Friday, January 2, 2009

Plays on a photo my sister snapped of me posing in Doug Wheeler's "Eindhoven" installation at the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art. Wheeler's light installation was definitely a fun work, but there were a number of other interesting pieces. Whenever I pass through D.C. I try and stop in to see what the revolving exhibit is, and I am rarely disappointed.

Another standout in the exhibit was a work by Larry Bell, a minimalist who plays with shape and perception with free standing acrylic sculptures that, as you walk around them, challenge your perception of both them and the surrounding environment through witty twisting of light and reflection.Without much knowledge of his work, I've always disliked De Kooning, perhaps due to the apparant crudity of his technique and a lack of emotional resonance with the work I have seen. However, the museum had on display a number of entries in his "Woman" series, and maybe it's an indication of where I am in my life right now, but some of them really struck me. He strips away preconceptions with female figures that are simultaneously horrifying, beautiful, fertile, angry, desirable, and hideous. That they (referring to both the paintings and women in general) can be all of those things, simultaneously encapsulating multiple contradictions, is amazing.
Finally, I was struck by James Rosenquist's "The Light That Won't Fail." It's a much more conventional work, reflecting Rosenquist's origin as a commercial painter, but the color scheme and interesting juxtaposition of images makes this work. To be honest, my reaction probably is driven at least in part because the '50s are so "in" right now (thank you Mad Men and Amy Winehouse), but whatever the reason, it's a striking though ultimately depressing painting. Interesting contrast on female depiction to de Kooning's "Woman."

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