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Govinda: Gallery Fit for a Rock Star

April 26, 2010

Best known for its iconic images of musicians, Govinda Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, “Top of the Charts: 40 Years of Music Photography,” opening May 1st, may be its most comprehensive yet.  You are getting an exclusive preview here of  stunning and often surprising  shots of music legends that include Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead,  David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur and Elvis Presley.

Speaking of Elvis, Alfred Wertheimer’s photographs from his book, Elvis at 21: New York to Memphis, is now a traveling Smithsonian Museum exhibition, in collaboration with Govinda Gallery, honoring his 75th birthday and “the Elvis the world has forgotten.” Currently in Boca Raton, these photos will arrive in October for their Washington debut at The National Portrait Gallery.

It was while helping Annie Leibovitz hang her first major show in Washington, that gallery founder and director Chris Murray saw that now famous photo. You know it, the one with John Lennon and Yoko Ono embracing on the cover of Rolling Stone. Being a music lover, Chris bought the photo from Annie, and soon learned what few people knew in 1984, that it was taken on the day John Lennon was murdered.  Chris realized, “It was not only a good photo, it was an important photo. I had an epiphany that very moment. I decided right then that I was going to champion significant photographs, documenting contemporary music.”

But his earliest inspiration may have been New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Chris often sneaked into while attending Loyola School at 83rd and Park across the street.  He later came to Washington to study philosophy and religion at Georgetown University and never left.

To formally promote his many artist friends, including a young Andy Warhol, after graduation Chris opened Govinda Gallery in 1975 where it remains on 34th Street the longest operating art gallery in one location in the history of the city.  While no Indian art is represented here, Govinda means “source of pleasure,” the name is an homage to Krishna, and the Indian culture Chris loves.  Inspiration no doubt also came from friends and fellow eastern religion followers Beatle George Harrison and poet activist Allen Ginsberg.  No surprise that Chris’s first book (shown below), co-authored and exquisitely illustrated by Kim Waters, was “Illuminations of Bhagavad Gita.”

Along with blog editor Cat Henry, manager and son, David Murray, and curatorial assistant, Vivian Foster (pictured below left to right) Chris is busy preparing for Donovan’s Sapphographs, (newly coined genre exclusive to Donovan) an exhibition opening June 1st in Greece, which is a Govinda Gallery collaboration with the American Union in Athens and the Centre for Hellenic Studies in  Washington.

Consisting of 16 monumental (five feet square) pieces by the internationally renowned poet, musician and artist, Donovan, the entire show will be printed here in Washington by David Adamson. Shown below is one of Donovan's Sapphographs.

Chris writes in the exhibition catalogue (and coming soon, his first on-line catalogue), “Donovan’s Sapphographs are perhaps the finest contemporary homage to the greatest lyric poet of ancient Greece.” In case you made the same mistake I did, lyric refers to the musical instrument, lyre and not the words of 7th Century Greek poet Sappho.  Capturing the loveliness of an ancient muse through black and white photographs of his own family, Donovan employs a technique that removes grey tones to evoke an ethereal sensuality.  

The gallery is also equal parts office and archival library, where art books and catalogues (Chris has authored and/or edited more than a dozen) share space with rare autographed “family” photos including Buzz Aldren’s moon landing and Mohammad Ali with Chris’s son David. Come for the photos, and stay for a chat with Chris, passionate witness to 40 years of contemporary musical art.

 Govinda Gallery is at 1227 34th Street. Tel. 202.333.1180

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Rock Bottom Remainders Dine at Il Canale

April 20, 2010

First stop on the all-star, all-author rock group’s four city east-coast charity concert tour was dinner at Il Canale in Georgetown Monday night. Marking its 18th year performing, the Rock Bottom Remainders 2010 Wordstock Tour officially kicks off Tuesday with two Washington events: “Besides the Music: A Conversation with the Rock Bottom Remainders” hosted by Sam Donaldson at the Harman Center for the Arts, and Wednesday, a concert at the 9:30 Club with special guest Roger McGuinn, former lead singer and guitarist for The Byrds.

A band that includes some of today’s most shining literary lights, members of the Rock Bottom Remainders have collectively published more than 150 titles, sold more than 200 million books, and been translated into more than 25 languages. "In the fine rock & roll tradition, the Rock Bottom Remainders were conceived in a car,” says Kathi Kamen Goldmark, band founder. “As a semi-pro musician with a day job in book publicity, I spend a lot of time driving touring authors around San Francisco … I decided to form a band of authors!"

The group burst upon the scene at the 1992 American Booksellers Association convention in Anaheim. A write-up in The Washington Post described it as “the most heavily promoted musical debut since the Monkees.”

Hailed by critics as having “one of the world’s highest ratios of noise to talent,” the Remainders have no music videos, no record contract, no Grammy nominations—but do have over 159,000 hits on Google.

This year's group includes Dave Barry (at left with earphones next to soundman Gary Hirstius), Amy Tan (shown below with iPad), Mitch Albom, Roy Blount, Jr., Ridley Pearson, Scott Turow, and Kathi Kamen Goldmark. In addition to performing mostly 70's cover music, the band has recorded original songs, including “Proofreading Woman,” band manager, Ted Habtegabr, told us.

Proceeds from the tour, which are being presented by the Pearson Foundation and their new digital reading and giving initiative, We Give Books  will support Haitian relief and local non-profit organizations at work in each community.

"This concert is a rare chance to see a band that has been hailed by critics as 'not as bad as you would expect,'" said band member and Lead Guitarist Dave Barry. "Rock Bottom Remainders are excited by the response to this tour from our fans. There are only three of them, but they've been very responsive. But seriously, we're thrilled to be able to raise money for some great organizations." 

"These concerts are a great way to raise funds—and raise awareness—for some of America's best non-profit organizations," said Pearson Foundation President Mark Nieker. "We hope people will come out to see some great music and have fun, but we're especially pleased that the band members are donating their own time and that funds raised will go directly to support much-needed education and literacy efforts in Haiti and in the cities where the tour takes place."

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Founding Farmers of Bourbon Steak

April 16, 2010

The Class of 2010 arrived today at Bourbon Steak Restaurant ready for a little digging. Through its partnership with Higher Achievement, a year round enrichment program for underserved students in DC and Alexandria, Bourbon Steak launched its Kid's Garden on the grounds of Georgetown's Four Seasons Hotel.

Liliana Baldassari, Four Seasons Public Relations Director, told us "the idea sprouted last fall" when she was talking with Lynsey Wood Jeffries, Higher Achievement's Executive Director. Started in 1975 right here in DC by Gonzaga High School teacher, Greg Gannon, the Higher Achievement program now serves 500 middle school kids a year, and is being replicated in Baltimore and soon in Richmond.

Bourbon Steak's, Chef David Varley (shown above) told the 20 young culinary artists,“ You are the future. Let’s turn the clock back on food production, and close the circle.” He explained that recycling begins when food is delivered to his restaurant, and all the wet waste is collected and sent to EnviRelation who turns it into dirt, enriched dirt, that is, and delivered right back to the restaurant for use in planting.

After preparing their very own pots filled with cilantro and basil (and dirt!) to take home, they were off to plant carrots, cilantro, basil, turnips, radishes, mesculin, swiss chard, and red and yellow beets.


Jamaal Ellis of KIPP Key Academy (shown below) explained that his whole family loves to grow vegetables. His favorite? "I like potatoes because of the way you plant them. You have to wait awhile, but when they come up, they're something beautiful."














The garden includes the two top tiers reserved for kids and three rows for tea herbs.

Along the canal,  another embankment on the hotel grounds, started last year, now produces enough herbs for all the meals served at the hotel, Four Seasons' Executive Chef Doug Anderson told us.

After promising Chef David to try everything, lunch was served: olive-oil roasted potatoes with rosemary and garlic, barbequed chicken, fennel salad with oranges, broccoli rabe, grilled arctic char, garden herb tabouli, and a grapefruit, pinapple, ginger ale cocktail. Delicious!

Later this summer, the kids will be back to reap what they sowed and help Chef David prepare a meal with their first crops. Closing the circle indeed.


Bourbon Steak is located in The Four Seasons Hotel at 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue. T 202.944.2026

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