Play by Play
January 11 – February 1, 2014 │Project 4 Gallery │Washington, DC
FLEX is a group of artists and curators who come together to produce a series of exciting temporary exhibitions. Focusing on projects that do not rely on a stationary base of operations, FLEX is able to adapt to different locations to engage a variety of audiences and contexts. FLEX’s loose framework provides a platform for an ever changing cast of independent curators and artists to test the boundaries of visual expression and probe new ways of connecting with the viewer. As an open model, FLEX allows exhibitions to be dynamic and adapt to the spaces they inhabit. Mobile gallery spaces, outdoor projection units, site-specific installations, drawing machines, & 3D Printing are some of the tactics employed.
Project 4 presents a FLEX focus collaboration with guest curator Kayleigh Bryant-Greenwell, Play by Play, an exploration of the darker side of children’s playtime, featuring the work of Amy Hughes Braden, Bridget Sue Lambert, Janelle Whisenant, and Mark Williams.
The artists in this exhibition dig into the malaise, mediocrity, sexuality, and violence implied by commonplace toys and objects of childhood. The artists reappropriate said toys and familiar imagery within complex juxtapositions of adult ideals.
Braden’s paintings of children and families offer a stark glimpse into the transitional moment straddling childhood and adulthood. Lambert’s staged doll and dollhouse photography exposes the sexual and sexist implications of said toys. Whisenant’s mutant stuffed-animal creatures question the cycle of childhood materiality. Williams’ toy soldiers mock the implied oversimplification of war as a child’s play.
The exhibition layers elements of the docile, familiar, and innocent with the complications of aged reality. These emblems of childhood are a means in which youngsters can peek beyond the veil of innocence into the darkly complex reality of adulthood.
The artists reveal that certain types of play and toys lend themselves to adult interpretations and motifs. Dollhouses and toy soldiers are no longer viewed as platonic playthings, but resemble the hardships of adulthood more so than the carefreeness of childhood.
The sticky place between childhood innocence and adult realism is examined through different exercises in subverted play.