The Art You’re Missing

What do Lady Gaga, murals from Talladega College, the dodo bird and Steven Colbert have in common? All are currently on display—in one form or another—at three of DC’s renowned galleries: the Hirshhorn, the American History Museum and the American Art Museum/The Portrait Gallery.

You may momentarily drag your feet at the idea of leaving the couch (a delicious place in January) for the tourist scene, but it will be worth it. Here’s just a smattering of what’s happening in DC’s art world right now.

The Hirshhorn

Days of Endless Time is an exhibition that will let your poor, over-stimulated brain slow it’s hyperactive roll. From the museum’s website: “Days of Endless Time presents fourteen installations that offer prismatic vantage points into the suspension and attenuation of time or that create a sense of timelessness. Themes include escape, solitude, enchantment, and the thrall of nature.”

The installation includes meditative works from more than a dozen internationally celebrated moving-image artists. Works like Robert Wilson’s video portrait of Lady Gaga, entitled Lady Gaga: Mademoiselle Caroline Rivière D’Après Jean-Auguste-Dominque Igres; and David Claerbout’s video Travel, which was previously installed at Gallery Yvon Lambert in Paris (above), are on display. The exhibition is located on the second level of the Hirshhorn and will be on display until April 6, 2015.


The Dangerous Logic of Wooing, 2002 by Ernesto Neto.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden got all gussied up. Renovations and a reinstallment of the museum’s “outer-ring” galleries took place and include the addition of new energy-efficient lighting and hardwood floors, and restoration of the walls and ceiling. The new and improved galleries are now home to At the Hub of Things: New Views of the Collection, which presents pieces already in the Hirshhorn’s collection and focuses on art from the last 60 years. Included is Ernesto Neto’s The Dangerous Logic of Wooing, a massive, must-see piece made of lycra, styrofoam and rice (above). At the Hub of Things: New Views of the Collection is now on display until an undetermined date.

American History Museum

Talladega College in Atlanta opened in 1867. It was one of the first colleges in the United States established for black people and served the educational needs of newly freed slaves. In 1938, Atlanta-based muralist Hale Woodruff was commission to paint a series for the college. Those murals—which depict historic moments during the rise of black people from slavery to freedom—have been restored, are now on tour and can now be seen at the American History Museum. Canvases including “The Mutiny on the Amistad,” “The Underground Railroad” and “Opening Day at Talladega College” are part of Rising Up: Hale Woodruff’s Murals at Talladega College, on view until March 1st.


“The Mutiny on the Amistad” by Hale Woodruff.

American Art Museum/The Portrait Gallery

If you like magic, visit the American Art Museum (in Chinatown) for Richard Estes’ Realism, a mind-bending exhibition of realist paintings by a master artist. The exhibition includes almost 50 paintings by Estes. Subjects range from Manhattan storefronts and cityscapes to rare portraits. From the Smithsonian website: “[Estes’] seemingly effortless technical finesse captures the intricate geometries of the city, the subtle contours and nuanced tones of natural landscapes, and the shimmering fluidity of water.” Take two steps back from these paintings and you could believe they are photographs. The detail and realism is astounding. The show is on display for just a few more weeks, until February 8th.

Richard Estes' %22Diner%22

Richard Estes’ “Diner.” Photo by Lee Stalsworth.

Also at the American Art Museum is an incredible tribute to winged beasts called The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art. The exhibition includes around 50 works by contemporary artists who “employ avian imagery as a conduit for understanding contemporary culture.” This is a very colorful and dreamlike show—your little heart explode from all of the beauty. Look out, in particular, for the Alexander McQueen-esque stuffed-bird-, velvet-and flower-draped sculptures by artist Petah Coyne; and for artist Fred Tomaselli’s large-scale collage, paint and resin creations. The Singing and the Silence is on display until February 22nd.


Rachel Berwick’s Zugunruhe. Photo by John Groo.

Finally, at the Portrait Gallery, see Stephen Colbert’s portrait–an ode to himself. The piece was originally gifted to the museum by Colbert in 2008 and was jokingly hung for a short period of time. Now, in recognition of the end of The Colbert Report, the Smithsonian has rehung the portrait. Find it on the 2nd floor, between the men’s and women’s bathrooms, just above the water fountain, until April 20th.

For an exhaustive list of current Smithsonian exhibitions, click here.

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