Saturday, August 2, 2014

Art from the National Mall

It was an arty day at Washington's National Gallery (west building), National Gallery sculpture garden, and Hirshhorn Museum. So now it's time for a few pictures.

We started off at the National Gallery with lots of medieval and Renaissance art. I took a lot of odd baby photos, but won't post those now. I can't resist sharing this other oddity from that era, though:

San Juan de la Cruz by Francisco Antonio Gijon, 1675. Holding I'm-not-sure-what on his Bible.

The Gallery had a featured exhibit of Vincent van Gogh paintings, including several that were newly donated:

Green Wheat Fields, Auver -- 1890. What a beautiful color palette.

Photography was prohibited for this painting, called Joseph Roulin. (This image comes from the Wikimedia Commons, and it seems a little bright to me, compared to my recollection of the original, but not by much.) Check out the blue highlights in that incredible beard. Roulin was a postman and close friend of van Gogh's during his difficult years in Arles, France.

This detail from The Olive Orchard (1889) isn't a new painting in the Gallery, but I really liked these figures.

The gallery also had a nice set of paintings (not lithographs) by Toulouse-Lautrec. I've included this one, Alfred la Guigne, 1894, because it's painted on cardboard -- if you enlarge, you can see the texture in the man's unpainted suit.

I love Rousseau's signature!

The National Gallery reminded me how much I love Amedeo Modigliani. First, I saw this sculpture, Head of a Woman (1910/11).

Then later I came across his paintings, including this one, Gypsy Woman with Baby (1919).

Outside in the sculpture garden, there were two stand-outs:

Graft by Roxy Paine, 2008-2009.

And House 1 by Roy Lichtenstein (1996/1998). If you look at the bottom of the foundation, you can see that the house is essentially concave. But when you look at it from the front, and especially from a distance, it appears to be convex. Putting the op art into pop art!

Then it was on to the Hirshhorn. We wandered through the galleries upstairs, very nice, yes, yes, but when we went to the lower level, there was a visual explosion:

It's been a while since I've seen any work by Barbara Kruger, but it looks like she's been keeping busy.

Titled Belief+Doubt, the shiny supergraphics fill the space. The energy they created was almost buzzing in the air around it. The accompanying text says:

"Belief is tricky," Kruger has said, "because left to its own devices it can court a kind of surety, an unquestioning allegiance that fears doubt and destroys difference." Many of the texts in Belief+Doubt are open-ended questions that draw attention to the power structures that define daily life: "Who is beyond the law? Who is free to choose? Who speaks? Who is silent?" … At a moment when certainty is prized by many, the artist states, "I'm interested in introducing doubt."

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