Saturday, November 14, 2015

This. Is. Not. Art.

Where: Hirshhorn Museum (where else?)

When: through November 15, 2015

Long-time readers of this blog are well aware of my dim view of the Hirshhorn, or as I like to call it, the concrete doughnut.  I believe it is the "anti-Freer."  I say this because the Freer is full of beautiful things, beautifully arranged, while the Hirshhorn is an ugly building full of nonsense.

Occasionally, I think to myself, "Self, you're being too hard on the Hirshhorn.  With your constant complaining, blog readers will think you're a philistine, closed to modern art and avant-garde ideas.  You need to go in with an open mind and seek the truth to be found in non-traditional works."  And then, I see something like this display of two Dan Flavin pieces, and I think, "Self, don't ever change."

What you see in this picture is exactly what you'd see if you went over to the museum right now.  And since this is closing tomorrow, if you want to see this (can't imagine why you would, but...), that's exactly what you need to do.  The installations (is that the right word?) are made of fluorescent lights - like the sort of thing you'd see on the ceiling of a kitchen.  I've got some art in my kitchen right now, as a matter of fact - call the appraisers!

It's on the lower level, in two rooms.  The first piece, that blue fence-like structure to the left in the picture, takes up one room.  Interestingly enough, when you walk in, the light is actually lavender, rather than blue, and you feel as if you're bathed in the light.  I didn't really mind this piece, it looks like both a fence and a set of windows, and you could doubtless view it as a commentary on how people wall themselves off from other people and experiences, but should really take the time to look at unfamiliar persons or places as a way to expand their own horizons.  Fine; I've got no quarrel with that.  If this had been one work in an exhibit full of other thought-provoking pieces, I would have liked it.

However, then we move on to the second room, and this is where my patience runs out.  As you can see in the picture, it's a set of white fluorescent lights (just like you probably have at home!) mounted on the wall.  According to the notes, this is an homage to the Russian Constructivist movement.  I looked up this artistic period, and found some pictures but nothing that I could really tie to this piece.  Frankly, you could say this is an homage to just about anything, and you'd be right.  Absolute and complete nonsense.

Verdict: I'd apologize for not reviewing this show earlier (for some reason it didn't appear on the Smithsonian website until this week), but I think I've performed a public service in not drawing attention to this.


  1. I'm sure I've written to you in the past to say how much I LOVE and appreciate your blog. thank you for your wonderful posts & insights. and i can't thank you enough for your public shaming & dislike of the 'concrete donut'. i could not agree more. on the rare occasion i subject myself to that museum (only to see the few pieces of their permanent collection that i love) i come away so angry at how much i hate that museum overall. i've joked about buying a Hirshhorn tshirt in the gift shop and painting "SUCKS" underneath and wearing it next time i visit. or just around DC to express my opinion on the place. good to know i'm not alone.

    thanks again for your wonderful blog. keep up the good work!!

    dana ellyn

    1. Thanks for the kind words and for letting me know I'm not the only one dis-liking the Hirshhorn!