Howard

Blog Posts

Donald Sultan's Disaster Paintings

Donald Sultan's industrial landscape series depict an array of catastrophes, including forest fires, railway accidents, arsons, and industrial plants exuding toxic plumes. Twelve of these large-scale paintings are now on display at SAAM in the exhibition Donald Sultan: The Disaster Paintings.

Framing the City: Mean Streets and Urban Photography

The exhibition, Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography, takes as its starting point, the response by Latino artists to the "urban crisis," a term that emerged in the 1960s to refer to the changes that were going on in many cities throughout the United States. The exhibition title is inspired by author Piri Thomas, who grew up in El Barrio (aka Spanish Harlem), and captured the decline of the urban environment in his memoir Down These Mean Streets, published in 1967.

Reading Into the Throne: On James Hampton's Notebook

An expanded presentation of the now iconic Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly (aka The Throne) by James Hampton is currently on view in the newly installed and reimagined galleries for folk and self-taught art at SAAM.

JFK: American Visionary

Lawrence Schiller, a former Life magazine photojournalist (who ironically was assigned to Nixon's failed presidential campaign) organized the exhibition and reviewed 34,000 photographs, before choosing seventy-seven "images that told the story."

Creative Disruption: June Schwarcz and Peter Voulkos at the Renwick

At first glance, the objects on display at SAAM's Renwick Gallery by June Schwarcz and Peter Voulkos couldn't be more different. Schwarcz's enamel work is precise and almost ethereal, while Voulkos's pots and sculptures are weighty and improvisational. But both artists had a powerful impact in the art world, defying convention and breaking all the rules of their traditional media.

Remembering James Rosenquist

Pop artist James Rosenquist, who died last week at the age of 83, created large canvases that were influenced by his early years as a sign painter in Minnesota and New York City. (A contemporaneous article referred to him as "the billboard Michelangelo who spills paint on tourists below").

Ryders on the Storm: Celebrating the Art of Albert Pinkham Ryder

Before Betsy Broun retired from the helm of the Smithsonian American Art Museum last fall, she gave a talk where she revealed her top ten works (ok, seventeen works) of art in the collection, beginning with Albert Pinkham Ryder's Jonah. Ryder, who died one hundred years ago today, was an artist close to Broun's heart and the subject of a book she published in 1989.

Missed Connections for Valentine's Day

At SAAM, we're always connecting people with our artworks. On Valentine's Day, we thought we'd explore one of the more interesting sections of many print and online publications these days: the often poetic, always interesting urban haiku of missed connections. Please check out our Instagram feed for more artful missed connections.

Harlem Heroes and Black History Month

The cultural efflorescence that was the Harlem Renaissance is captured in a series of portraits currently on view in the exhibition Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten.

Seeing Things (17): Art and Healing

This is the seventeenth in a series of personal observations about how people experience and explore museums. Take a look at Howard's other blog posts about seeing things in a museum.

Gene Davis: The Cool Guy of Hot Beat

ene Davis, a journalist before he was a painter, knew the power of words. He spoke his wise and sometimes ornery mind, aware of the momentary impact and the eventual documentation of his life and career. This explains why his own bon mots (not the curators') flank most of the 15 paintings—all permutations of the stripe—in Gene Davis: Hot Beat, on view through April 2.

New Acquisitions: Self-Taught Art from the Margaret Z. Robson Collection

SAAM has acquired nearly one-hundred works of self-taught art from the collection of Margaret Z. Robson. The paintings, drawings, and sculptures were created by forty-eight artists including James Castle, Thornton Dial Sr., Judith Scott, and Bill Traylor. The Robson gift comprises the largest acquisition of self-taught artworks in 20 years and reaffirms the museum's deep and lasting commitment to this area of artistic endeavor.

Director's Choice: Who Made the Cut, Part II

n honor of Elizabeth "Betsy" Broun's nearly thirty years at the helm of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and her imminent retirement, Broun spoke to a full house at the McEvoy Auditorium this past October, revealing insights and personal observations about her favorite works of art in SAAM's collection. And since she's the director, her Top Ten contains eighteen artworks. Last month, we posted the first part of her "Top Ten." Today, we are posting the rest on her list of favorites.

Director's Choice: Who Made the Cut?

In honor of Elizabeth "Betsy" Broun's thirty years at the helm of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and her imminent retirement, Broun spoke to a full house last month at the McEvoy Auditorium, revealing insights and personal observations about her favorite works of art in SAAM's collection.

Best of Both Worlds: Isamu Noguchi

Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern opens today, a celebration of the renowned sculptor who often found inspiration in ancient art and architecture, including Egyptian pyramids and Buddhist temples, Zen gardens and American Indian burial mounds.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Self-Taught Art

In honor of the renovation and reinstallation of SAAM’s galleries for folk and self-taught art on the first floor, four specialists in the field came together to address the perceptions and practice of folk and self-taught artists, each from a unique vantage point. The speakers joined Leslie Umberger, SAAM's curator of folk and self-taught art and emcee for the evening, in a discussion on the unique position of these out-of-the-ordinary makers of art.

Deborah Butterfield: Horsepower

Deborah Butterfield was speaking to a full house at SAAM's McEvoy Auditorium as the second speaker in this year's Clarice Smith Distinguished Lecture Series. During the course of the evening, she led us through four decades of her work.

Reenvisioned Galleries of Folk and Self-Taught Art

The Smithsonian American Art Museum's ground floor galleries of Folk and Self-Taught Art reopen today with a compelling, new installation that features more than 120 objects, including 59 new acquisitions. These include works by artists such as Emery Blagdon, Ralph Fasanella, Clementine Hunter, Eddy Mumma, and Achilles Rizzoli. These join visitor favorites by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Martín Ramírez and Jon Serl.