Saturday, November 17, 2012
When: through January 6, 2013
This is a small show, featuring 46 works on paper from the Smithsonian's collection of abstract drawings. I'm reminded once again just how enormous the Smithsonian's art collection is, that they can put on entire shows without borrowing from other museums. Artists began experimenting with abstraction in the early 20th century. Some drawings were preparations for works in other media, but most were created as independent works of art.
One thing I noticed almost immediately is how many of the works are "Untitled." I'm sure I've commented on this phenomenon before, but really? Untitled? I take the time out of my day to see this show, putting aside my lack of interest in pen and ink drawings and my skepticism about abstract art, and you can't even bother to give your work a name? I'm sure there's some great philosophical reason for this, but it just seems sloppy to me. Finish the job, already!!
One of the first pieces I saw was by Man Ray. There was a big show of his works a while before I started going to shows on my lunch hour, and I've always been rather sorry I missed it. Now, however, I can put that regret to bed. His offering, you guessed it, "Untitled," from 1947 is merely a bunch of squiggles. If this is indicative of his work (and, to be honest, I don't know, since I missed the show), I will lose no more sleep over having failed to attend his exhibition.
Just so you don't think I'm dead set against all abstract works or all works that are untitled, I did like John Ferren's "Untitled" from 1934. No discernible figures or bits of landscape, so truly abstract, but I loved the color, so I'm giving it a thumbs up.
Another artist, Will Henry Stevens, was inspired by the works of Chinese Song Dynasty painters, which he first saw on a trip to the Freer Gallery in 1912. I love to hear stories about people being moved by museums to try new things, or embark on a life's work. I feel a kinship with others who go to exhibits and are changed for the better for having gone.
Verdict: If you like abstract art, don't miss this show, which is easily managed in a lunch hour.