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 www.addisonripleyfineart.com