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Wilmer Wilson IV’s “Bandages/I Voted” performance piece

Collect Call

by Brittney Dunkins, Susan Hunsinger, Adrienne Messeca and Lindsey Brenner | DC magazine | November 26, 2011

The Washington-area art scene has witnessed a renaissance of boundary-pushing, genre-defining artists. We share this year’s picks of the top 10 talents to watch, and the works to start collecting right now.

1. The Showman
As a first-time live performer, 22-year-old artist Wilmer Wilson IV became the unlikely hit of this fall’s (e)merge Art Fair. The newcomer makes statements with common objects like spoons, paper bags and Post-its in his art. At the fair, Wilson spent an entire day applying and removing a roll of “I Voted” stickers all over his body, a spectacle that not only drew a crowd, but won him accolades—and patronage—from arts connoisseur Mera Rubell, along with (e)merge directors Leigh Conner, Helen Allen and Jamie Smith.

Still a student at Howard University, the young Virginia native seeks to explore what he terms “social camouflage” with everyday things. “It was great to experience the reaction of the audience and interact with them,” Wilson says. The success earned him a spot in the *gogo emerging art projects at Conner Contemporary (connercontemporary.‌com), a program that provides up-and-coming artists with a venue to show their work. “At this point, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything but art,” he says.

2. The Game Changer
As an obsessed teen gamer, Jonathan Monaghan decided to ditch the controller and start creating. By the time he arrived at New York Institute of Technology, the designer, who works in 3-D animation, was being featured in the very textbooks he was studying. Blending the fantastic and surreal, his narratives have attracted renowned collectors, such as Fred Ognibene, and earned him bragging rights as a winner of the Washington Project for the Arts’ Experimental Media Series. This January, the 25-year-old, former Hamiltonian Gallery fellow will take a break from artist-in-residence programs for a solo show at the Curator’s Office (curatorsoffice.‌com).

3. The Mystic
Ritual sacrifice and vending machines aren’t a usual match. But for Jenny Sidhu Mullins, an artist who spins spirituality into her paintings and interactive sculptures, the link was clear. She paints animals as metaphors for humans bound by consumerism. The Austin-raised, DC-based artist, will show with Hamiltonian Gallery (hamiltoniangallery.‌com) at Art Basel Miami Beach this month. Her pieces are inspired by the ancient practices of thangka and mughal painting studied during a Fulbright spent in India. She explores mysticism, chakras and reincarnation, catching important eyes, including Department of State Curator Virginia Shore, who acquired her work to hang at the U.S. Embassy in Mumbai.

4. The Globalist
Before sculptor Laurel Lukaszewski decided to pursue art, she worked in cultural exchange, living on a rural Japanese island, then spent nine years navigating U.S.-Japan relations. Those experiences inform her delicate cherry blossom sculptures which, in her words, “take a piece of DC and a piece of Japan and tie them together.” The Far-East aficionado’s work nods to the tea-ceremony concept of ichi-go ichi-e, or capturing a moment in time. She produces seemingly weightless porcelain and stoneware confections that look fleeting, despite their heavy structure. Lukaszewski’s newest solo exhibition mounts at The Art Registry (theartregistrygroup.‌com) on Dec. 3.

5. The Dreamer
The swirling ethereal canvases by Allison Long Hardy wouldn’t look out of place in a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and they’ve found themselves a home somewhere nearly as dramatic. The Frederick, Md., native and Torpedo Factory visiting resident recently had her piece “Sophisticated” purchased with a collection that now decorates the set of the TV show The Good Wife. On-camera acclaim aside, the 27-year-old has already nabbed commendations from entities as far-flung as Texas, West Virginia and Vermont. To create her geometric, often graffiti-like works, Hardy relies on the process of monotyping. She rolls thick, oil-based ink onto a plexiglass plate, then presses it against paper. “Each color that you see in one of my pieces represents a round of the monotyping process,” she explains of the laborious work. Represented by CBS Art Collections (cbsartcollections.‌com), Hardy’s next solo exhibition Crowded Spaces will open at the University of Mary Washington’s DuPont Gallery on Jan. 20.

6. The Stick Figure
Wood and beeswax are the unlikely duo behind the elaborate, structural sculptures by Mary Early. First lauded by Hemphill Fine Arts (hemphillfinearts.‌com), the DC-born artist has also exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the U.S. Botanic Garden. Often resembling twig-based teepees or towering honeycomb, Early’s works have been purchased by such noted collectors as Philip Barlow. Now the DC government is taking notice. Already the recipient of three grants from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Early was just announced as one of 32 artists whose work will be added to the DC Art Bank, a collection of pieces displayed at government agencies in the city.

7. The Ironwoman
The graphic lattice prints and near-tessellations by artist Susan Noyes may look like sophisticated stamp work, but Noyes’ delicate designs are actually quite cutting-edge. The Richmond, Va., native and Lorton resident precisely and mechanically hand-affixes razors to canvas, turning dark, violent objects into crisp, geometric masterpieces. “It’s very repetitive, kind of monotonous and very obsessive,” says the recent exhibitor at The Art Registry gallery (theartregistrygroup.‌com). Could a Vogue feature be in her midst? Noyes’ work has been recently purchased by the magazine’s Associate Publisher David Stuckey. While she waits, the 37-year-old will take a break from DC to seek inspiration in Naples, Italy.

8. The Lineman
The work of Bogotá-born, Baltimore-based painter Camilo Sanín hangs here in DC, and the artist hopes to do so soon, as well. “When I came to this country, I was influenced by my travels around it,” says Sanin. “Now, it’s the Washington Color School that inspires me most.” The 25-year-old’s starkly vivid geometric expressions have found a home at the U.S. Embassy in Gaborone, Botswana, and in the collection of Colombian President César Gaviria. Having just received his MFA from MICA, he’s already represented nationally by CBS Art Collections (cbsartcollections.‌com), and is featured locally in Heiner Contemporary’s (heiner­contemporary.‌com) latest group show until Jan. 14.

9. The Point Person
Amy Lin is not a scientist, but some might say she plays one in her studio. Her drawings, curling strands of precisely connected dots, look like DNA to most, but Lin prefers to think of the clusters as a society. “You can feel the energy between them,” says the 10-year Fairfax resident.Represented by Addison/Ripley (addisonripleyfineart.‌com), the 32-year-old computer programmer by day has nabbed the attention of top District curators, including the National Portrait Gallery’s Anne Collins Goodyear, who owns her work. Lin is headed overseas, joining the Singapore Instinc artist-in-residence program in 2012, and then moving to Moscow a year later, in search of worldwide exposure.

10. The Darkroom Knight
Franz Jantzen is an old-school artist exploring a whole new realm. As the former freelance darkroom printer for the Library of Congress, he presided over modern gelatin silver prints of some of the most iconic American images. But Jantzen’s most compelling snapshots are his own.

The photographer, who works as a part-time collections manager in the curator’s office at the U.S. Supreme Court, is one of the few in town to still develop custom black-and-white shots in a darkroom. His backward-looking approach—and eye for haunting, lonely shots—has caught the eye of collectors and curators alike, from designer Veronica Jackson to those at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

At a time when most artists were ditching their traditional film and opting for the convenience and instant return of digital cameras, Jantzen actively resisted the technology. Not until 2004, when the birth of his daughter necessitated capturing every little moment for the ages, did Jantzen discover and begin to explore the versatility of the new medium. That paternal instinct was the initial spark of inspiration for the artist’s newest batch of prints, exploring digital capabilities from a film-lover’s vantage.

Jantzen’s “assemblages” are small snapshots of an area or object that he digitally pieces together to form a full, seemingly stacked image. The photo phenom will début his new work in the 21st-century medium in a solo exhibition, Franz Jantzen: Ostinato, to open at Hemphill Fine Arts (hemphillfinearts.‌com) in January. The collection—which moves away from his background in black-and-white to works entirely in color—is his third departure from the classic study.

But Jantzen hasn’t abandoned his film fixation. “I think of digital and darkroom as two completely different forms of art,” he says. “I still maintain two different voices in my work.” To wit, Jantzen’s studio is the last in the city to offer custom black-and-white printing commercially.