Saturday, August 29, 2015
Looking at Italian Art
When: through January 3, 2016
It was a banner week this week, gentle readers. I made not one but two, count 'em two, trips to the Hirshhorn! Longtime followers know how much I love the Mall's big concrete donut and its collection of what my niece would call "silly art." Well, there's plenty of that on offer in their show "Le Onde" on display until early January.
The show focuses on the Italian influence on modern art from Europe and Latin America in the 20th century and is co-sponsored by the Italian Embassy. For a relatively small country that hasn't been powerful for more years than I can count, Italy exerts an out-sized influence on many forms of artistic expression, and I raise my hat to them.
The piece pictured here is called "Blue Surface 5," and it's by Enrico Castellani. It's oil paint on linen stretched over nails. When you're up close to it, you can see the nails protruding through the canvas, but viewed from a distance (or online), it looks like weaving. I liked it, both for the trompe l'oeil effect and for the fantastic blue color.
The thing that really stole the show, however, was "Wave Motion Thread" by Francois Morellet. This is the sort of thing that makes the Hirshhorn the Hirshhorn, and I'll warn you, I don't mean that in a good way. This is, I kid you not, a piece of thread that stretches from the ceiling, where it's attached to a motor, almost to the floor, where it's attached to a plummet (a small piece of metal that keeps it stretched out). For five minutes, the motor turns on and the thread bounces up and down. Then, for ten minutes, it rests. You've got to be kidding me. Seriously, Hirshhorn? A thread on a motor bouncing up and down is not art. It's just not.
One thing I do want to mention is the overall greatness of the Hirshhorn guards. They are absolutely the friendliest, most helpful folks I've encountered in many years of museum-going. One of them showed me how to look at a piece involving a projector (you put your arm in front of it, to see the projection) on this trip. I've been helped by other guards several times. No matter how much they must want to roll their eyes at the nonsense they see everyday, they are unfailingly pleasant.
Verdict: The best thing about this show is that it's close to another exhibit featuring a Yinka Shonibare piece. It's okay, but not a crying shame if you miss it. Unless you're really into bouncing thread. Then run right over.