Saturday, November 19, 2016

Yinka Shonibare - Need I Say More?

Where: African Art Museum

When: through January 2, 2017

Imagine my delight when I discovered that Yinka Shonibare was among the African artists featured in this selection of contemporary video art.  I was off to the Mall with a spring in my step, and that spring was only enhanced by the fact that the barriers are down, and you can walk easily from one side of the Mall to the other!  Hurrah - no more walking all the way over to 12th street to get to the Sackler and its neighbors.

The Shonibare piece was "Un Ballo in Maschera," and I only wish I'd had time to watch it all the way through.  The dancers are clad in his trademark wax cloth and their movements are much like those of birds.  I wish I knew what that meant, as I'm sure it means something.  Gorgeous colors in the costuming and lots to think about - typical Shonibare.

The other videos are interested as well; the first one in the show is of a woman walking on olive oil, which is strangely captivating.  I was also intrigued by Theo Eshetu's kaleidoscope piece - so cool to look at, especially as you can see your own reflection in the mirrors.

My only complaint is that sometimes the sound bleeds over from piece to piece, but that's a small gripe.

Verdict: This show reminds me how much I like contemporary African art.  Worth seeing.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Learning How the Sausage Is Made

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through January 2, 2017

How can I already be going to shows that will close in 2017?  This year has sped by on gossamer wings.

This is a good sized show on the drawings that underpin the paintings from the time of Rembrandt, a golden age of painting - think the Netherlands in the 1600s. The drawings were the starting point for the finished artworks and allow art historians to gain insight into how the creative process proceeded.

What I found most interesting was that artists would keep drawings in a notebook and use them in various combinations to make a painting - rather like fitting together the pieces of a puzzle.  Need a house?  Flip through the notebook and find one that fits!  Want to change the leg position of one of your subjects?  Back to the notebook for a new posture!

There were several Hendrick Avercamp paintings on display - did I see some of his work in the "little ice age" show a few years ago?  They looked very familiar.  The best way I can describe them is as Currier & Ives for the 17th century Dutch.  If you like winter scenes, heavy on the ice skating, this is your guy.

I also noticed a piece called "Sleeping Spaniel" by Frans Van Mieris the Elder - it looked a bit like a Cavalier.

Verdict: I liked this show and would recommend it, both for the art and for the "peek behind the curtain."

Sunday, November 6, 2016

You Are What You Eat

Where: National Gallery of Art

When: through November 27, 2016

Is food good for what ails you?  Is food the new pharmacopeia?  Are drugs the new religion?  Are doctors the new high priests?

You might not find the answers to these questions, but you will see them asked in this small show of Damien Hirst works.  They're part drug label, part food packaging, tucked away in a little corner of the West Building, just before you walk into the concourse to the East Building.

Verdict: A small show that provides, and you knew this was coming, food for thought.

Making an Artistic Virtue of Necessity

Where: Air and Space Museum

When: through November 30, 2016

I'm not a big fan of the Air and Space Museum, as long time readers of this blog already know.  A little goes a long way, is my view of rocket ships, and the cacophony of young boys running and screaming does nothing to add to my experience.

Every so often, the museum does put on an art display, and I head over to the "big box of noise."  This one focused on the artistic qualities of air traffic control towers.  Sounds unlikely, I know, but, quoting from the wall notes, "...there is beauty in the prosaic, if one only has the eye to see it."  Very true, and it's a lot better for your psyche to look for the beautiful than feel overwhelmed by the ugly.

Fun facts: FDR chose the site for National Airport, JFK is one of only two airports in North America with direct flights to all six inhabited continents and Arlanda Airport in Stockholm doubles as a wedding location.

Verdict: If you can take the hustle and bustle, it's a mildly interesting display.