How long does it take to really see a work of art? Some visitors to American Art's Slow Art event this past Saturday had a go at answering that question and then discussed the artworks they had taken a long look at in the museum.
For the ghostly and ghoulish among you, I found Helen Hyde's Goblin Lanterns of 1906. The artist, born in New York in 1868, moved with her family to San Francisco two years later, where her father prospered in a business associated with the gold rush.
"What kind of highway signs did they have in Minnesota in 1934?" was just one of the questions Ann Prentice Wagner, guest curator of the exhibition 1934: A New Deal for Artists, needed to answer to place the paintings in context. "I was asking and answering questions of the kind that I hadn't had previously," Wagner told an enthusiastic audience who attended her lecture the other night at American Art.
"My ten millionth grandfather was Jonathan Edwards," critic Dave Hickey told us last week as part of the Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture Series at American Art. He added, "But I'm not going to give you any of that." What he did give us, instead, was a thought-provoking hour on the nature of contemporary art in America and how ideals of art and the artist in society were shaped centuries ago.
Roy DeCarava, an American master, died October 27, 2009, a few weeks shy of his ninetieth birthday. Born in Harlem in 1919, and coming to adulthood during the Harlem Renaissance, DeCarava became a photographer of the street and the people who inhabited that day-to-day world.
When I heard that artist Jeanne-Claude had died, I went back to the blog post I wrote last year about her visit to American Art with her other half, Christo. Together, as husband and wife and as artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been reinventing the contemporary art landscape for more than fifty years with their installations such as wrapping the Reichstag in Berlin and the Pont Neuf in Paris, and of course, Running Fence, their monumental project in Northern California from the 1970s.
Forty years ago, German-born American artist Werner Drewes created this colorful woodcut in honor of what may be the most typically American holiday. I like it for its vivid lines, burst of energy, and full-blown spectrum, especially the use of the color purple.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but doesn't the frame have an equally interesting story to tell? Martin Kotler, frames conservator at American Art, led an enthusiastic group through Frames 101 the other day in the Renwick Gallery's Grand Salon.
Abe Pollin changed the face of downtown D.C. when he opened the MCI (now Verizon) Center over a decade ago in Gallery Place, across the street from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. To coincide with the opening of the MCI Center on December 2, 1997, and to welcome our new neighbors, American Art curated the exhibition Time Out! Sports in Art.