on the second floor of the Capitol Skyline and several other artists are on the first floor. In the basement parking garage, students from MICA and the Corcoran show their work, also there are several large-scale installation pieces and works from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
The first floor artists are shown in the ballrooms where the layout is spacious. There is room for performance art and installation by the pool, lectures, and panel discussions. This part of the fair feels like a well-planned group exhibition. Not to be missed are Barbara Joseph's Liotta's delicate hanging sculpture, Chorus, Farah Ahmed's layered photographs of projected lights over hennaed hands, titled Worlds Apart, and the wonderful wall sculpture by Jonathan Latiano and Ali Miller, The Relationship, mounted across a corner and spiking towards each other, finally meeting over the gap.
It's always wonderful to see student work, and the basement exhibitions are just the same. MICA is showing alumnae work, both recent and less-so, that highlights the vast diversity and reach of their student's work. The installations are big, fun, and interesting, as installation work should be. While the whole basement feels sort of grungy, it's a good grungy, and the work is installed well for the space. However, last year there was more work downstairs, leaving more to discover and lending a maze-like feeling to the space that I missed this year.
Riding the elevator up to the second floor of the hotel is where things start to change. Despite all the gorgeous-yet-horribly-run-down modernity of the architecture, the elevators are mysteriously paneled and painted baby blue. The building simply isn't cohesive in design, for all that it has great bones. In another twist of inconsistencies, the main feature of (e)merge art fair consists of really great art in a really dingy setting. Until the fair changes location, it will always feel second rate, and it's doing a disservice to its excellent galleries and their artists.
Critic for www.artlinePlus.com