Glitter and Columns in DC

My work is following the same organic path inspired by the Julian Schnabel exhibit I saw last April in New York. The new series called Wave Distortion continues with four new paintings.

WaveDistortion9,2015,16x20inWave Distortion 9, 2015, acrylic on birch panel, 16″ x 20″

It is hard to believe that I have never been to Washington, D.C. Trying to explore such a vast museum city was amazing but overwhelming. My first impression of D.C. is that it is a city made for the “big boys”. Whether they be the big political talking heads, the outsized corinthian columned buildings, or the big boys of art. The city seems larger than life and cold with an overwhelming scale of size. Wide boulevards and even wider spans of grass to celebrate our former presidents to the grand White House housing our current president. It seems surreal that our president lives in a house in the middle of a major city and even more so since the house, on close inspection, is not very big and is right on the avenue separated by only one gate.

So in search of the intimate D.C., I went looking for art. In the I.M. Pei addition to the National Gallery, I found the big boys of sculpture displayed in the lobby still under renovation.

IMPeiAn Alexander Calder hangs in the lobby of the I.M. Pei wing at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

David Smith, Alexander Calder, Richard Serra, Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Long were some of the giants of sculpture found in the Pei wing of the National Gallery. Yes, the building housed all the must-haves in a respectable collection but the most impressive part of the I.M. Pei design was his effort to problem-solve. A low ceiling tunnel connects the East and West wings of the National Gallery. Instead of it being a claustrophobic subway-like tunnel connection, Pei installed an escalator which takes people through a light covered half-pipe. It feels like gliding through a space wave with blinking and sparkling lights. For me this shows how design born of necessity is so transcendent.

IMG_8876My daughter and I as we glide through the I.M. Pei designed light tunnel connecting the wings of the National Gallery

At the Hirshhorn Museum, I saw a nice exhibit from the permanent collection which included the big boys but also some notable female artists. Anish Kapoor’s blue egg-like orb greeted us in the first exhibition hall but as I rounded into the next gallery I was pleased to see a large, messy and wonderful abstract painting by Joan Mitchell. I had a studio mate at RISD one semester who made stunning homage paintings to Mitchell. She managed to capture the frenetic and beautifully layered energy of her work. Of course my favorite of the big boys is Marc Rothko and am always happy to visit with one of his floating square paintings in person whenever possible. Every major Modern museum in the world I have been to that owns and displays a Rothko, usually is adjacent to or at least in the same room is a Morris Louis.

IMG_8905Morris Louis, Point of Tranquility, 1959-60, Magna acrylic paint on canvas

This Louis painting was a beautiful rendering of bulbous petals of pooled color. A really nice surprise since I have only previously seen his vertical drip stripes in person. The collection on that floor ended with a great many-legged creature entitled “The Blind Leading the Blind” by Louise Bourgeois. It seems as though this creature could walk in either direction without its own knowledge of front or back, or head and tail. A great witty piece fashioned simply enough out of wood and orange paint. Bourgeois was the master of simplistic, minimal artwork; she made it look easy but never boring.

IMG_8912Louise Bourgeois, The Blind Leading the Blind, 1947-49, wood and paint

The final surprise of the day was an entire room installation of a Dan Flavin light sculpture in a basement gallery next to the gift shop. The windowless room proved a perfect home to this beautiful piece. I could have spent the entire day in there with it the way we used to when James Turrell was a visiting artist at RISD when I was a student. Turrell also used a windowless room on the RISD campus and students would sit forever in front of the floating wall. The artist created a false wall with lights behind and the effect was of a floating square of light. The sculpture had to be repaired several times during the exhibition as students would occasionally hurl themselves into the void.

IMG_8915Dan Flavin, untitled (To Helga and Carlo, with respected affection), 1974, fluorescent lights

I made some more Wave Distortion panels to get ideas for a couple of  larger diptychs hanging and ready to be worked on in my studio. I’m finding greater pleasure during the painting process since I have freed the composition. By exerting less control over the outcome, I surprise myself with the spontaneity this fluid line exposes.

WaveDistortion7,2015,16x20inWave Distortion 7, 2015, acrylic on birch panel, 16″ x 20″

WaveDistortion8,2015,16x20inWave Distortion 8, 2015, acrylic on birch panel, 16″ x 20″

WaveDistortion6,2015,16x20inWave Distortion 6, 2015, acrylic on birch panel, 16″ x 20″

This month’s music: Leon Bridges

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