Art writing round up
There seemed to be a significant increase last week in writing about art around town.
The Art Museum of the Americas at the Organization of American States plays host to a sculpture exhibit called "Bilateral Engagement" that features the work of the Washington Sculptors Group alongside sculpture from the museum's permanent collection Michael O'Sullivan says in The Washington Post the works are generally about the material and not as much about meaning. He says, "They're visual poems, meant to make us look at an egg, or a chair, a little differently."
O'Sullivan says a stand out in the show is Linda Hesh's "For and Against Bench Project."
Out back of the museum sit two metal park benches the artist purchased from a commercial manufacturer. One, in turquoise, has the word "For" on it; the other, in red, reads "Against." Inside, there's a rotating slide show of photographs the artist shot featuring people sitting on one bench or the other during a series of public appearances by the benches in the Washington area, beginning in fall 2008. Captions come courtesy of her subjects; Hesh invited them to write what they were for or against on a clipboard. "Against Conformity" is a example.
The real work isn't the benches, though. It isn't even the photographs. Rather, it's the performance that takes place whenever someone stumbles upon them. It's all part of what exhibition curator Laura Roulet calls "relational aesthetics," meaning that the work changes because of your interaction with it. Go ahead and pull out your own digital camera. Make your own art.
Go sit on the bench and take a picture of yourself. Send the picture with a caption to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frank Hallam Day's photographs of white mannequins in black Africa are on view at Hamiltonian Gallery (1353 U Street, NW). Blake Gopnik writes:
Imagine that all around you are images of physical beauty you can never live up to. This isn't just the kind of daily disappointment suffered by all non-supermodels. We're talking about a situation where almost no one in your entire society can ever come close to fulfilling its canons of beauty.
Reminds me of this article also in the Washington Post a couple weeks ago about the popularity of Western models in China.
A walk through the Guiyou department store in central Beijing is instructive. On the third and fourth floors, where designer brands from Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are showcased, there's a display of a blonde modeling over-the-knee boots and red-and-black pumps for Hongke shoes. A pouty brunette advertises Baykal, a local brand of wool products. Even the mannequins have Western features.
Last Tuesday, Gopnik began a series of articles in which he studied a single detail from a painting each day. He began with looking at empty wine glasses in Renoir's "Boating Party" at The Phillips Collection.
On Wednesday, he believed he'd found Howard University art professor Lois Mailou Jones in her own painting of a Paris street scene called "Place du Tertre." She sits alone at a café, while across the street, white patrons crowd a classic French café scene. Says Gopnik:
As a black person in Paris, Jones wasn't victimized, as she might have been in the United States. She even said that she felt much less black there than at home. But even in France she was a creature apart, of intense interest to the locals because of her difference from them. "It was a great curiosity for the French to see a colored artist painting," she wrote in a note on her work.
On Thursday, Gopnik looked at Honoré Daumier's painting "Two Sculptors" and focused on its setting as much as its content. He theorized that it would diminish this painting to be hung in a more austere, contemporary setting. Instead, it was hung in The Phillips Collection's intimate spaces and rather than look at a detail in the painting, he looked at it as a detail in the appropriate space in which it was hung.
On Friday, he looked at the frame that Whistler designed for his portrait of "Miss Lillian Woakes" and said:
Rather than framing an opening through which we glimpse a world beyond -- a world that might be more important than the picture that shows it -- these bold moldings make it clear that art is above all a precious treasure created by a maker. The frame's visual weight and authority turn a minor society portrait into a golden object that you have to reckon with.
On Saturday, he wrote about "religious surrealism" in El Greco's "Repentant St. Peter." Gopnik focused on the depiction of Mary Magdalene, who stands behind the painting's key figure but holds an equally important role.
And of course, there was Jessica Dawson's review on Friday of two exhibitions that fill empty retail spaces in downtown DC.
Daily Campello Art News has been featuring reviews of DC gallery shows in offbeat places like this one written by Bruce McKaig about the Capitol Hill Arts Workshops "4th Annual Photography Exhibition." McKaig says that despite the fact that the Internet and digital cameras have democratized the way we see photography, it's still a good idea to check out gallery exhibits that give some order to the chaos of the internet.
The Fourth Annual Photography Exhibition at Capital Hill Arts Workshop is, once again, a sampling, an across-the-board look at diverse ways artists chose to approach the medium of photography, produce a piece, and connect with a viewer. By no means exhaustive, the diversity of the works conjures thoughts on defining what is an artist and what is a successful photograph. The diversity, however, does not succeed in masking the various themes that appear across the works when compared and contrasted.
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