Addison Ripley Fine Art

Washington, D.C. | by December 3, 2011

Walk­ing down Reser­voir Road towards Wis­con­sin Avenue in George­town has become a famil­iar lit­tle walk for me these past few years. Going to Addi­son Rip­ley Fine Art Gallery is akin to com­ing home (minus lit­tle girls mak­ing a bee line towards me and yelling about why some­thing is unfair and so-​​and-​​so hit me and can I have ice cream NOW!).

Turn­ing the sculpted spher­i­cal brass door­knob, I enter the store­front sun­lit space and imme­di­ately I hear “Hi Isabel!” Romy cheer­ily greets me from her office and soon after, “Hello Isabel!” Christo­pher sec­onds the wel­come. Every time.

Romy Sil­ver­stein is Addi­son Ripley’s Gallery Direc­tor and has been for a num­ber of years. Christo­pher Addi­son is the owner with his wife and part­ner Sylvia Rip­ley who started the gallery over thirty years ago at an old car­riage house in Dupont Cir­cle. Together they have cre­ated a pro­gram that is based on what they like and appre­ci­ate and as Christo­pher artic­u­lates in the video – art that is con­sid­ered more tra­di­tional where craft and beauty are more impor­tant, over ‘the one-​​liner’ (that’s my term).

The gallery is buzzing that day. Maybe it was the rain. Foot traf­fic was bring­ing peo­ple indoors to view the abstract land­scape paint­ings of Mary Page Evans, a Vir­ginia and D.C. based artist. Her work is one exam­ple of one of the more tra­di­tional artists they work with. Christo­pher describes in detail notions of per­cep­tion and obser­va­tion as it relates to Page Evans’ process within the genre of land­scape paint­ing. There is a gen­uine inter­est that goes beyond the work and its con­nec­tion to his­tor­i­cal and the­o­ret­i­cal ref­er­ences, but to the artist and who they are as individuals–an invest­ment towards under­stand­ing con­tent and process within the larger id that in the end, defines what should be a unique and expres­sive visual lan­guage regard­less of it’s attempt to be orig­i­nal or begin a new trend. In fact, it is the anti-​​trend that Christo­pher and Sylvia are most emphat­i­cally inter­ested in.

Pulling out work from the back room I get to see work by Frank Day, Wolf Kahn, Jackie Bat­ten­field and lastly Manon Cleary, whose recent pass­ing has been a huge loss for the Wash­ing­ton art com­mu­nity. Manon Cleary was one of Washington’s fore­most artists and has worked with Addi­son Rip­ley for years. Her work is fig­u­ra­tive depict­ing graphite nude draw­ings of her­self as well as photo-​​realistic paint­ings of flow­ers and pieces of sky.

Christo­pher Addi­son yearns to be engaged by his sur­round­ings and those around him. He occu­pies his life with work that keeps him happy and that can also pay the bills – which I find refresh­ingly real­is­tic and fis­cally respon­si­ble. His longevity in the Wash­ing­ton art scene is a tes­ta­ment to the sound choices he has made. The old­est con­tem­po­rary art gallery in D.C.! He is an ardent sup­porter of numer­ous art projects and orga­ni­za­tions through­out the region includ­ing Trans­former, and advo­cates for inno­v­a­tive pro­gram­ming that can be seen hap­pen­ing at venues such as the Arling­ton Arts Cen­ter and Pleas­ant Plains Work­shop.

While he is against par­tic­i­pat­ing in art fairs, Addi­son Rip­ley sup­ports bring­ing new art to his gallery through a pro­gram that was started a few years ago that invites one of their gallery artists to curate a group show. This pro­gram has typ­i­cally exhib­ited under or unrep­re­sented artists who are con­sid­ered emerg­ing or mid-​​career and has brought in a dif­fer­ent crowd and expe­ri­ence to the gallery that, as Christo­pher states “has been hugely suc­cess­ful!”. Yet he is true to his vision by still main­tain­ing the expe­ri­ence to a ‘real’ aes­thetic – where the power of lived obser­va­tion — not diluted by a series of mime­sis that puts value on the myth of re-​​creation rather than the actual cre­ation of the work itself – remains of the utmost impor­tance. There is a bit of romance to his stance and mis­sion and one that is clearly work­ing for him, Sylvia, Romy and all the artists he con­sid­ers a part of his greater family—and one that I am hon­ored to be a part of. While other gal­leries have come and gone in this area, Addi­son Rip­ley remains stead­fast, com­fort­able and greet­ing every­one that comes to his wel­com­ing world of art.

This month he is exhibit­ing paint­ings by Wolf Kahn and sculp­ture by Carol Brown Gold­berg. Open­ing on Fri­day, Decem­ber 9. Please go to

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