Saturday, November 30, 2013

Damage Control: Art and Destruction since 1950

Where: Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

When: through May 26, 2014

I'm not sure that I've ever been quite so far ahead in seeing exhibits as I am right now.  This show doesn't close until next May, but I've already crossed it off my list.  I'm trying to see everything I can, before the government shuts down again in January.  I know that's not certain to occur, and some Congressional leaders are insisting it won't, but my source for House gossip tells me it will happen, so I'm taking no chances.

Ironic that I'd be off to the Hirshhorn on the week of Thanksgiving as, when I think of the museums for which I am thankful, the Hirshhorn does not spring to mind.  It's so ugly and uninviting on the outside and so full of nonsense on the inside.  Long-time readers must surely have wearied of my rants on this subject, but that's how we roll here at "Luncheon of the Museum Goer."  Hirshhorn = ick.

To be fair, I have seen some interesting things over the years at my least favorite Smithsonian museum.  The "Black Box" series is always worth a trip (who could forget "Floating McDonalds" or the video of the flamingos with the gunshots in the background?), and I enjoyed the Ai Weiwei show as well.

This exhibit, however, does not fall into that small category of "good things at the concrete donut."  It's on the 2nd floor, so it's one of their Bataan Death March shows - you just keep walking and walking through room after room, thinking, "when will this be over?"  The theme is destruction, and so we get lots of damaged goods - a smashed grand piano greets you in the first room.

As if an endless line of examples of broken objects isn't enough, we also have a letter (not damaged in any way that I could see) from Yves Klein (NOT my favorite artist) making an exciting offer to the President of the International Conference called "Blue Explosions."  He tells this body that he will undertake to paint all bombs blue, so that they will be recognizable when they go off.  If it were anyone else, I could appreciate the attempt to make countries or other groups accountable for their use of weapons of mass destruction, but it's Yves Klein, so my eyeballs just rolled back into my head.  Apparently there is nothing he won't do to call more attention to himself.

One item I at first thought was a jar of moldy cookies (check the back of the fridge for art!!), but turned out to be the cremated remains of an artist's work.  He just burned up everything he'd done over the course of several years and exhibited that.  That was followed by an erased de Kooning drawing by Robert Rauschenberg.  I could erase countless drawings; does that make me an artist?

Not content merely to exhibit static works, the Hirshhorn has kindly set up numerous videos for your delectation.  One features Yoko One having people in an audience come up to the stage and cut off her clothes.  I feel like Cindy Lou Who from "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" asking "Why Santy Claus Why?"  At least the Yoko Ono video was quiet.  The others were all loud, and I do mean LOUD.  I felt sorry for the guards who have to listen to this cacophony all day long.  I think the destruction must be to their hearing, or their sanity.  I saw one family watching a video of someone dragging an amplified guitar behind a truck (such a racket as you cannot imagine).  The mother turned to the father and said, "But what's the point of it?"  Good question, I thought to myself.  One  might ask that of the show as a whole.

I made more notes, and I could write up even more about this show, but really, why?  You get the picture.  I'll close by saying my favorite piece was one by David Ireland that I saw at the very end of the show - it's of the Hirshhorn on fire.

Verdict: Feel free to just walk on by this exhibit.  There's plenty of other things to occupy your time at the holiday season.

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