Metro Weekly

Political Masterstrokes: Touchstone Gallery’s “Art as Politics”

Touchstone Gallery presents works that touch on nearly every issue critical to this year's election

Johnson, Timothy: "1st to the 45th ... Pantaloon to Pantsuit"

Johnson, Timothy: “1st to the 45th … Pantaloon to Pantsuit”

“If artists are the antenna of the masses, this exhibition reveals much about our present moment,” says Jayme McLellan. As curator of Touchstone Gallery’s new Art as Politics exhibition, McLellan selected 127 works from more than 90 artists from around the country that highlight pressing social issues or current political events. Racism and #BlackLivesMatter, immigration and border walls, women’s rights and rape, gun violence and climate change are among those topics explored in the timely national exhibition.

The show includes works in various sizes and in all media, including paintings, quilts, video installations and glass and wood sculptures — or “every possible everything,” as Touchstone director Ksenia Grishkova puts it. “We’re very thrilled about the quality of work this year,” Grishkova says. “How it really represents what is happening right now. You walk in and you feel kind of submerged in all the issues.”

Some of the pieces depict political figures, such as Timothy Johnson’s “1st to the 45th,” an oil painting of Hillary Clinton dressed up as George Washington. There’s also Michael Lang’s “Think About It,” a window display with mannequins wearing a t-shirt espousing a pro-marriage equality statement from designer Kenneth Cole.

“As a whole, the exhibition can produce anxiety — some is downright hard to look at — but there is also beauty in there, and hope,” adds McLellan, founder of the D.C. gallery, Civilian Art Projects. “The show paints a picture of what it means to be in this melting pot of America right now. For better or worse, this is our shared reality.”

The opening reception for Art as Politics is Friday, Aug. 5, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. featuring desserts by Moorenko’s Ice Cream. The exhibit runs to Aug. 25 at Touchstone Gallery, 901 New York Ave. NW. Call 202-347-2787 or visit

Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.

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