Sunday, May 8, 2011

Blinky Palermo: Retrospective, 1964-1977

Where: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

When: through May 15, 2011

As I walked over to the Hirshhorn, I thought yet again that it's an ugly building. It's a big concrete doughnut, with nothing to recommend it. Granted it has a fountain in the open middle of the building, but it lacks the splash (forgive the pun) of the fountain at the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden across the Mall. All in all, an eyesore. Perhaps it's the ugly container that prejudices me against the exhibits there; I'm already in a foul mood before I ever walk in.

On the other hand, perhaps the shows leave something to be desired? This one, which is the first retrospective for Blinky Palermo, had me shaking my head and saying, "yes, that's all very well, but I could do the same, given a bucket of paint and some canvas." I don't much appreciate the monochrome painters - seems to me it's too much like what someone does when they come to your house to paint your kitchen.

In the first room, we are treated to white paint on cardboard, with two squares of more white paint on cardboard affixed. I'm sure an art historian could ascribe great meaning to this, but I found myself considering what I might be able to do with the left over paint from our bathroom remodel and some stray cardboard I could pick up at work. I did rather like the orange stick with blue triangles on it - it had a rather nautical air about it. It would fit rather nicely in someone's boat house. Most of the works were called "Untitled," which I always think is a cop out. Really? Untitled? I've walked all the way over here, come into this hideous building to see your show, and you can't even come up with a name for your "art"? Really?

Like many large shows at the Hirshhorn, you fell as if you've walked miles to see all of it - this one takes up the entire 2nd floor, so wear your walking shoes if you plan to visit. Some of the color combinations he uses are quite nice; I liked his blue and gray palette, but again, is this art or is this an enormous paint card, like the ones you get at Home Depot? As a fan of color in art, I can't complaint about the show being too drab; there's color everywhere. It's just that there's not much else.

Verdict: If you're a fan of the monochrome school, rush right out and see this show. Otherwise, you can give it a miss.

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