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Not an Art Expert? Harmon Art Lab is Excited to See You

by Borderstan.com — October 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm 0

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Peter Harper and Thomas Drymon at harmon art lab, 1716 14th Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

From Kate Hays

The art world can be an intimidating place: the lingo, the crowd, the opinions.

Intimidation is exactly what Harmon Art Lab (or HAL) doesn’t want you to experience at their 14th Street NW digs. Founders Peter Harper and Thomas Drymon met at an art opening a few years ago, and started chatting about the art scene. They saw a void. Where could an artist display work in the hopes that real people (not just collectors or critics) would look, interpret and enjoy new art? Where could these real people go and feel welcome to their own perspectives and opinions about art?

Several years later, they finally have realized that dream in HAL. In the midst of their second show, they hope to be a drop-in spot for neighborhood residents and visitors.

Their current show features paintings by Michel Modell and an installation by Mariah Anne Johnson.

There’s something transparent about Modell’s paintings. They range from those that made me giggle at their humor (check out “Kin But Not Kind”), to those that provoked me to deeper contemplation of our world (like “War Cry” or “Empress Who”). All her paintings have an inviting quality of something the viewer could try on, perhaps because of the humor Modell infuses into her treatment of more intense topics, or perhaps even because of the way she uses her paint, in washes.

Johnson’s installation of sheets is a mix of whimsy and peacefulness. As someone who grew up around paint chips and palates, there’s always something very soothing to me about a color spectrum. Take that spectrum and make it 3-D, and popping out of floors or tucked behind a radiator, and out of sleeping materials to boot? I wasn’t sure if I wanted a chair to look at it for an hour, a la a Rothko painting, or a cot to cozy in for a nap. But I liked being in that room.

Don’t take my word for it — that’s not what HAL would want, anyway. See for yourself: HAL will be open this weekend during the Mid City Artists Open Studios. And check out their schedule of openings; each one comes with an artist Q&A where artists talk about their work and field questions. Drop in and register your own opinions; they’re welcome. They are located upstairs at 1716 14th Street NW.

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