On daughters #2 and #3’s birthday this year, (which occured over the holidays) we went to the newly renovated Renwick Gallery in D.C. While it has been a favorite since I was a college student, the renovation and the current immersive exhibitions are astounding. Kudos to the Smithsonian for producing another world class museum and exhibition hall.
Wonder, the inaugural exhibition, features site specific installations by nine major contemporary artists, including Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin and Leo Villareal that transform the museum into an immersive work of art.
Wonder what you will see? While the nine artists featured in WONDER create strikingly different works, they are connected by their interest in creating large scale installations from unexpected materials. Index cards, marbles, strips of wood, all objects so common place and ordinary we often overlook them, are assembled, massed, and juxtaposed to utterly transform spaces and engage us in the most surprising ways. The works are expressions of process, labor, and materials that are grounded in our everyday world, but that combine to produce awe inspiring results.
Patrick Dougherty weaves monumental structures from countless tree saplings while Tara Donovan constructs looming spires from hundreds of thousands of individually stacked index cards. Janet Echelman explores volumetric form without solid mass, overtaking the museum’s famed Grand Salon with a suspended, hand-woven net surging across its hundred foot length. Using 500,000 pieces of reclaimed, old-growth cedar, John Grade builds an intricate structure based on plaster casts taken of a massive, old-growth hemlock tree in the Cascade Mountains. Maya Lin’s deluge of green marbles flows across the floor and up walls, recalling the tides of the Chesapeake Bay, while 23,000 LEDs, programmed by Leo Villareal to display a code manipulated into endless variations, flash above the Grand Staircase.
1.8 by Janet Echelman, 2015
Echelman’s woven sculpture corresponds to a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history. The event was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day, March 11, 2011, by 1.8 millionths of a second, lending this work its title. Waves taller than the 100-foot length of this gallery ravaged the east coast of Japan, reminding us that what is wondrous can equally be dangerous. This was probably my favorite, it captivates and includes everyone.
In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus, 2015
From afar, this ornate room may look like it’s covered in beautiful wallpaper, but take a closer look and you’ll see those shapes are actually made from 5,000 dead insects! Artist Jennifer Angus created the incredible bug-adorned wall installation, titled ‘In the Midnight Garden’. The real insects, unaltered except in the positions of their bodies, are arranged in exquisite geometric and skull patterns to help raise environmental awareness.
Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe, 2015
Dawe’s architecturally scaled weavings are often mistaken for fleeting rays of light. It is an appropriate trick of the eye, as the artist was inspired to use thread in this fashion by memories of the skies above Mexico City and East Texas, his childhood and current homes, respectively. The material and vivid colors also recall the embroideries everywhere in production during Dawe’s upbringing.
The exhibitions will be open through May 8 and July 10, 2016. Some of the exhibits leave at different times. So, if you are going to be in D.C. in the next few months, don’t miss this!!! It is a must see!!!