Saturday, July 26, 2014

Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image

Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum

When: through February 15, 2015

I love visiting the third floor of the American Art Museum/Portrait Gallery.  The floor, the walls and the windows are a riot of color and pattern - no subtle earth tones here!  I don't know when this decorative scheme would have been chosen, but I love its excesses.  Even if the show I see there isn't much to my taste, at least I've been given my smile for the day by the decor.

Happily, my most recent trip to the third floor was enjoyable for the show as well.  A new permanent addition to the collection, this is a rotating selection of video offerings; I was reminded, in a good way, of the Black Box and Directions series at the Hirshhorn.  I think art galleries and museums overlook the "moving image" as the title calls it, and it's good to see the Smithsonian continuing to celebrate it.

The film pictured here is "Fall Into Paradise."  A pinprick of light develops gradually into two people in an embrace, then, all of a sudden, they fall into a body of water.  The splash is startlingly loud - I jumped a bit, but the group of young people who watched it after me actually screamed with surprise.  I like this video - although it takes a while for the action to develop, your patience is rewarded in the end.

"Six Colorful Inside Jobs" is a series of people painting a room.  First, it's entirely red, then orange, then yellow and so on.  I know, I know, who wants to see something that perilously akin to watching paint dry?  It's hypnotic, really - the action is sped up, so it only takes a couple of minutes to paint the room, rather than a couple of hours.  And it's neat to watch one color give way to another.  It reminded me of "Floating McDonald's."  You know what's going to happen, but it's riveting in its own way.

Less successful than either of these offerings is "Walk with Contrapposto, " which features the artist walking back and forth along a narrow corridor, striking poses along the way.  Perhaps something else happens as well, but I couldn't stay interested long enough to find out.  Nam June Paik is also represented here (I recognized the piece as one of his - kudos to me) with "Zen for TV."  It's an old television set with video playing of a straight line, almost like when TV used to go off for the night (imagine!!) and you'd get the test pattern.  It's about as interesting.

Verdict: It's batting .500 for me, which is an admirable average.  I look forward to more installments in this series.

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