Archive for the ‘art’ Tag

Neighborhood Arts

At 410GoodBuddy an art show documents the changes in a Washington,D.C. neighborhood over 145 years.  Three artists who live in the Truxton Circle/East Shaw portion of the city have united to create a very good art show that features, maps and city plans, drawings and etchings, and a large installation piece.

Truxton Circle transitioned from a rural area with the first sets of housing developments in the beginning of the 1870s. Unlike the Italianate, Second Empire and Queen Anne mansions surrounding Logan Circle, developers built row houses for the working classes in this area west of North Capitol Street and south of Florida Avenue, the city’s northern boundary.

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One historian, an architect and a non-profit executive spent some of their spare time investigating where they lived. Their differing ways of visualizing the changes made the show very strong. They gained help in putting the show on through one of the area’s civic associations: the Bates Area Civic Association.

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The images feature maps of the neighborhood, drawings of current and former residents and the installation replicating the fountain that became a neighborhood landmark from the early 1900s through the 1940s. fountain

The opening drew a large crowd that enjoyed the variety of what they saw.

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There will be more to come with two neighborhood celebrations on upcoming weekends and artist talks.

Tar Sands Skating

Given the winter weather throughout the US, it should be no surprise that I went skating. Except it wasn’t outside and it wasn’t on ice. The Corcoran Gallery of Art has a show that features a skating rink inside its rotunda. It’s a synthetic black skating rink and it was fun skating around inside it.

Once you step out you look at the blades and see a gooey tar. A volunteer takes the skates from you and wipes the black gook off the blades. You look up over the rink and see these dead tree stumps and dead ravens hanging upside down.

 

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Mia Feuer’s new project is a haunting vision of nature consumed, transformed, and twisted by human need. Inspired by the artist’s experiences in the oil-producing landscapes of the Canadian tar sands, the Arctic Circle, and the Suez Canal, An Unkindness explores the relationships between human infrastructure and the natural world.

For the past several years, Feuer has traveled around the world to places where oil is extracted from the earth and created work that responds to the social and environmental effects of that process. In 2011 and 2012, she gained restricted access to an oil production plant in the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, where she observed an ecosystem reshaped—with nightmarish logic—by desolate plains, inverted trees, and imported birds of prey. Responding to this landscape, Feuer developed An Unkindness, the title of which refers to a gathering of ravens. In the exhibition, Feuer merges imagery from the oil sands with her own experiences growing up in Canada and her research into ecological systems worldwide.

TransCanada has said that without the Keystone pipeline much of the tar sands oil will not be accessible. Looking at the decimation already wrought by the digging, can we allow more digging to happen? I’d say no, especially thinking about global warming.

New Art Exhibit

Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) held an opening on a happening art night in Washington, DC last night. Inside the Capitol Skyline Hotel, the WPA showed works by installation artist Ira Tattelman. Since the installation took place in the Hotel Lounge, Tattelman engaged hotel visitors with a series of games that they could play while sipping their drinks.

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Hanging on the far wall are six games, ranging from Hangman and Tic-tac-toe, to the more obscure, Fox and Geese. Several people played while I looked at the material the artist used to make the games. Deceptively simple, screws marked places on the game board and plastic plugs made up the game pieces to move around. I really appreciated that the screws created shadows on the wall that made for a nice pattern.

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The show appears at the Hotel on South Capitol Street and I Street, SW. 

Later that night, Art Whino held a show for invited guests at the old Friendship Baptist Church on Delaware Avenue, SW.

Museum Shows

One lucky thing about living in Washington, DC is that there are a number of excellent museums. Another is that they are free. Went to the Sackler Gallery on Sunday to see a show about depictions of the Middle East. Iraqi artist Jananne Al-An created videos of the supposed barren landscape of the Middle East. Her point was that to many Europeans and Americans the Middle East is a vast and empty land without people.

Her piece, Shadow Sites II(2011),  is exhibited alongside a selection of extraordinary original prints by renowned archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld (1879–1948). Comparisons about Herzfeld’s manufactured photographs showing empty and barren areas can be made to Al-An’s video from an aircraft that show military installations and manufacturing locations.al-ani

 

I got the point and the show did not hold my interest very long.

One building neighboring the Sackler is the African Art Museum on the Mall. We walked over to see a show there. This show also focused on the Arab world, except on the other side of the African continent.

Lalla Essaydi’s refined work belies its subversive, challenging nature. Moroccan-born, Essaydi became an artist after relocating from Saudi Arabia to the United States. She believes her work, with its intimate portrayal of Moroccan women, would not have been possible without distance from her homeland.

In the last decade, Essaydi has risen to international prominence. Though widely acclaimed as a photographer, few are aware she is accomplished in diverse media. Revisions brings together, for the first time, selections from each photographic series, rarely exhibited paintings, and a multimedia installation. While each work and genre speaks volumes on their own, from the ensemble emerges Essaydi’s personal narrative and critical reflection on her experience as a liberal Moroccan, Arab, African, and Muslim woman living across cultures. She sees her work as “intersecting with the presence and absence of boundaries–of history, gender, architecture, and culture–that mark spaces of possibility and limitation. This is my story as well.”

The best part of the show for me was seeing the art inside a “house” that the exhibitors created. You come to a gate where there is a key hold. You walk through the keyhole and feel like you are inside a house. The photographs hang all over the inside of the house, showing the women in various positions. The section is successful in making you feel like you are in a separate space, a unique look at the Muslim woman’s world.

Ai Weiwei at Hirshhorn

This city is lucky. Because of having the Smithsonian Institution in its area, Washington, DC gets to see many great exhibitions of art. This time is noted Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei. His retrospective at the Hirshhorn opened recently.

Friends had seen the show and raved about the three long rooms of his work from the 1980s until work completed this year. One friend enjoyed the black and white photographs that the artist took while living in New York City during the 1980s. Others liked the colorful photographs of the making of the Olympic stadium in Beijing. Photographs document changes over time and you can see the construction site as it was bare through the hosting of the games. What was particularly interesting in the exhibit was the placement of some of these photographs on the floor. You walk over some of them, giving you the ability to see the building from “on top.”

When you enter the room, you see a green snake. The snake has a long history in the world’s religions as a tempter but also as a rejuvenator of life.

 

The snake fit nicely with the theme of animals and the Chinese Zodiac that adorned the garden outside the museum building that Weiwei created.

 

The most spectacular pieces shown were the constructions that Weiwei made. An amazing large piece called map of China involved taking a beautiful red wood from an old Qing Dynasty temple and fashioning it together so that the top of the piece showed the mainland of China.

A second wood construction from the same material also proved striking.

A protest piece of porcelain crabs proved striking for its reference to Chinese culture but also for his comment about political suppression under the Chinese government.

 

The show works well for people who know little about China’s culture and history. It is richer for those who do.

Salt Lake City In One Day

Arrived at 10 am and walked into the tourism office, the capital building during the late 1800s. Known now as the Council Building, it sits directly across from the new Capitol at the top of the main hill in the city.

The young guy behind the counter advised to see all but Saltair, the old amusement park built on the edge of Salt Lake.We dashed up the hundred steps to the capitol. The Renaissance building from 1915 is made of gorgeous marble. The doors are so heavy they are a workout to open. The rotunda has murals of Brigham oung, General John Fremont, and other important figures in Utah history.

The University of Utah was plugging its ten years of research projects, so all these cute young men and women, dressed snappily, stood  beside easels holding descriptions of their research projects. We followed a tour up to the old Supreme Court chambers, painted in very bold colors.

Next, we walked down State Street past a gorgeous  bed and breakfast called Inn On The Hill.

The houses on the other side of the street were modest, but had cool elements, like sharing a staircase.

We made it to Temple Square and walked into the South Visitors Building. My partner used the computer to find his ancestors but mine did not show up. We saw a model of the famed cathedral and the history of its construction from Young’s vision, through the quarry operation to bring over the stone.

We saw the old Assembly Hall, which is a fine modest building that has a gentle slope to enable all to see the nave. White wood pews filled the eyes on both levels of the building. We scooted over to hear the organist perform the noon time show at the Tabernacle. The number of choir seats is astounding, as amazing to me as the building’s acoustics. We heard two John Philip Sousa marches and two other pieces before leaving for the nearby Arts Center.

The Arts center had pieces from Sundance. James Franco’s work from Three’s Company headlined other video and 3d installement pieces.

We ate a wonderful lunch at Vicsovio’s onMain Street and scooted over to the Moshe Safdies public library. A glorious building that harks to both the architect’s Salem Massachusetts Museum and the new Alcohol, Tabacco and Firearms building in Washington, DC.

We met up with a grad student at Uof U down at his place near Rt 80. We had a blast and found out that there are many gays on the Salt Lake City police department’s staff.

Next we drove across to the west side of town to see the Rio Grande Train Depot. Here the archives, historic preservation and related works share office space. There is much memorabilia in the display cases, ranging from old tickets to uniforms. The Rio Grande Caffe is a blast from the past–luncheonette and diner.

Went up the street to the Union Pacfic Railroad Depot, which is a large unoccupied space available for rent. Next was Gateway Plaza. Reportedly developed by the LDS Church, it is an intriguing attempt to bring commercial shops, nightclubs and restaurants to this long neglected area. I enjoyed seeing the Utah Jazz’ arena across the street.

We ended our trip on the east side of town. First we looked at the historical Trolley Station, which has restaurants and a Whole Foods. We continued driving to Sugarhouse part of the city, 9th and 9th. New Age and cafes mix with one old movie theater in a neighborhood not to miss. We left at 7pm.

Spectacular New Show

Walk through the Portrait Gallery’s second floor and you’ll see a montage of Elvis photographs, part of their exhibit on the great rock n roll star.

Down the hall is a painting of another famous icon: Andy Warhol. His face is covered over with streaks of color. The text aside the 1986 piece asks, is Warhol hiding?

The new show at the Portrait Gallery is called Hide and Seek. It is the first federal government sponsored show on issues related to art and gays, lesbians, and homosexuality.

The show is part of the Gallery’s missions: to depict the lives of individuals who have had a significant impact on American live and culture and to show major themes in American history, the struggle for justice and for all citizens to reach America’s promise of equality and inclusion.

Now that the opening text validates the reasons for holding the show, one can enjoy the range of types of art, the scope of years covered: about 120 in total, and the rich description that provides context for most of the pieces.

Video art ranges from the frustration of David Wojnarowicz, who engaged in art that confronted the apathy toward the AIDS epidemic in the mid 1980s, to the famous Pink Narcissus, a depiction of a single person growing up in the artists’ apartment in the late 1960s.

There are many artists who play with the symbols of gender in their photography. Males don wigs, females moustaches and other elements in what societies have deemed only appropriate for one sex or the other. This ranges from Marcel Duchamp during the 1920s, through the more recent work of Christopher Makos and Catherine Opie.

A series of photographs made by Carl Van Vechten show famous individuals in the entertainment and other realms during the 1920s through 1940s. The people were important figures in the Harlem Renaissance and homosexual cultures within the theater and writing circles. Van Vechten frequently Harlem and other parts of cities that historian Kevin Mumford called, Interzones: locations on the edges of usually African American neighborhoods where people on the margins of the mainstream could have nightclubs and congregation spaces freer from police intrusions. San Francisco had the Tenderloin District and Los Angeles had West Hollywood.

Several artists surprised me with bawdy depcitions. Many of us have seen the humorous classicism of Paul Cadmus. George Bellows showed a meeting in a male bathhouse in New York City. Jess Burgess Collins’s 1954 collage called The Mouse’s Tail includes a range of hot men clipped from physique magazines popular in the 1940s and early 1950s. Duane Michals’ 1970 photo series captures a cruising situation familiar to urban gay males.

J C Leyendecker, the creator of the Arrow Shirt Man, painted an oil painting that featured these iconic figures two decades  earlier. His Arrow Shirt man, popular in the 1930s, evoked for me a series of Paramount Studio photographs showing actors Randolph Scott and Cary Grant in their Malibu Beach house from 1933-1942. One photograph is below:

The two most emotional pieces for me came from Robert Mapplethorpe and Keith Haring. Mapplethorpe’s photograph of Roy Cohn is eerie and captures the contradictions of a man who sleeps with man and who promotes the distaste for the homosexual community. Haring’s unfinished painting from 1989, evokes his untimely death one year later.

Is Warhol hiding in his painting? Probably in a similar way to Hollywood, which had a style that us historians have called, the Open Secret. In the 1920s and 1930s, gossip pages followed Hollywood stars who went to see female impersonators at clubs in West Hollywood. Warhol hung at the sexually ambiguous night club Studio 54 in the 1970s. Hollywood gossip columns contained code words that carried hints to the in the know crowd and probably to many other newspaper readers as well.

Canadian Art

Courtyard and fountain
Image via Wikipedia

The Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC shows provocative video and film in its Black Box space.

Currently they have the artists and filmmaker Phoebe Greenberg and her movie Next Floor .

A visually compelling take on the opulence in western countries the piece offers a critique of consumption and the usual sins of gluttony and avarice.

The video is fun to look at and its images of the food are amazing and sickening.

The critique is easy and one wonders if the artist expects viewers to experience disgust, joy, excitement? It is at least a short that challenges the viewer to react.

In these times where it is impossible to tax the wealthy and the corporations to even a remotely fair rate, is this video our substitute by vicariously watching wealthy people plummet to their deaths?

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Best of Year, Best of Decade Lists

Why do we love lists? Is it some gene for categorization? Is it the thrill of controlling circumstances? Is it our belief ion the innate ability of reviewers and critics and experts?

What do you enjoy about best of lists?

While it is probably all of these factors, I know why I enjoyed looking at the lists for best of the decade in today’s Washington Post. I wanted to see how many of the movies or television shows I saw, how many of the music listed I owned and whether I have been to see the best theater, dance, concerts and art shows over the past decade. The feeling is confirmation in our choices.

I read the lists for theater, concerts and dance. I’d seen some of them. All took place within Washington, DC so I had the chance to see them. Then I looked at the art best of list. Damn, there were shows in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney. It’s only five hours away, so I thought maybe I could have  seen it.

Then I read further. Chicago, mmm, that’s stretching it. Wow, Kessel,  Germany, Parma, Italy, this is ridiculous.  Why are these on this list? It’s not like a person can go out and by a tape of the show and experience it.

Should best of lists include activities that are way out of the range of the ordinary person to experience?

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Photographs and Photography to See

The Smithsonian‘s Natural History Museum has its annual awards for wildlife photography exhibition up now.

Every winner and chosen selection shone with brilliance and many with humor. The landscapes are breathtaking and the animals, birds and plants bring joy to your eyes and heart.

Geographers and travelers will appreciate the areas shown. Wildlife and animal lovers have so much to see.

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