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DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to Exhibit Works by Three World-Renowned Artists for National Cherry Blossom Festival

Monday, March 4, 2013
Exhibition features works by Yuriko Yamaguchi, Michi Fugita and iona rozeal brown

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibition of fine art to celebrate the commencement of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This special exhibition, which opens on Friday March 22 at the DCCAH Gallery at 200 I (Eye) Street, SE, will bring together the works of Japanese-born sculptor Yuriko Yamaguchi, painter Michi Fugita, and internationally renowned multimedia artist iona rozeal brown to form an other-worldly landscape in bloom. Curated by Zoma Wallace, the exhibit runs March 22-June 30, 2013 with round-the-clock access to the building’s gallery.  

“As the nation’s capital, Washington, DC has the good fortune of attracting citizens from around the world. These citizens come different walks of life, but share a common humanity,” said Lionell Thomas, Executive Director of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. “The exhibition is a tribute to how art can be used as a catalyst to commemorate and celebrate this common humanity and international goodwill.”

Alongside hand-carved wooden forms resembling seeds, nests, and organic growths, Yamaguchi’s suspended installations of tree-like structures will take shape from thousands of handmade pods attached individually to a matrix of wire, each enclosing a personal prayer. Her site-specific series of installations entitled Web/Pray will foster communal participation from the entire city. The artist’s mother, Michi Fugita, will be honored posthumously with inclusion in the exhibit as well. Her Four Seasons series of oil paintings, affirms her daughter’s sensitivity to the life cycles of nature, as each canvas records an entire annual cycle of all four seasons.

The mother-daughter confluence continues with the work of iona rozeal brown, also known as “iona diamond.” As a native Washingtonian, her introduction to Kabuki theatre was first made by her mother, attending performances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The memory was enlivened later in life as intense study of Japanese theatre expanded to encompass observed cultural fusions occurring amongst Japanese youth. brown has built a unique vocabulary from a multitude of synergistic Japanese and American influences in order to illustrate an ever-expanding mythology of young spirits born from pods, to become saplings in the living world. These saplings arrive with inherent talents and strengths to contribute to the world, although villainous negative forces seem intent to disrupt the saplings’ path toward constructive production.

brown has extended the allegories of her paintings into her first work of live performance, battle of yestermore. Originally commissioned for the Performa 2011 festival in New York, and reprised at Art Basel Miami, battle of yestermore draws from the myth-based genres of Kabuki and Noh theater, as well as hip-hop culture and “vogueing,” made famous in the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. The debut performance in Washington, DC will take place on Friday, April 5 from 7:00pm-9:00pm at the Corcoran Gallery of Art Atrium. The performance will bring the spiritual and earthly cast of characters from brown’s painting to life, to tell the story of an epic battle. The piece features vogueing legends Benny and Javier Ninja, with New York Hip-Hop dancers Rokafella, Beasty, GI Jane, Lady Beast, Phoenix, and Mona Lisa.  brown performs an original sound score, accompanied by live musicians as the action unfolds on a catwalk-like dance floor in the Corcoran’s atrium, surrounded by an energetic, club-like scene.  Featuring costumes and creative kimono adaptations by costume stylist Brent Barkhaus, the performance is a spectacular mash-up of hip hop and kabuki, break dancing and martial arts, all set to the bumping score of DJ brown.

On Sunday, April 7, brown will take her performance to the Tidal Basin. As dusk approaches, dancer Monstah Black will lead a procession amongst the blossoms, bringing the sacred journey of brown’s myth to a ceremonial close.