Kristina Bilonick Curates at the Arlington Arts Center

Arlington, VA | by July 1, 2012

It was near­ing the end of a sunny mid-​​June after­noon as I con­cluded a brief inter­view with Ste­fanie Fedor, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Arling­ton Arts Cen­ter (AAC). After speak­ing with her about the upcom­ing exhibit titled CTRL + P, a col­lab­o­ra­tive cura­to­r­ial project involv­ing two emerg­ing cura­tors and print­mak­ing, she smiled and returned to her office.

The AAC build­ing — a for­mer school, and recently ren­o­vated to be an exhi­bi­tion space, com­mu­nity cen­ter and artist res­i­dency, was still closed for instal­la­tion. I was left by myself fac­ing every­thing that was to be CTRL+P: two lev­els of uncom­monly posi­tioned con­tem­po­rary works, bourn from print­mak­ing tech­niques (via unrec­og­niz­able means in many cases). I clutched the exhi­bi­tion post­card in my hand and pro­ceeded to inspect the exhi­bi­tion spaces, check­ing off names as I paired them with the pieces. The show seemed mys­te­ri­ous and sprawl­ing. There were twenty-​​seven artists cho­sen by two cura­tors. Post-​​it notes placed on walls were all I went by to iden­tify who did what. What a gas that was.

It was all ini­ti­ated back in Decem­ber 2011, when I was pleased to accept the invi­ta­tion to doc­u­ment Kristina Bilonick’s process for being one of the cura­tors for CTRL+P. I first met Bilonick at a meet­ing for The Stu­dio Visit well over a year prior to March 2012. Whether one knows her per­son­ally or not, it’s easy to grasp that she has had a pro­lif­er­a­tion of influ­ence in the DC art world, and con­ducts her work with out­bound exu­ber­ance and enthu­si­asm, both in her own prac­tice and as a cura­tor and pro­pri­etor of Pleas­ant Plains Work­shop. As an artist who is rel­a­tively new to the cura­to­r­ial process, I knew that fol­low­ing her jour­ney would be fruit­ful and inter­est­ing. Dur­ing the four months that fol­lowed, I met with her sev­eral times to get a sense of how she was man­ag­ing her­self and the project. I quickly dis­cov­ered her core con­cerns as a cura­tor — unortho­dox cre­ative process, involve­ment with the com­mu­nity, tak­ing charge of an artist’s own affairs — and how they were directly inform­ing the devel­op­men­tal arc of the exhibit. It was pleas­ant and fun to work with her, as she remained stead­fast amidst the con­stant whirl­wind of activity.

The inten­tion behind CTRL+P’s scope and dura­tion seemed to be mam­moth. The show runs for nearly three months. It was con­firmed early on that two cura­tors would pool their artists into one exhibit. Both of them would make a conceptually-​​aligned duo that closely fol­lowed check­lists for turn­ing in such an exhibit. When I met Bilonick at Pleas­ant Plains Work­shop, she men­tioned that her part­ner had “more of a New York base”, and that her input added to the diver­si­fy­ing aspect of the exhibit. Bilonick also noted her excite­ment to be fos­ter­ing alliances and cre­at­ing a dia­log with artists out­side of DC. Sev­eral of them she wasn’t even pre­vi­ously aware of; they were dis­cov­ered dur­ing her research. Oth­ers were artists she had known about, and was choos­ing to work with for the first time. The result of CTRL+P was an exhi­bi­tion of high cal­iber art­work that fit the cri­te­ria of the venue quite well. The artist ros­ter dis­plays an inter­est­ing array of var­i­ous back­grounds, and boasts a thread of impres­sive profiles.

“The theme lit­er­ally is new direc­tions in print­mak­ing. It’s not some­thing that just gets repro­duced over and over. The show includes peo­ple with no back­ground in it, yet who are intro­duc­ing prac­tices into their work,” explains Bilonick.

Plenty of famous artists, Chuck Close for exam­ple, fit into tra­di­tional notions of print­mak­ing by pro­duc­ing side­line edi­tions of mar­ketable prints. The core of CTRL+P is the func­tion of great diver­sity in (one-​​of-​​a-​​kind) con­tem­po­rary art­works. The fact that the works are uni­fied by Bilonick’s premise, clev­erly under­scores how far out­side of the tech­ni­cally based bound­aries it is pos­si­ble to travel artistically.

As evi­dent in the col­lab­o­ra­tive instal­la­tion piece by Gretchen Scher­mer­horn & Franc Rosario, the wood­cut print­ing tech­nique is quite dis­cernible. Yet within the para­me­ters of all the work in the exhibit, they are dis­solved into a soup-​​like spec­trum of the dif­fer­ing sub­jects, mate­ri­als and formats.

Per­haps part of the mes­sage with CTRL+P is that any­one could incor­po­rate aspects of print­ing tech­nique, albeit in a con­cep­tual way. What could be some­what sur­pris­ing or ironic for some is the exhibit’s weighty sense of aes­thet­ics. This char­ac­ter­is­tic appar­ently wasn’t lost in trans­la­tion, since much of the work has such high visual impact. Sat­u­rated color adorns roughly half the work by Bilonick’s artists, such as in Annie Albagli’s print-​​paintings and Anthony Dihle’s wheat-​​paste poster piece. Like­wise, the dom­i­nance of pat­tern lie at the heart of Ser­ena Per­rone and Jeremy Flick’s respec­tive work. Then there’s also imagery in some that com­bines all of it, as in Jor­dan Bernier’s won­der­ful silkscreen video. This visual feed makes for a vis­ceral expe­ri­ence that can widen its appeal and con­sid­er­a­tion among viewers.

Kristina’s choice of artists are a tes­ta­ment to her own fresh vision of what print­mak­ing can be as well as evi­dence of a kind of research that goes from con­tact­ing some­one she has known and worked with before, to div­ing into that first time con­tact. The works under her guid­ance are impres­sive and push the bound­aries of tra­di­tional print­mak­ing in sub­ject and tech­nique. The exhibit will be up through Sep­tem­ber 15, 2012 in Arling­ton, VA at the Arling­ton Arts Cen­ter. There will be cri­tiques and talks through­out the sum­mer for CTRL + P. To find out more about CTRL + P and Kristina Bilonick’s artists, please go to www.arlingtonartscenter.org

Her own site is www.pleasantplainsworkshop.com

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