OLD IS NEW DCSCAPES
A retrospective to celebrate Bill D'Italia's life and paintings of his beloved Washington, DC
October 3 - 31, 2015.
The Watergate Gallery will be hosting a tribute to celebrate his life as a painter.
Join us for a reception in Bill's honor Saturday, October 17th, 5 - 8 pm
Exhibition Statement for
Old is New: Recent DCscapes
" A city does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of its streets, the gratings, of its windows, and in its banisters and steps. The city, whose structure cannot be expunged from the mind, is like an armature, a honeycomb in whose cells each of us can place the things we want to remember." Invisible Cities - Italo Calvino
My new exhibition "Old is New" is an attempt to portray the many buildings around town which, although built in the past for a particular purpose, have been re-purposed to served the needs of the "eternal present.' In some instances, we don't know what that original purpose was. Many buildings in Chinatown, for instance, predate the arrival of the Chinese to that part of the city. Many are now restaurants and shops, but what was their original purpose and who built them? This is probably lost to history, and hence unknowable - except for the building whose address is listed as 604 H Street, NW. It was built in 1843 and was used as a boarding house some decades later, operated by one Mary Surratt. It is currently the home of the Wok & Roll restaurant. (Karakoe rooms available upstairs.)
Given enough time, I might have explored the entire city in search of old, repurposed buildings, but I confined yself to areas I knew best. - Foggy Bottom which is where I live, and The Pennn Quarter which is where I work. Of the latter, I was particularly interested in painting the 'Fireman's Insurance Building" at the corner of Indiana Avenue and 7th street. It was built in 1882 and is currently a Starbucks. What incarnations it had between the 'guilded age' and the current age, are rather murky. It originally had a dome which is lost in the 1960's. My personal memory is that the building looked rather derelict in the 1990's although I can't remember whether or not it was occupied. A new, golden dome was put in place circa 1990. On the east wall of the building, which is the facade I chose to depict in my painting, one can still make out (but barely) the words 'FIREMAN'S INSURANCE.' To the right of the facade are a group of lower buildings, one of which used to be, until recently, Litwin's Antique store. It is now a restaurant (yet another).
While the many old, repurposed buildings which pepper Washington give us some hint of its vanished history, its true past reside in the memories (or not) of those who have resided in the city for a while. And when those memories fade, so too does the vestigial 'blueprint' of how the city used to look. How many current Washingtonians can pin-point, with any degree of certainty, where the original Old Ebbitt's Grill was located? Blackies the House of Beef? How about the original 9:30 Club; the original Eagle Bar? The Club 'Deja Vu'?
On my first trip to Washington (sans parents) after graduating, high school, I stayed in a YMCA just around the house from the White House. I ate lunch and dinner (still there) facing the Old Executive building. The diner is istill there, reconfigured as Cosi's The YMCA, which was half a block down on G street is not. I often walk home that way and have wondered where, pecisely, the entrance might have been. Regrettably, I can't remember.
Thank you for coming to this exhibition and spending, some time with my work.