Andrew Wyeth’s Windows

At the National Gallery of Art in DC through October is the most wonderful exhibit that takes a close look at Andrew Wyeth’s windows. From acrylic to watercolor to pencil, he creates an engaging series of works depicting rural life (sans people) in Maine. Comprised of a hundred or so paintings, I was mesmerized by his approach to capture odd angles – just the lower right hand corner of a window, or a shaft of light on a wall in the shape of a window (but you never see the actual window that is casting the light!). He also focuses on the small, often insignificant things, like looking out through a window at a tuft of weeds and a bucket cast aside in the meadow. Why choose to focus on a forgotten bucket? Because this is life as we live it. While his compositions may look like still lifes, these are actually white the opposite. Everything is captured as it is, in the moment

The exhibit even exudes an air of intrigue, as he paints the windows of a neighbor, a woman he may or may not have had a closer relationship with.

A quick pop-in to gaze at Wyeth’s windows rather than through them, is also so instructional in capturing Americana as well.

Hiding the Chagall

America became eons more art-rich recently when a private donor in Georgetown bequeathed a Chagall work to the National Gallery of Art. Situated under a tree in the far northwest section of the NGA’s sculpture garden, the piece is at once enormous, yet somehow also tucked away. While I think the curators just didn’t have any other space for it (the garden is chock full with other enormous installations by Miro and Oldenburg’s Typewriter Eraser) the small hidden garden in which it sits allows you to gaze at it without the sun or too many people interrupting.

The enormous 10 x 17 rectangular block is composed of thousands of mosaic tiles that reveal an ethereal landscape. Titled Orphee, the piece was installed in 1969 at the home of Evelyn and John Nef, who also acquired 30 other Chagall works.

Designed by Chagall, the mosaics were laid by Lino Milano, who also did work for Braque and Picasso.

Later in life, Chagall turned to the decorative arts, including mosaic and and tapestry. I remember seeing some of his stained glass windows at a small cathedral in Switzerland, one of many he completed at churches and civic spaces across Europe, Israel, and the US.

NGA’s curators have now offered you one more stellar reason to check out Jazz In The Garden on Friday nights!

The Rise of the Food Truck At Art Parties

The first Thursday of every month, the Phillips Collection in DC hosts the ultimate party – docent tours, yummy food, and music all tied to a theme. The museum bursts at the seams from 5-8:30 and about 1,000 people let loose in the labyrinthine building.

This month the museum continued it’s festivities around the current exhibit ‘Made In America’ which includes one of my favorite US-born movements ‘Abstract Expressionism,’ that exudes a rebellious style, anarchy, and roots in Surrealism. Emerging post World War II in New York, and drawing from artists such as Pollock, the movement essentially enabled the city to usurp Paris as a nucleus of emerging art.

The Phillips always throws down a good spread, this time inviting food trucks with American eats, such as Luke’s Lobster truck and local ice-creameries.

Always looking to create a buzz and cultivate a younger community, the food trucks were the perfect hit!

The Real Monuments Men

DC’s National Gallery of Art (NGA) has curated an exhibit on the
“monuments men”, the government group directed by Roosevelt in World War II to bring back the art looted by the Nazi’s and stashed all over Europe. The group — the Roberts Commission — operated out of NGA which has retained many of the artifacts (telegrams and other correspondence) and are now on display. While the recent movie Monuments Men provides rich context and narrative around the incredibly complex undertaking, the exhibit offers some
Interesting tidbits, including the fact that the Biltmore near Asheville, NC, became the holding place for a massive number of works in NGA’s collection during WW2.

It’s a small but mighty exhibit that’s well worth the visit. Especially if you are en route to the museum’s Friday night Jazz In The Garden party…

What is Art?

My mind has been racing the last few days, as I’ve reimmersed myself in my blog and reinvigorated efforts to trawl for new art exhibits and to seek out art in the every day.

Part of this has led me to re-think: What is art anyway? And so I looked up the definition:

1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.

2. the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

One definition explains art as only visual; the other expands to other dimensions, including another of the five senses – sound.

No, not sound, music. Sound can be a singular note, but notes/sounds pieced together as an orchestration becomes music. The same phenomenon occurs in the physical dimension too, as hundreds of brushstrokes convene on a canvas to create a nose, a cheek, a forehead, a portrait, and as soft pieces of clay within the sculptor’s hands create the ears, the lips. a sculpture.

Refocusing on the discrete definition of art doesn’t bound me to think of art in a particular way, in fact I think it enables me to see the links between various manifestations of art (sight, sound, touch, taste — smell?), which ultimately offers an entirely new understanding and appreciation of art.

The Flying Trapeze

In my last post, I thought about how we define art, the different types of media platforms for expressing art, etc. One area that I didn’t dig into was the performing arts, in which artists use their body, voice, or objects to convey artistic expression. (This is different from performance art, which challenges orthodox art forms and cultural norms and seeks to convey meaning in a more drama-related sense, rather than serving as a simple performance for entertainment purposes).

After I spent a weekend in the throes of what felt like a Cirque du Soleil for the Average Joe – or “Jane” in this case at the DC outpost of the New York Trapeze School for my 9 year-old’s birthday, we realized this was not just your everyday performing arts. It was physical in ways I have not seen the arts to be. Not long after chalking up and learning the mechanics of how to grip a bar, they were climbing the rig and leaping off the platform to fall, arch, twist, and somersault in mid-air. The amount these girls learned in a choreographed 120-minute session was incredible. The syncopation, timing, grace, and fluidity created a complex challenge and the physical dimensions made it exciting to watch.

Sometimes it is just as exciting to watch a novice at work as it is to watch a master artist. Particularly when they are doing incredible feats 30 feet in the air!

Overplayed and Overdone?

What happens when you love an artist’s work, but are bored with his “world view”?

This is my impression of Lee Ufan’s new sculpture exhibit at Versailles as ArtNet describes his work

Ufan believes that a work of art is “not an autonomous and independent entity, but that it only exists in its relation to the outside world.”

Isn’t this premise so over done? Or alternately, doesn’t every artist strive to do this very thing — compose a work that is conceptual and has a deeper meaning? So many artists consider this the premise for their work, namely the art’s relationship with its environment. But this is nothing new. I think most artists start with this as a basis and then build in and sculpt additional layers of meaning.

I would hope that being in person in front of these sculptures would enable the observer to perceive these additional layers. Otherwise it’s just over-played and over done.