Friday, March 7, 2008

Spring Art Preview

Here's an excerpt from my spring visual art preview in today's Washington Blade. Click on the link to read the entire article.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, which lately has offered lackluster shows, takes a step in the right direction with “The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Moving Image,” which opened in mid-February. The exhibit consists of video and moving image pieces arranged in a labyrinth-like circle and includes some innovative works. From Tony Oursler’s unnerving animations of objects with video projections to Kelly Richardson’s dream-like “Exiles of the Shattered Star,” the moving images engage with ideas about cinema’s presence in everyday life. Runs through May 11. For more information, call 202-633-1000 or visit

The National Portrait Gallery also presents a contemporary show with “RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture,” which opened in February. The exhibit is a breath of fresh air — graffiti installations by local artists Tim Conlon and Dave Hupp brighten up Smithsonian hallways while Kehinde Wiley paints ironic portraits of hip-hop stars as emperors and magnates. Runs through Oct. 26. For more information, call 202-633-8300 or visit

On the retrospective end there is yet another show on the Washington Color School. A year after D.C. celebrated the movement with “Colorfield Remix”, the American Art Museum opened “Color as Field: American Painting, 1950–1975” on Feb. 29. The show brings together 39 paintings from the stars of the movement (Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland) and includes a room on their predecessors to trace the development of Color Field painting. The bright colors and Washington angle don’t do enough to make this show special, thus leaving a sense of déjà vu. Runs through May 26. For more information, call 202-633-7970 or visit

The Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Phillips Collection both showcase works belonging to their permanent collections. The Corcoran organizes “The American Evolution: A History Through Art” under five headings: money, politics, cultural exchange, land and the modern world. Land juxtaposes Western scenes by Albert Bierstadt to abstractions by Richard Diebenkorn to highlight the changing nature of landscape painting. Money features portraits of wealthy colonists and Gilded Age patrons, but it’s the politics segment that is most intriguing. One room has six works portraying George Washington, including a painting by Gilbert Stuart. Kara Walker’s silhouette, “Roots, Links, Inc.,” depicting slavery in the young nation, is a stark and beautiful nod to some of the shameful moments in American history. The curating here is excellent — paintings across two centuries speak to each other in their critiques and celebrations of U.S. culture. Runs through July 27. For more information, call 202-639-1700 or visit

“Degas to Diebenkorn: The Phillips Collects” consists of works recently acquired by the gallery, a move designed to secure the Phillips’ reputation as a collecting institution. It’s difficult to assess shows of this nature since there’s no narrative arc and pieces on display are often wide-ranging and disconnected. But there are highlights — two new Elizabeth Murrays hang next to an older one, adding reference. The gallery increases its photography holdings with 30 prints by Brett Weston, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson on display. There’s enough variety to maintain interest whether it’s a precious piece of pop art, like Wayne Thiebaud’s painting “Five Rows of Sunglasses,” or post-Impressionist Edouard Vuillard’s “Interior with a Red Bed (The Bridal Chamber).” Runs through May 25. For more information, call 202-387-2151 or visit

The National Gallery of Art presents “In the Forests of Fontainebleau: Painters and Photographers from Corot to Monet,” which opened Sunday. The show features 100 paintings and photographs that examine the rise of plein air painting in a forest 35 miles from Paris. Gustave Le Gray’s early photographs of the forest are fascinating, and Monet, Degas and Renoir all have works on display, but it’s painter Théodore Rousseau who steals the show. Rousseau painted the same sites repeatedly under a variety of weather conditions and his brightly colored “Sunset Over the Sands of Jean de Paris” and “Sunset in the Forest” stand out amidst a lot of green and brown landscapes. Runs through June 8. For more information, call 202-737-4215 or visit

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