Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tiny Garden Models

Where: Ripley Center

When: no closing date

I went over to see this small display in the Concourse last week, as the original closing date was early September (and I'm now on to September closings - where does the time go?!?!).  Now, however, they've decided to keep it up longer and the closing date has been changed to TBD.  So no need to rush out and see this.

It's a display of several models of gardens, done in miniature.  You also get a photograph of the real garden (from the Smithsonian Archives of American Gardens - who knew?), so it's not just a little toy.  It's an actual small replica, designed to spur you on to great feats of garden design.  Or at least, give you some ideas of what to do in your back yard.

My only problem with this is that the notes are printed in small type and set mostly in the center of the display.  And since the models are set in the middle of large brick pedestals, the middle is rather far from where the viewer is standing.  Very hard to see, if one doesn't have eagle eyes.

Verdict: Worth a look, if you're on your way to something else.  Basically, just a nice way to decorate the Concourse.

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Glory that was Camelot

Where: American History Museum

When: through August 27, 2017

If you'd like a glimpse of what America was like before "the 60s" or if you're a fan of the Kennedys, head over to the American History Museum to see the Richard Avedon photographs of JFK and family.  They were taken just before he was inaugurated, and it's like looking into a time capsule.

The museum is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Kennedy's birth (so is American Art, just by the way - I'll have a review of that show once I've seen it), and it's interesting that they would choose this collection of photographs, over something to do with his Presidency or WWII service.

They were taken just as America was about to step into a new phase; Kennedy was the first of the "Greatest Generation" Presidents, who occupied the White House until Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1992.  So they represent both a look forward for those who saw them in 1961 - looking towards a new generation of leadership, and a look back for us in 2017, who see a time before so many cultural upheavals.

The family is depicted against a plain white background, and one can't help but feel that they were carefully posed.  Both JFK and Jackie Kennedy are carefully looking into the camera, projecting a certain youthful seriousness, as if to say, "Yes, we are very young and glamorous, but we're ready to take on our new responsibilities."

The exception to all this message sending are the photos with Caroline.  She's quite young, and clearly very happy to be with her father.  She looks completely authentic, the way kids do before they learn they have to "smile for the camera."

Verdict: There are only a few photographs, so this won't take very long.  They're in the Presidents exhibit, and you can have a look at Warren Harding's flamboyant pajamas on your way to see them.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Beauty and the Beast at the Renwick

Where: Renwick Gallery

When: through August 20, 2017

I went over to the Renwick yesterday, and because it's a bit of a hike for me, I saw two shows in one trip.  The first was an exhibit of gorgeous enamels by June Schwarcz; I liked them so much I took two photographs to share on the blog.


This is one of her earlier works, called "Nut Bowl."  I'm not sure if this comes out in the photo, but the inside looks like a nut.  It is both beautiful and a pun, which is an uncommon mixture.  The colors of her works are stunning; I felt as if I could take them home and live happily ever after with them.

Although this piece could certainly hold nuts, some of her work is non-functional, or as she herself put it, "They just don't hold water."  One gets the sense that she didn't take herself too seriously, which is another reason I like her art.

She took inspiration from nature, fashion and the work of other artists.  Only last week, I'd been craving some Durer in that show on French art, well, see the piece below which was inspired by him.


It's an abstract, where Durer was a realist, but the precision is there.  So, I'm now a June Schwarcz fan - any friend of Durer's is a friend of mine.

Then I moved on to the Peter Voulkos show, which is in the rooms just behind Schwarcz.  What a change, and not for the better.  Big clunky, ugly pieces, all sharp edges and looking like failed experiments.  The items pictured below are the least awful.


The rest of the show is all mangled clay; all I could think was, "This is so un-beautiful."  The wall notes provided my a-ha moment.  Turns out he was inspired by Abstract Expressionism, so no wonder it's so beastly.

The final room of the show features some of his "blackware."  One of his friends said of it, "It wouldn't surprise me if the pots had been made in the dark."  It wouldn't surprise me either!

Verdict: The Schwarcz show is wonderful; Voulkos you can skip.