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Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image

3rd floor North, American Art Museum (8th and F Streets, N.W.)
March 11, 2017 - Ongoing

Image for Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image

Alex Prager, Crowd #5 (Washington Square West), 2013, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment © 2013, Alex Prager

Watch This! New Directions in the Art of the Moving Image is a series of rotating exhibitions drawn from SAAM’s permanent collection. The works of art featured in this installation identify a complex relationship between still photography and moving images. These artistic engagements with captured and recorded pictures examine notions of storytelling and processes of interpretation, underscoring just how relative meaning can be, and urging viewers to question where the power of imagery might reside. Taken together, the arrangement traces a vibrant call and response between artists and pictures, narratives, and interpretation.

This presentation of Watch This! is the sixth in the series. It features Alex Prager’s digital cinema installation Face in the Crowd (2013), recently acquired by SAAM. Projected across three walls in a screening room, Face in the Crowd traces a spectrum of concerns—a fear of crowds and the desire to stand out amongst them, voyeurism and exhibitionism, the spectator’s gaze, and the inability to live up to expectations. But it more acutely identifies the anxiety of being swept up by the masses while trying to create and maintain a sense of self; conditions long present in the physical world, but amplified in the virtual spaces we inhabit today.

Also on view are John Baldessari’s Walking Forward – Running Past (1971), Peter Campus’s Head of a Misanthropic Man (1976–1978), Nancy Holt’s Underscan and Prager’s Crowd #5 (Washington Square West) (2013).

A dedicated permanent collection gallery for time-based art is an important aspect of the media arts initiative at the museum, which includes acquisitions, exhibitions, educational programs, and archival research resources related to film, video, and the media arts.

The James F. Dicke Family Endowment generously supported Watch This!