Saturday, February 27, 2016

Happily, There is an Exit

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through May 15, 2016

I had high hopes for this show of Louise Bourgeois works.  I'd never heard of her before, but I read a quote, "At the mention of surrealism, I cringe," and thought we might be soul sisters.  "I cringe too!" I exclaimed to myself; "This is someone whose work I must run out and examine."

Well, it turns out that just disliking surrealism is not enough to ensure I'll like your art.  Bourgeois' problem with the term is that people kept applying it to her work, when she identified as an existentialist.  There's a difference, and I see it, but I still don't like her stuff.

To me, surrealism is just ugly.  I wouldn't want it in my home, and I don't like looking at it in a museum.  If great art is uplifting, surrealism is the opposite of that.  Bourgeois' art is not repellent; it's just unfathomable.  What is it?  I kept asking myself, but I wasn't able to come up with an answer.  Many pieces are titled "Untitled," and if you've read this blog for any period of time, you know how I feel about that.  For newbies: I don't like it.  If I can make the time to come out and see your work, you can make the time to give it a name.

The picture above, is probably the most understandable - it's her hand, done in the color red.  Fine.  The rest of the works left me scratching my head.

Verdict: Unless you're a fan, you can give this a miss.

Still There?

Where: American History Museum

When: through March 21, 2016

Yet another long period between blog posts - more bad weather, more work craziness, but also a new dog in the Museumgoer household, I'm happy to say.  All time consuming, but I'm hoping that I'll be back seeing and reviewing exhibits on a regular basis going forward.

The archives center at American History has a display up now on George Sidney, an Oscar-winning director from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood (roughly the 1930s - 1950s).  He pioneered new techniques in film, including underwater sequences, think Esther Williams for those of you old enough to know who she was, the mixture of live action and animation, shooting on location and 3-D (no, youngsters, that's not a new invention).  It's the 100th anniversary of his birth, so out of storage come documents about his life and work.

Among his more famous works was "Anchors Aweigh," starring Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly.  The advertisements for the film exhorted moviegoers to "Get Gay!"  Ah, how slang has changed...

Sidney did a lot of the cinematography himself, and his sequence with Gene Kelly and Jerry the Mouse was groundbreaking.  Later in his career, he became one of the founding members of Hanna-Barbera.

Verdict: Another interesting, if not wildly exciting exhibit from our friends at the archives center - if you're a fan of old Hollywood, or if you'd just like a moment's rest from the crowds, give this a look.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Long Time, No Blog

Where: Hirshhorn Museum

When: through April 10, 2016

Hello again readers, if there are any of you left.  It's been almost a month since I blogged, in part because I haven't been to many museums lately.  Between Snowzilla (second largest single snowfall in DC history) and being crazy busy at work, I've only seen one show since mid-January.  No wonder I'm frazzled - I need some art therapy!

What I did see was an installation called "Part, File, Score" at the Hirshhorn, and, believe it or not, I liked it very much.  The artist is Susan Philipsz and the room-sized piece is a tribute to Hanns Eisler, a German Jewish composer.   He left Germany and came to the United States in 1938 when his music was banned by the Nazis, only to get caught up in the Red Scare after World War II.  He was deported in 1948.

On the walls of the room are large reproductions of Eisler's scores, with excerpts of the FBI's reports on him (with many redactions) superimposed.  It's tempting to keep busy walking around and reading all of this material, but it's worth it to stand in the center of the room and hear the music coming from all around you.  Each note seems to come from a different speaker, so you feel as if you're surrounded by the sound.

Verdict: Worth a look and a listen; it's one room, so ideal for a lunch time visit.