Saturday, February 11, 2012


Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum

When: through March 11, 2012

This show is a selection of contemporary prints contained in the permanent collection of the museum.  Yet again, perhaps due to the economy, but perhaps not, the Smithsonian has used its own collection to create a special exhibit.   As someone who only goes to see special exhibits, I like this idea - it gives me a chance to see works I wouldn't ordinarily get to see.  I remember when the economy first tanked, the National Gallery decided to put on some shows of works they owned, and I thought it was a nice way to take the lemons of insufficient funding to put on shows with works from other institutions and make lemonade, in this case, very interesting shows with local art.

All that having been said, I found this show a bit unfocused.  The underlying theme is that each of these works is either part of a series (one of a "multiple" work of art) or features multiples of an image.  This isn't really enough to tie the show together.  There are so many different artists and so many different genres of art that it's hard to get a handle on anything.

I did see several pieces that I liked, however.  "Land Origin" by Lou Stovall was quite good - I liked the color scheme of magenta, green and yellow.  "Ocean Surface" by Vija Celmins, a screenprint on paper, featured an incredibly realistic water scene, and I do love paintings of water.  Perhaps the most memorable piece in the show was from the portfolio "Hindsight is Always 20/20" by R. Luke DuBois.  He takes the State of the Union message from each President and sorts the words in the speech according to how often they are used.  He then puts the most used words at the top of the piece, in very large font.  The next words, slightly less used, are in slightly smaller font - the display is reminiscent of an eye chart.  The two speeches on display are from James Buchanan and Abraham Lincoln, and it's interesting to see what words they used.  Maybe they'll put on a show just of this portfolio at some point - to see the full set would be fascinating.

Verdict: This show is okay, but not great.  If you've got some extra time, it's worth dropping in, but it doesn't merit a special trip.

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