Sunday, August 21, 2011

DC Trip Part !!

The Hirshhorn Museum

This is going to be a big, nerdy post.  If you don't like looking at pictures of modern artwork, you may skip this and move on.  

First of all, a little Wiki'd history:
The Hirshhorn Museum, found on the Mall, is a space dedicated to modern and contemporary art.  The architecture of the gallery itself has caused some controversey; its cylindrical shape has been described by many as an eyesore.  However, when Gordon Bunshaft designed this space, he was told that a museum dedicated to modern art should be just as controversial and avant-garde as the work it holds. The space also includes an outdoor sculpture garden, which I will document in a later post.  

Alexander Calder, Red Cascade, 1954

The works exhibited in this space focus on artistic schools of thought that appeared after World War II, particularly within the last 50 years.  I mostly took pictures of things I already knew a lot about, but there are some pieces on display that I have documented here so I can learn more.  So come with me on this journey of artistic exploration!

PS Check out the Official Website of the Hirshhorn for more information.

Alexander Calder, Mobile, 1942

One of the most easily-recognized artists I got to experience on this trip was Alexander Calder, an American artist who specializes in mobile artworks.  These sculptures, often suspended in the air, are made of diverse metal pieces that move freely with air currents within the gallery space.  

Alexander Calder, Zarabanda (One White Disc), 1955

I find Calder's works to be both aesthetically pleasing and fascinating.  The premise of having such heavy plates suspended by a tiny thread or chain link makes the work feel more delicate and organic, despite the fact that they are made of such industrial material.  There's also this child's-toy quality in the primary colors and abstract shapes.  I could easily see myself hanging Calder-like mobiles in my children's rooms someday.

Alberto Giacometti, Tall Figure, 1947, cast 1956

Alberto Giacometti is a bit more depressing.  His works are tied to the existentialist movement which appeared after the horrors of World War II.  His bronze figures are often tall, pinched, and solitary, and are meant to create unsettling feelings within the heart of the viewer.  When I look at Giacometti's works, I ask myself a lot of hard questions.  Is man alone in the Universe?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Is there a good or an evil, or is there just existence?  Needless to say, I only look at Giacometti's sculptures for a short period of time, and then I move on to something a little more happy.  

Willem de Kooning, Two Women in the Country, 1954

Here's another guy who doesn't make me too happy:  Willem de Kooning.  This guy was kind of misogynistic.  His depictions of women are hardly flattering.  But he was an important part of the abstract expressionist movement, and he pushed boundaries regarding human representation and beauty.  So I guess he's worth mentioning.

Robert Rauschenberg, Dam, 1959.

This guy's kind of fun.  Robert Rauschenberg.  He was one of the first people to dabble in mixed-media visual art.  His work included a lot of collage and assemblage.  I like the pop feel to Rauschenberg's works.  He includes a lot of items and motifs that can be seen in the modern lifestyle:  Newspapers, bedspreads, rubber tires, pillows, feathers, signposts.  But he also adds the abstract expressionistic quality of color planes, splatters, and nonrepresentational imagery.  I'm loving his stuff. 

Robert Rauschenberg, Whale, 1964

Clyfford Still, 1962-D, 1962
Clyfford Still is just a guy I like.  He's abstract expressionism meets minimalistic color schemes and shapes. He was one of the first of his kind, creating grand-scale, non-representational works that describe the human condition.  Another work I could see on my own wall. 

Donald Judd, Untitled, 1969

This work I love.  Donald Judd's Untitled.  This is a minimalist work with a splash of pop color.  I love minimalism.  It's like a giant puzzle that you can never quite figure out.  Why would someone make something like this?  Of course, we never will entirely know.

I love this work.  Love love love.

Joseph Kosuth, Four Colors Four Words, 1966
I LOVE works like this by Joseph Kosuth.  Works that combine text with pop culture with ambiguity.  I love it that we live in a society that considers this ART.  It's fantastic.  It's conceptual.  It's marvelous.

Lousie Nevelson, Black Wall, 1964

Louise Nevelson, Dream House XXXII, 1972
Louise Nevelson is my absolute favorite female artist.  She's this eccentric icon of an artist who makes sculptures made of wood. What she does is visit a lumberyard, pick up old pieces of furniture, wooden scraps, boxes, whatever she can find, and makes these beautiful, altar-like sculptures out of them.  They are symmetrical, serene, balanced, and painted in monochromatic black, white, or gold.  I just think this is ingenious.  She's a woman, but she works with very masculine media and designs things on a grand sale like her male contemporaries.  It's all one color, but the absence of color creates the opportunity for viewers to find patterns in shape and texture, rather than just color.  It's like a collage with wood.  It's amazing, and I LOVE HER.  
David Smith, Aerial Construction, 1936
David Smith is an Icon, probably the most famous modern sculptor in this era.  I saw DOZENS of his works at these museums.  He specializes in metal geometric sculpture, but he's got some expressionistic painterly quality to his work that I simply love.  

David Smith, Ancient Household, 1945
I especially like this one, Ancient Household, because there's a sort of musical quality to it.

Frank Lloyd Wright, Composition in Light: Window from the Coonley Playhouse, 1912

This is cool.  It's a window designed by world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright that was one installed at the Avery Coonley Playhouse, a historic landmark in Illinois.  I liked how it was placed at a higher vantage point, as if it actually belonged there.  My brother looks at it with wonder.

Barbara Hepworth, Reclining Figure, 1933

Barbara Hepworth is into very organic sculpture.  Very Henri-Moore-esque, except on a smaller, more intimate scale using rounded marble, like the antiquital greats.  Hepworth has freely admitted that a lot of her works are sexual in nature.  They show the process of conception, growth, development, creation.  I think they are beautiful.

Henry Moore, Figure Carving, 1935
Henry Moore is another organic figure sculptor.  Most of the works I saw from this guy were large-scale, outdoor installations, but I thought this little human figure was pretty cute.  You have to look really hard to see any human attributes in his works, but they're there.  
(PS I also sort of like this picture because of the shadows cast by my brother and myself that can be seen in the reflection of the glass.)

John Chamberlain, Untitled, 1961
John Chamberlain is known for making art out of scrap metal from cars.  I think this is cool because cars are so colorful and shiny and recognizable, even in such misshapen states as this one.  There's a pop quality about this work; it shows a very specific time when cars became more than just a mode of transportation, but a status symbol, a means of decoration, a lifestyle.  

Frank Stella, Arundel Castle, 1959
My sister is studying a work by Frank Stella in this photo.  He's known for his optical illusion-esque geometric paintings, full of linear patterns, mazes and meanders.  This one is minimalist in nature in the fact that it has subtle color tones, and values shape more than hue in bringing its point across.  Stella lets the artwork speak for itself; there's little biography involved in this work.  You don't get the blatant emotional impact that you do when you look at abstract expressionism.  This is pure art for art's sake.  I like minimalism a lot.  So did Ellen. 

Lawrence Weiner, A RUBBER BALL THROWN ON TH0E SEA, Cat. No. 146, 1969

This is interesting.  When I first saw it, I thought it was the title of the exhibition presented on this floor.  But it's not.  It's an artwork all on its own.  The idea behind this "piece" may be unsettling for some; it's kind of hard to see something like this as "art."  According to Weiner, it doesn't matter what color the lettering was, what font it was in, or what size it was.  It commemorates an action -- throwing a rubber ball on the sea -- that is not only mundane but almost unthinkable.  Who throws rubber balls on the sea?  Does anyone do this?  Ever?  This reminds me a little bit of the "happening" phenomenon that came up in the '60s.  The idea is that art can be found in little moments, little actions, little experiences.  The weird thing, though, is that no one actually has to carry out this action for this to be art.  It shows the rift between the idea of something and the reality of that something.  When does this action become real?  When it is thought?  When it is performed?  There are probably many answers to this question.
Go here for an article about this work, and here for more works by Lawrence Weiner.
(PS:  Weiner's work, Bits and Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole, is located at the Walker Art Museum in Minnesota.  I've seen this work before.)

Here are my own impromptu conceptual artistic pieces... My dad facing in an upwards direction as he takes a down escalator.

I'm sure this could someday be put in the Hirshhorn...  

My favorite sister.

On Kawara, Oct. 24, 1971 (Today series no. 95), 1971

Why in heaven's name, do you ask, is a plaque with a date on it included in a collection of artistic works from the Hirshhorn museum?  Truth is, I don't really know.  But I looked up this guy, On Kawara, and discovered that all of his works, including this Today Series, is obsessively involved with time.  I suppose he wants viewers to understand that time continues to tick by at the same speed, and moments pass with or without our liking it.  I'd like to learn more about this guy.

Hamish Fulton, Moonrise Kent England, 30 September 1985, 1985.
Richard Long, Norfolk Flint Circle, 1992.
There are two pieces in this picture.  One is by Hamish Fulton called Moonrise Kent England, 30 September 1985.  That's the picture of the moon and the text on the wall.  The pile of...  things... on the floor is an installation by Richard Long, called Norfolk Flint Circle.  It's made out of what is called paramoudra -- formations of flint found on beaches in various places, including Norfolk.  These naturally-occurring, abstract forms are put together in a man-made 8-meter circle.  Each time the circle is recreated, the flint is put in different places, thus changing the appearance of the work.  Nevertheless, the overall image of the flint circle is the same.  To have both of these works put together in one place is fascinating to me. Both artists were obsessed with nature, and often used travelling by foot as an integral part in their works.  They portray man's relationship with nature in an eerie way.  I can't explain why, but I felt uncomfortable in this room.  Perhaps it was too still, too quiet.

Pablo Picasso, Woman with Baby Carriage, 1950.
Of course, I needed to include a work by Pablo Picasso in this post.  The one Picasso I remembered seeing was this, a sculpture of a woman with a baby carriage.  Picasso is not known for his sculptures, but I feel like he may have been a very significant influence for many other sculptors to come, including Henry Moore. 

Larry Bell, Untitled, 1964
"Intriguing!" my brother says as he gazes upon this untitled work by Larry Bell.  It's a simple geometric form that really has no other purpose or function but to puzzle the viewer as to why it was created in the first place.  Ahhhh, modern art!

Hans Haacke, Condensation Cube, 1963-2008
This work, Condensation Cube by Hans Haacke puzzles both my father and brother.  This work is super cool, I think.  It's the process of condensation captured in a clear cube in real time.  Viewers get an opportunity to study and observe the physical cycle of water forming within a controlled space.  I really like this work.  My dad, however, doesn't quite appreciate it like I do.

Sol LeWitt, Wall Drawing No. 3, 1969

Upon first look at this picture, you might just see Haacke's Condensation Cube from a different angle.  But look again, this time at the wall.  Yes, that gray stripe on the wall is actually an artistic work by Sol LeWitt.  Simply stated, it's a pen drawing on a wall that's so detailed, it looks like a stripe from far away.  It's so subtle.  So wonderfully artistic!

Robert Smithson, Gyrostasis, 1968

Robert Smithson is famous for his Spiral Jetty earthwork located in the Great Salt Lake, but this spiral is a more (dare I say it?) orthodox artwork called Gyrostasis, which comes from a word that describes a wheel-like instrument that provides stability during turbulent movement.  I think it's an interesting title for a simple piece.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe's Lips, 1962

Of course, I needed to include a piece by Andy Warhol, the king of the Pop Art movement.  He's famous for his celebrity silkscreens and paintings of Campbell's Soup Cans -- taking the mundane and the universal and putting it in a museum in a very recognizable and iconic form.  You can tell this work is a Warhol because of the repeating silkscreen patterns and bold color scheme.  Furthermore, this pair of lips, copied over and over again, belonged to the famous Marilyn Monroe.  Many believe this to be a commentary about the commonplace nature of the modern celebrity.  We see their pictures everywhere, in tabloids, billboards, on TV...  We are immersed in a consumer culture, and sometimes the commodities being sold are human beings themselves.  It's a very captivating idea.

Fred Sandback, Untitled (Sculptural Study, Twelve-Part Vertical Construction), 1990.

This work is very interesting to me.  It's basically a bunch of yarn hanging from the ceiling and then hooked to the floor.  Viewers are invited to meander around these strings and discover new perspectives and impressions as they walk.  I looked up this guy, Fred Sandback, and found out that he is a modern minimalist.  This work, one of many like it, is a study of proportions and interactive artistic spaces.  I thought it was pretty cool, but I was so tempted to break the rules and pluck the yarn like a harp.

Sigmar Polke, Bunnies, 1966
Aaaaand finally I had to get a shot of this Sigmar Polke work because this same picture was in my art history textbook.  It's apparently very famous.  It uses a typical modern benday reproduction system, but on a grand, formal scale.  This work almost looks like it's been blown up so big that it's pixillated, distorted, imperfect.  It follows a lot of what Roy Lichtenstein and Chuck Close also did during this same time period.

Welp.  There you have it.  If you bothered to read through all this and like some of it, I hope you explore those artists a little further and learn more about them.  I very strongly believe that the more you understand the techniques, contexts, and concepts behind artistic works, the better you can appreciate them.  Art is not for intellectuals.  It's for everyone.  Explore it!

Listening to:  My text ring tone over and over and over and over...
Things going on today:  Stake sacrament meeting, a lot of journal writing.
Blessings:  Weekends, budgets
Learned:  A lot about the above mentioned artists.  You should too!  Wikipedia is a wonderful place.

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