The SOLOS are an AAC institution. Each year, we announce a call for entries to all contemporary fine artists living or working in the Mid-Atlantic region—which includes Washington, D.C.; Virginia; West Virginia; Maryland; Pennsylvania; and Delaware.


These submissions are reviewed by our exhibitions committee, which typically consists of seven arts professionals. Five of these come from the AAC board: We are fortunate to have a number of practicing artists, curators, and collectors as active board members.


Two guest jurors lead the panel. For SPRING SOLOS 2009, those guests were Anne Ellegood, departing Contemporary Curator for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (and soon-to-be Senior Curator for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles), and Philip Barlow, omnipresent D.C. art collector par excellence.


Out of the hundreds of submissions received this past year, the panel chose 11 artists to feature in two separate shows. Five of these artists are on view here on the building’s main floor. Each artist was given one of our separate, self-contained gallery spaces in which to present his own individual SOLO exhibition.


Washington, D.C. artist Steven Frost, known for using needlework and fabric in pieces focusing on sexual identity, presents a project made in collaboration with his mother. Steven and his mother, Barbara, deconstruct the artist’s childhood Halloween costumes, suggesting new meanings and motivations for the wearer of each elaborate outfit, and presenting their efforts as a sort of haute couture Halloween brand.


Another D.C.-based artist, Gregory McLellan, is a painter whose labor-intensive spray painted, sanded, and layered pieces resemble everything from graffiti, to heroic abstraction, to the electrified cartoon innards that his titles suggest. Tingleguts is a sumptuous series of distressed and excavated surfaces; an essay by writer J. Stevie Jones (mysteriously type-set on Dymo labels) accompanies the exhibit.


Baltimore’s Christopher Lavoie offers an installation with ominous imagery and flashes of dark humor, featuring a concrete headstone made to appear like a crucifix that has sprouted outstretched human hands; “brass” knuckles that are actually cast in eggshells; and various destroyed (and/or recast) consumable items from the artist’s own past. LaVoie’s relationship to these objects is ambiguous; their obliteration and resurrection seems to be an anaologue for a disintegrating or reformulated sense of self.


And two West-Virginia artists present meticulous work about consumption: Jason Lee builds bright orange, mass-produced-looking lightboxes, mounted either on the floor or on the wall, offering glimpses of the sky, and of a creek or stream. These Euthenics studies pose questions about planned communities, public spaces, sprawl, and the triumph of universal technology.


Joe Lupo creates graphite drawings, etchings, and silkscreens of his sales receipts. These small pieces (always the image is exactly the same size as the receipt it depicts) rely on traditional craftsmanship and techniques, but seem to follow a sort of serial, conceptual art logic, in which unremarkable detritus is elevated to an absurd degree.


Ultimately, SPRING SOLOS 2009 highlights challenging work of exceedingly high quality that’s being made right here in our own backyard. These five artists exemplify contemporary art’s capacity to cull extraordinary images and experiences from all things regional, personal, or even boringly usual—and, simultaneously, to participate in a much larger national conversation about culture, consumption, and identity.


Jeffry Cudlin, Director of Exhibitions, AAC