Eye Level

Eye Level is the blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery. Publishing behind-the-scenes museum stories since 2005.

  • Drawn to the City: Tamayo in New York

    New York City sparked Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo's imagination during his early visits in the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, Manhattan was a burgeoning new hub for the art world that welcomed artists from all over and supported cross-cultural exchanges. 

Stranger Things

It has been a bumper season for eerie exhibitions at SAAM and the Renwick Gallery.
Sara on October 31, 2017

Fall Movies at SAAM

Movies at SAAM invites you to screenings of two extraordinary documentaries that explore the craft and philosophy of the 1970s New York art world.
Ryan on October 27, 2017

Rick Araluce: Tunnel Vision

You step out onto the edge of the platform and you wait. You look towards the end of the tunnel and see lights flicker in the distance and the rumblings of what sound like a train approaching. But how far away is it?

Murder Is Her Hobby Opens at the Renwick

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death takes a look at the godmother of forensics who combined art, craft, and criminology.
Howard on October 20, 2017

Kara Walker: Dark Shadows of History

For over two decades, African American artist Kara Walker has been making work that weaves together imagery from the antebellum South, the brutality of slavery, and racist stereotypes. Walker, one of the most prominent artists working today, emerged in the mid-1990s with incendiary, provocative works set in the past but that were very much about the present.
Sarah on October 13, 2017

From the Director: A Banner Year at SAAM

As SAAM's new director, the opportunity to select banners that reflect the amazing strength and diversity of our collections was a treat. The banners help reflect on the outside the treasures on the inside of our building.
SAAM on October 10, 2017

Beyond the Studio Workshops

The Luce Foundation Center celebrates the art that we find in everyday life with Beyond the Studio Workshops. This new series will connect visitors with local professionals working in the arts and provide insight into the creative processes of local applied artists.
Anne on October 6, 2017

Lumia: The Art of Light

Beginning in the 1920s and into the next few decades, Thomas Wilfred was something of an art-world star, having fused modern art and pre-digital technology to create his luminous works.

In This Case: Artist Paul Rand

Paul Rand, a 20th-century graphic designer and art director, was a master at combining elements of fine art and design. His hallmark style combined recognizable symbols, text, and humor to communicate clear messages in creative ways. His iconic logo designs for major firms such as IBM, UPS, NeXT Computer, and ABC transformed the way major companies created brand identity.
Madeline on September 22, 2017

What Can Teachers Learn from Thinking like an Artist?

For many of us who don’t consider ourselves artists, being asked to draw on the spot can be a scary proposition. And what if you were then told you’d be doing it in front of a successful working artist? This June, teachers participating in SAAM's four-day summer institute, entitled Art, Inquiry, and Action, were asked to do just that in a hands-on workshop led by artist Manuel Acevedo. And what they took from it was both surprising and intriguing.
Phoebe on September 12, 2017

Luce Unplugged: Five Questions with Snakes

Luce Unplugged brings the DMV's best bands to perform in the museum for an evening of music and merriment. We'll kick off our fall lineup with the Baltimore-based band, Snakes on September 7. Snakes is a relatively new act, but they're already attracting attention for their "decadent rockabilly swagger." We sat down with guitarist and vocalist George Cessna for a quick chat about process, creativity, and what's up next for the band.
Bridget on September 7, 2017

Parallax Gap: Building a Drawing

Helen B. Bechtel, independent curator and coordinator of the installation, Parallax Gap, fills us in on the relationship between architecture and American craft. Parallax Gap remains on display at the Renwick Gallery through February 11, 2018.

Luce Unplugged: Aaron Abernathy

Luce Unplugged brings DC's best musical acts to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for an evening concert after a staff-led art talk. On Thursday, August 24, soul artist Aaron Abernathy takes a break from working on his current projects to perform a set at 6 p.m. Luce Unplugged is presented in collaboration with DC Music Download.

Peter Voulkos: Breaking with Tradition

On view in our current exhibition at the Renwick Gallery, Peter Voulkos: The Breakthrough Years, are three of the artist's large-scale paintings: Blue Remington, Red Through Black #3, and Falling Red. Some people may be surprised to find paintings in Voulkos' oeuvre, but that's what makes their discovery (at least for me) all the more exciting.

In This Case: Art’s Role Regarding the Sacred

If you have ever visited a centuries-old Roman church or an Islamic mosque, you may have glimpsed the role visual arts play in the beliefs, practices and narratives concerning the sacred. In the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Luce Foundation Center, three pieces of art provide a snapshot of the different ways art has connected individuals and community to spirituality.

Picture This: SAAM Arcade 2017

This past weekend, SAAM celebrated all that is good about video games when it hosted its annual SAAM Arcade. Almost 20,000 attended the two-day event held in the museum's Kogod Courtyard and throughout the museum. This is the third year SAAM has held this event as part of an ongoing initiative to showcase video games as an important part of our visual culture as well as study at the museum.
Jeff on August 8, 2017

A Sense of Place: New Mexico as Seen by Artist Gene Kloss

Gene Kloss felt that immersion in nature was essential to the production of art. Her paintings and etchings were directly informed by nature and she couldn't conceive of making art any other way. "An artist must keep in close contact with nature... in order to produce a significant body of work," she said, and she was prepared to live by her words.
Anne on August 3, 2017

Not in the Fast Lane: Anthony Hernandez's Photographs

SAAM's current photography exhibition Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography, explores the post-World War II changes taking place in cities across the country through the eyes of ten photographers who documented these transformations.
Jeff on July 26, 2017