Reasoned Likelihood / Instinctive Naturalness / Future Imperfect Continuous: A Curatorial Exchange With Arlington Arts Center

For our May and June shows, Grizzly Grizzly developed a two-part exchange exhibition with Karyn Miller, Director of Exhibitions at the Arlington Arts Center [AAC] in Virginia. This two-month series features work by the AAC Artists in Residence, viewed through the lens of two creative hypotheses: Instinct and Reason. In the May iteration, titled Reasoned Likelihood, the curated work straddles a compelling space between the cultural/political and the personal. In Instinctive Naturalness, which ran from June 2nd to the 25th, the artists create work inspired by memory, emotion, and first-hand experience.

At the conclusion of our exchange, Karyn was kind enough to share some of her thoughts about our collaborative efforts, including the exhibit that she and the AAC residents curated in Virginia, featuring the artists of Grizzly Grizzly collective, Future Imperfect Continuous.


The connections that bind groups of artists working together through collectives, residency programs, and the like can sometimes seem tenuous and indistinct. So frequently the value of these groups of artists is in their diversity which can turn creating a cohesive presentation of their works into a distinct challenge.

About a year ago, I began talking with Grizzly Grizzly member Talia Greene about the possibility of creating an exchange between Arlington Arts Center, a nonprofit art organization where I am the Director of Exhibitions, and Grizzly Grizzly. Following numerous studio visits in Arlington, VA and Philadelphia, PA and numerous emails and exchanges, we happily began the task of bringing together artists from both organizations in a series of shows in both Arlington and Philadelphia. In total, this consisted of works by 17 artists spread across three exhibitions in two venues.

Arlington Arts Center (AAC) presented the six Grizzly Grizzly artists in an exhibition entitled Future Imperfect Continuous. As we sought to identify the links between works by Talia Greene, Amy Hicks, Michael Konrad, Ephraim Russell, Cindy Stockton Moore, and Josh Weiss, a few themes began to emerge: an underlying interest in time and a direct engagement with the objects we produce, consume, and then ultimately leave behind. Future Imperfect Continuous suggested a dark and unsteady relationship with time and tense. The artists imagined our present as a future, placed seemingly familiar objects and narratives into unfamiliar times and spaces, and examined historic visions for the future.

Following the exhibition at AAC, the Grizzly Grizzly artists were charged with an even bigger puzzle to untangle. Arlington Arts Center houses 11 resident artists whose works traverse a variety of themes, processes, and materials. The exhibitions were presented as a diptych that explored how artists toggle between instinct and reason in their creative process. The first exhibition, Reasoned Likelihood, opened in May with artists Roxana Geffen, Hedieh Ilchi, Austin Shull, Michele Colburn, and Dawn Whitmore. These five artists, while wildly distinct, grapple with social, political, and personal considerations through photography, painting, sculpture, and mixed media works.


 


In June, Grizzly Grizzly launched the second exhibition, Instinctive Naturalness, which featured Alice Whealin, Negar Ahkami, Jung Min Park, Becca Kallem, Pam Rogers, and Ryan McCoy. These artists work primarily in painting, drawing, and mixed media and the works occupy a space that plays very intentionally with both representation and abstraction.


 


To our community at AAC, this exchange felt so significant and productive. Too often I see artists exhaust their opportunities to exhibit within the Washington, DC region and then feel frustrated by the difficulty in expanding their geographical reach. Additionally, we live and work in a region that has become so expensive for the arts community and we have seen the amount of space for artists dwindle over the last decade. Spaces and groups like AAC and Grizzly Grizzly have become increasingly precious and this was a way to amplify and highlight work by artists who animate and build communities within these organizations.


Before coming to AAC Karyn Miller spent nearly a dozen years building relationships with the region’s emerging artists and perfecting her knowledge of DC’s contemporary arts scene. Miller served as gallery director for five years at Conner Contemporary before moving to CulturalDC’s Flashpoint Gallery, where she devoted another five years to collaborating with artists and honing her curatorial skills. Miller led several off-site public art projects at CulturalDC including Construct, a series of art installations in vacant retail spaces; Sweet, a public art project with artist Nekisha Durrett, and FREE SPACE, an installation at MLK Library by Michael Dax Iacovone and Billy Friebele. Additionally, she spearheaded CulturalDC’s marketing and communications activities. Miller has served on panels and lectured at a variety of institutions in the region and has curated and juried exhibitions at Civilian Art Projects, Orlando Museum of Art, Gettysburg College, Catholic University and Maryland Institute College of Art.

Hailing from rural Pennsylvania, Miller graduated with honors from The Catholic University of America with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History, and later received a Master of Arts in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University during which she completed coursework at the Sotheby’s Institute in New York. She lives in the relatively unheard-of Brightwood neighborhood in Washington, DC with her husband, Alex, and five feral cats, all of which are named after early American historical figures.

 

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