Friday, December 11, 2015

Renwick returns with Wonder

One of my favorite museums of American art has been the Smithsonian's Renwick across from the White House.  This past Dec. 5th my Modern Quilt Guild group took a field trip there for the reopening after two years closed for renovations. They returned with a block buster of a show! Nine artists each with a whole gallery space to do their thing and they really knock it out of the park. The exhibit is beautiful and does what the title says fills the viewer with wonder and questions. There are videos with each artist describing and answering some questions but the visual experience is a delight for anyone who takes the time to venture through. They encourage using your photography equipment for a change in this exhibition and I got home with about 65 iPhone photos. I am going to share a few with comments for my post. If you want to see more social media tag #RenwickGallery will bring up lots more if you scroll down on the home page link. Or go look at these sites using the hash tag

first room was full of stacks of little 4x4 sheets of note papers that look like a cave floor with these towering stalagmites 12 feet or more tall. 
Second room was an amazing thread art installation by Gabreil Dawe in colors of the rainbow.

 from the center looking up at the ceiling the view was like being inside a rainbow loom
The big gallery in the back was used by one of our favorite artists whom Keith got to study sapling bending with out in Colorado years ago. Patrick Dougherty also had an installation in Salem MA when we visited the Peabody Essex this past August. It's interactive and you can get inside these creations and look up close at all the woven saplings.

The next room was a viewing of videos to explain the artworks and introduce the artists to visitors next to the gift shop and book store. 
Also one tree construction installed that was made from a mold of an 140 year old tree in the extreme north country dwarfed by weather conditions it was only about 6 feet tall.

Bigger tree is yet to come when we climb the long staircase towards the formal grand salon.

 Lights above were by the same artist who transformed the underground passage at National Gallery of Art's east wing tunnel with thousands of LED lights programed to never repeat a performance of ever changing patterns. Leo Villareal did this modern rain like installation.
The grand salon held a ceiling full of woven strings and a floor covered with a new carpet that are both an interpretation of the Tsunami that hit in the Pacific when Japan had that huge earth quake a couple years ago. Janet Echelman also had an installation on a much bigger scale in Boston this past summer we were lucky to get to see suspended over the Greenway. This room was full of people laying on the floor to get a view of the ceiling string art as various colored lights played with the shapes. Lots of fun to visit this room.

 I want to go back and see it again and watch for a while and see what else it feels like. Music or sound might have enhanced this installation to add a wave experience or a whale song or two? From here we walked to the big tree room by John Grade with the 140 year old tree that he cast in the wilderness using plaster and brought back to a studio where a hundred odd assistants put together sections of wood about 1-2 inches long to build a tree section then they were all assembled and sanded to round them down and delivered and hung sideways in long narrow room. I love trees and this was a tribute that really felt good to experience. It was chosen because the Renwick is 140 years old too.

 it was fun to watch the sections sway ever so slightly as the people brushed against them coming in the narrow opening. Or maybe it was like a pendulum swaying with gravity?

Maya Lyn mapped the Chesapeake bay using special marbles that glass blowers use to mix colors. Her childhood memories of these special rough marbles were her inspiration and the wonder of the patterns of water working it's way through the landscape on a map. 
Then the room of history of the Renwick had a great ceiling install and a sculpture of the "greek slave girl" that opened the museum back in the 1800's by an American artist. 

This is a octaginal shaped room with doors on three sides and one window. Next a room full of rubber tire and inner tube sculpted dividers of space that had the smell to go with the look. 

 Finally the room we have heard so much about the bugs on the wall room. The background color is made from beetle wings crushed to give that red pink tone rubbed on the walls. The specimen bugs are bought from suppliers who do all the dirty work of collecting them for scientists and now artists!

This should be on everyones list of must see exhibits in my mind as it is really easy to wonder through and doesn't take much effort. SO happy to have the Renwick back in working order again. DC wasn't the same without them these past two years. Now we will loose the Freer for a couple years while they do remodeling there..... Still the free art galleries in Washington DC are amazing. Thank you America!

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