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Post details: Artomatic

Artomatic

When retreating from Moscow in 1812, Napoleon allegedly remarked: "There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous".

If you are mistrustful of French Generals and want an independent, empirical test of the adage, there is no better place to go than Washington's Artomatic - a month long festival that features the Capital's young artists and takes place downtown DC in a gutted nine story office building, whose empty floors have been turned into an endless maze of panels.

Each segment of the exhibition is occupied by one artists, so you can encounter an amazing hodgepodge of styles in a relatively compact space. Since in arts, the beauty is also in the eye of the beholder, all the pieces coexist together in a sort of Utopian non-judgmental harmony. One man's kitsch is another man's sacrosanct and it is up to you to decide which is which. One simple step, and you locomote from dazzling to subdued, from exuberant to melancholic, from fragmented to focused, or from sophisticated to trivial. And there were plenty of steps to make: there was a tawdrily tiled bathroom (or as the British would say a water loo), a collage made out of plastic kid toys, a mesmerizing portrait of a black lady in front of a red drape surrounded by mean looking hounds, a plethora of Andy Warhol wannabees, a hand protruding from a mound of empty cigarettes packs, naive pastel paintings camera ready for Hallmark, daring visual altercations and somewhere in the midst of all that framery was my favorite: a series of tongue-in-cheek photographs depicting plush animals as victims of assorted murder plots.

In real life, you can spot the trace of Napoleon's maxim too. Those who ever stepped from a dirty alley into a luxurious restaurant, or those who issued from a crowded theater onto an empty street know what I am talking about. It's like entering an airplane. One step, and you go from here to there, from one continent to another, from a comedy to a tragedy, from mundane to majestic and sometimes back.

From this vantage point, Artomatic imitated life to a tee. One swing and your eyeballs could end up on the putting green of a masterpiece or - just as easily - in the sand bunker of a disguised scrap. If the colors, materials, tones, and textures had turned into smells and spices, you would have thought you were walking through the Food Court at New Delhi Airport. One step, and you would have stirred from Garam Masala to black mustard seeds. But then they would have to rename it to Aromatic, wouldn't they?

Just a subtle reminder that Art is really food for our Soul.

arto

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