An Autumn Art Expedition to Washington, D.C.
As the trees themselves tell us with their dazzling foliage, October is a time of change. But one thing we can always count on is the abundance of beautiful, colorful art in our nation’s capital. Here are a few highlights from our trip.
HIRSHHORN MUSEUM & SCULPTURE GARDEN
• Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn
A collaborative artist project, Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn features the East Coast debut of the monumental installation Trace, which portrays individuals from around the world whom the artist and various human rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech. Each of these 176 portraits comprises thousands of plastic LEGO® bricks, assembled by hand and laid out on the floor. Like Ai Weiwei, the individuals represented in Trace have been detained, exiled, or have sought political asylum because of their actions, beliefs, or affiliations.
To complement the display of Trace at the Hirshhorn, Ai Weiwei has created a new 360° wallpaper installation entitled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca. At first glance, the repeating graphic pattern looks merely decorative, but a closer inspection reveals surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and Twitter bird logos, which allude to Ai Weiwei’s tweets challenging authority.
This new wallpaper installation is a black-and-white variation on his gold-colored, similarly named work, The Animal That Looks Like a Llama but Is Really an Alpaca, which is installed in the Museum’s second-floor lobby. Together, both massive works span nearly 700 linear feet around the Hirshhorn’s second-floor Outer Ring galleries.
• Barbara Kruger: Belief+Doubt
Part of an initiative to bring art to new sites within and around the building, this installation by Barbara Kruger fills the Lower-Level lobby and extends into the newly relocated Museum bookstore. Famous for her incisive photomontages, Kruger has focused increasingly over the past two decades on creating environments that surround the viewer with language. The entire space—walls, floor, escalator sides—is wrapped in text-printed vinyl, immersing visitors in a spectacular hall of voices, where words either crafted by the artist or borrowed from the popular lexicon address conflicting perceptions of democracy, power, and belief.
• Ilya And Emilia Kabakov: The Utopian Projects
A 60-foot wooden sailboat, The Ship of Tolerance is an ongoing international public art project by the Kabakovs that aims to educate and connect youth of different continents, cultures, and identities through the language of art. Started in 2005, this project is predicated on the dialogue surrounding the theme of tolerance. The ship’s sails are composed of stitched-together paintings, which were made by schoolchildren in response to that dialogue. The Ship serves as a vibrant lesson in tolerance and hope.
FANCY ANIMAL CARNIVAL
InSian Gallery of Taiwan presents an outdoor installation of whimsical, larger-than-life sculptures at the City Center by renowned Taiwanese contemporary artist Hung Yi. Each of the animal sculptures represents a narrative expressed through traditional Taiwanese symbols and motifs believed to bring luck. The painted patterns reflect folk culture and religion, as well as the artist’s personal experiences and observations of people’s everyday lives. The colors and depictions painted on the surface of his sculptures are not realistic depictions of animal fur or limbs, but rather three-dimensional paintings full of surreal cultural representations, suffused with narrative. Much of this subject matter comes from Taiwanese society, but has also been influenced by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and Joan Miro.
THE PHILLIPS COLLECTION
Renowned as “America’s first museum of modern art,” the Phillips Collection is home to an extraordinary collection of more than 4,000 works, ranging from masterpieces of French impressionism and American modernism to contemporary art.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART
As its name implies, the National Gallery of Art (with its attached Sculpture Garden) is “the nation’s art museum.” Located on the National Mall, the museum was privately established in 1937 for the American people by a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress and is open to the public and free of charge. Andrew W. Mellon donated a substantial art collection and funds for construction, and the core collection includes major works of art donated by numerous other lovers of art. The Gallery’s collection of paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, medals, and decorative arts traces the development of Western Art from the Middle Ages to the present, including the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas and the largest mobile created by Alexander Calder.
One of the pieces featured in the gallery below is Norman Zammitt’s The Hard White Edge. Although part of no particular art movement, Zammitt was closest to Light and Space, a loose group of Southern California artists interested in color theory, light, and sensation. The Hard White Edge pushes color to the breaking point via a meticulous technique: as the stripes proceed down the canvas, they become at once thinner (in width) and thicker (in number of applied layers)—with hypnotic results.