Thursday, October 30, 2014

Out of Many, One

Where: National Mall Reflecting Pool, visible from the Washington Monument

When: through October 31, 2014

I took the afternoon off today to go up in the Washington Monument and see this portrait made of sand and soil, set up next to the Reflecting Pool, between the WWII and Lincoln Memorials.

It had been at least 25 years since I'd visited the Washington Monument, and the views from the top are lovely.  DC is a beautiful city, although it's easy to lose sight of that, when your mired in traffic, or dealing with a barely functional subway system or trying to find a bit of peace and quiet downtown.  You can see in all directions from this height, and there's something picturesque out of each observation window.

Of course, for today and tomorrow, you can also see this portrait by the Cuban-American artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada.  It's a composite picture, made of the facial features of several people, hence the title.  It's an interesting idea, and having it visible only from above does make it more of an event than it might otherwise be.

The problem is that you're so far away from the piece that seeing it from the Monument is not much different than seeing it online or in the newspaper.  You don't feel as if you're in the presence of the "real thing" in the way you do when you see a painting or sculpture in a museum.  Even if it's behind glass, you're still in the room with it.  With this installation, you're still at a remove.  I feel as if I've seen it, but I haven't experienced it.

That having been said, I'm glad I went up and would go again if something similar were on display in future.  Note that beginning next May, the Park Service will be offering "walk down" tours of the Monument.  You take the elevator to the top, but walk down with a guide.  It takes two hours, so you need to block out some time for this.  If I'm feeling particularly energetic some day, I'll give it a try.

Verdict: Come for the views, whether of the portrait or of the city generally.  You have to plan ahead in order to get tickets, but it's worth taking the time to do at least once in your life.

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