Transformer has worked tirelessly to support artists and make art accessible to all for the past 18 years. From those just beginning their own collection to established collectors from around the globe, the Logan Circle-based gallery creates a symbiotic relationship consisting of diverse, affordable art that when showcased, allows its creators to be championed.
This mission is made a reality through their FlatFile program, a fluid and innovative collection of buyable art consisting of two-dimensional works like painting, photography, zines and more. With all art priced under $500 and sized 16 by 20 inches and below, FlatFile represents a two-fold model of art accessibility: support for artists and a way for individuals to begin or add to their art collections.
“It’s been a really great and growing program [since 2007] where we can support artists we’ve exhibited,” says Victoria Reis, Transformer’s co-founder and executive and artistic director. “When we work with an artist and have a great experience presenting their work, we don’t want the relationship to end there. Also, it’s an opportunity for us to engage with new artists who we might not be ready to present in a formal full-scale exhibition, but whose work we’re interested in and want to support.”
Transformer is also home to a far-reaching exhibition of the FlatFile’s artists and artworks. This year, the theme is “Evoking the Senses,” celebrating the manners in which we engage in the world every day and the ways that art can enrich them. Kicking off on December 12, this exhibition includes additions to FlatFile, multifaceted programming and the culminating event, Heartbreakers Ball in February. A three-month celebration of Transformer’s art and artists, “Evoking the Senses” draws people into the District’s thriving art scene and allows participants to engage with contemporary creators in a meaningful way.
“[FlatFile] evolves every year with new artists and new works by current artists, but we really wanted to do a big revamp to reenergize it,” Reis says. “We have our current artists, and we’re getting new work from them. We’ve invited around 15 new artists to be part of the program and reached out to about 10 artists who are alumni of Transformer to include work in FlatFile. It’s a really nice mix of past, present and future.”
Artists whose work is part of FlatFile are able to come to the Transformer team with additions to it at any time, but this exhibit will breathe life into the work of the gallery and artists in a new way. Reis and her team are hard at work planning thought-provoking programming for “Evoking the Senses.” Instagram takeovers, virtual talks and rotating exhibits at Adams Morgan’s LINE Hotel are all opportunities to further Transformer’s reach in the greater D.C. community.
FlatFile will include some of artist Amy Hughes Braden’s new works created during the pandemic, as well as her empty house-turned-exhibit “Smudge,” alongside partner and sound artist Alex Braden. Recently, Hughes Braden has been creating what she calls blobs: sculptures consisting of junk, debris and found items from around her home, including paper clay.
She’s created two-dimensional versions of these works for FlatFile, as well as three-dimensional works for “Smudge,” on display December 12-13 for individuals and pods at her former home.
“There’s so much content [like] my loan application paperwork or my kid’s doctor bill [that] I’m channeling into this work,” she says of her blobs. “It’s very therapeutic and tactile to use my hands in that way. [Because] we’re moving out of the house, I was sorting through even more things and going through old materials in my studio.”
Artist Adam Griffiths will be adding some of his digital prints and a few original pencil drawings to the refreshed FlatFile this winter, and like Hughes Braden, he’ll be included in “Evoking the Senses.”
“I’m launching my webcomic,” he says. “It’s called ‘American Cryo,’ and it’s about a bat taking on punk-rock chickens in an ‘80s shopping mall. I’m going to do it like a Sunday cartoon strip, but on [Transformer’s] Instagram.”
Transformer will have a pop-up exhibit in the LINE Hotel’s lobby with up to 10 artworks featured in three waves: December 12, January 12 and February 12. “Evoking the Senses” will also include robust virtual programming across a variety of mediums such as Zoom events, IGTV takeovers, playlists, reading guides and more. New art will be added to the virtual FlatFile storefront for purchase during the three-month period as well.
The sheer variety of programming offered mirrors how Transformer tangibly supports artists of many mediums and experiences, and how that approach naturally gives way to a demystification around collecting and patronizing art.
“Transformer is really great because they don’t think that art collecting should be intimidating,” Griffiths adds. “That’s what FlatFile is all about: artists who are doing experimental, interesting stuff and people who really want to consume it [having] access. Whether they’re small, original works in your home or everyday gifts, the art is something you can contemplate over time.”
While Transformer has dealt with challenges this year brought on by the pandemic, Reis and her team have continued to innovate so that art is being shared and artists are being paid and supported. “Evoking the Senses” carries on this tradition of reinvention and adaptation, even though much of its programming will be virtual.
“We’re very DIY and punk-based,” Reis says. “That’s our ethos. We’re very grassroots. It’s a niche, but [we’re] ultimately building connections. We’ve just kept the energy going and reimagined everything.”
As “Evoking the Senses” kicks off and participants are immersed in this three-month journey, at the heart of it all is art that’s available to anyone who wants it. It’s for the empty walls of your new apartment. It’s there to make a space feel individualized if you’re back living with family in the midst of a hard year. It can become the beginning of a beautiful, lifelong collection. It makes the perfect gift for a loved one to enjoy for years to come. Transformer celebrates all the meaningful things art brings to our everyday lives and gives tangible support to those who make it.
“Evoking the Senses” kicks off on December 12. Times, dates and further information on various programs can be found at www.transformer.org and on Instagram @transformerdc. The exhibit will conclude with a virtual edition of the Heartbreakers Ball on Valentine’s Day. FlatFile works can be purchased by visiting http://flatfile.transformerdc.org. Learn more about Amy Hughes Braden at www.amyhughesbraden.com and on Instagram @hughesbraden, and Adam Griffiths via www.adamgriffiths.ink and on Instagram @grifftones.
Transformer: 1404 P St. NW, DC; 202-483-1102; www.transformer.org
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