Tuesday, January 26, 2010
“Josef Albers: Innovation and Inspiration”
February 11–April 11, 2010
The Hirshhorn possesses one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive collections of work by Josef Albers (American, b. Bottrop, Germany, 1888; d. New Haven, Connecticut, 1976). “Josef Albers: Innovation and Inspiration” presents more than sixty works spanning the artist’s 50-year career, many of which are on view for the first time. Supplementing the installation are key objects on loan from the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.
The exhibition encompasses the artist’s distinguished career, from his years teaching at Germany’s famed Bauhaus and Black Mountain College in North Carolina, through his influential role as chairman of the department of design at Yale University. Albers’ early work is characterized by bold designs in black and white, as well as those in red, yellow, and blue. These pieces demonstrate the artist’s interest in commercially manufactured materials, such as glass, and what would be an enduring focus on abstract forms. By the time Albers began his tenure at Yale University in 1950, he believed that color has no inherent emotional associations, and he emphasized the subjectivity of perception by meticulously examining its nuances. He eventually limited the shape and number of his forms, to a standardized format that he called “Homage to the Square,” for which he is best known. These images create optical illusions, challenging viewers’ visual acuity. The exhibition also includes documentary photographs, a video, and examples of Albers’ teaching aids, and concludes with several galleries representing a range of works by artists who knew, studied under, worked with, or directly inspired Albers, among them: Richard Anuskiewicz, Burgoyne Diller, Eva Hesse and Robert Rauschenberg. “Josef Albers: Innovation and Inspiration” is organized by curator Valerie Fletcher.
March 8, 2009–Jan. 2011
“ColorForms” presents works from the Hirshhorn’s collection, dating from the post-war era to the present, that explore the ways in which color has been and remains an essential tool for artists, regardless of medium. Although dramatically different in aesthetics and composition, all of the works in the exhibition reveal a mesmerizing blend of color and abstract form, ranging from an architectural light installation by James Turrell, Paul Sharits’ four-film projection, a linear yarn sculpture by Fred Sandback, and luminous paintings by Mark Rothko, several of which are on loan from the National Gallery of Art.
Throughout the history of Western art, from the lyrical tones of the fourteenth-century Sienese painter Duccio to the bold, unnaturalistic hues of the Fauves, German Expressionists, and beyond, color has long been artists’ primary means of emotional and symbolic expression. “ColorForms” presents some of the diverse ways that contemporary artists, freed from the limits of representation and empowered by an array of new media, deploy abstract form to explore color’s evocative possibilities, from the purely optical to the metaphysical. “ColorForms” is organized by associate curator Evelyn Hankins.
“Black Box: Chris Chong Chan Fui”
April 19, 2010–Aug. 1, 2010
In Chris Chong Chan Fui’s (Malaysian, b. Borneo, 1982) short film “BLOCK B” (2008), a motionless camera watches night and day as dramas unfold on the various floors of a massive apartment complex. Chong records this high-rise home to Indian expatriates working in Malaysia, as if it is a documentary, without using special effects or manipulated lighting. Voice-overs, which seem to correlate with the diverse scenarios playing out on the building’s many terraces, act as the aural equivalent of a zoom shot, focusing viewers’ attention on realistic details. Ultimately, however, it remains unclear whether the narration is an authentic aspect of the fabric of daily life or derived solely from the artist’s imagination, raising questions about surveillance, voyeurism and authenticity.
Chong, who is the first Malaysian artist to exhibit at the Hirshhorn, also creates feature films. His most recent audio-visual installation, “HEAVENHELL” (2009), based on Akira Kurosawa’s film “High and Low” (1963), premiered at the International Festival of Arts and Media in Yokohama, Japan. This exhibition is organized by associate curator Kelly Gordon. Support for the Black Box program is provided, in part, by Lawrence A. Cohen/Ringler Associates.
“Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers”
May 20–Sept. 12, 2010
One of the last century’s most influential artists, Yves Klein (French, b. Nice, 1928; d. Paris, 1962) took the European art scene by storm in a prolific career that lasted only from 1954 to 1962, when he suffered a heart attack at the age of 34. “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers” is the first major retrospective of the artist’s work in the United States in nearly 30 years. The Hirshhorn is the opening venue for this exhibition, co-organized with the Walker Art Center, which includes examples from all Klein’s major series, including his Anthropometries, Cosmogonies, fire paintings, planetary reliefs, and blue monochromes, as well as selections of his lesser-known gold and pink monochromes, body and sponge reliefs, “air architecture,” and immaterial works. The installation will also foreground the artist’s process and conceptual projects through a range of ephemera, including sketches, photographs, letters, and writings.
Yves Klein created what he considered his first artwork when he signed the sky above Nice in 1947, making his earliest attempt to capture the immaterial. Klein was an innovator who embraced painting, sculpture, performance, photography, music, theater, film, architecture, and theoretical writing. Self-identified as “the painter of space,” he sought to achieve immaterial spirituality through pure color (primarily an ultramarine blue of his own invention—International Klein Blue). Klein’s diverse body of work represents a pivotal transition from modern art’s concern with the material object to contemporary notions of the conceptual nature of art and is informed by the artist’s study of the mystical sect Rosicrucianism, philosophical and poetic investigations of space and science, and the practice of Judo.
“Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers” is co-organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. Co-curated by Kerry Brougher, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and Philippe Vergne, Director, Dia Art Foundation. “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers” is made possible with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and Delta Airlines, as well as donors Martha and Bruce Atwater and Judy Dayton. Additional support provided by Constance R. Caplan and Lewis Shrensky. Major support for the Yves Klein catalogue is provided by Sotheby’s, with additional support from L & M Gallery. The fully illustrated catalog contains critical essays by the curators and noted Klein scholars, Klaus Ottmann and Kaira Cabaňas.
“Guillermo Kuitca: Everything”
Oct. 21, 2010–Jan. 16, 2011
Since his first exhibition at the age of thirteen, Guillermo Kuitca (Argentinean, b. Buenos Aires, 1961) has forged a distinctive path as an artist, creating visually compelling works that reflect his intense and often ambivalent relationship to his primary medium: painting. “Guillermo Kuitca: Everything” is the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s work in the United States in more than ten years, and is co-organized by the Hirshhorn; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; and the Miami Art Museum, Miami, FL. Examining the artist’s continuing development between 1980 and 2008, the show presents the spectrum of Kuitca’s thirty-five year career, from early pieces inspired by his experience in theater, with titles often drawn from music, to recent complex abstractions that evoke the history of modern painting. Included are pieces from all of Kuitca’s major series as well as a range of his works on paper, which have played an important role in the evolution of his painting.
Since the early 1980s, Kuitca’s work has been characterized by recurring imagery, most notably spatial and mapping motifs. Central among these are images of theater sets and seating charts, architectural plans, road maps, beds, numerical sequences, and baggage-claim carousels, through which Kuitca explores universal themes of migration and disappearance, the intersection of private and public space, and the importance of memory. His prolific career encompasses a diverse body of work that inspires viewers not only to contemplate their relationship to the piece in front of them, but also to their place within individual spaces and the larger world.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays that explore the artist’s career and address his relationship to drawing, a previously unexplored aspect of his work, and also offers extensive interviews with the artist conducted in 1997 and 2008. Major funding for “Guillermo Kuitca: Everything” is provided by the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation, AXA Group and the Leadership and Honorary Patrons Committees for the exhibition, with additional catalog support from Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. The presentation at the Hirshhorn is coordinated by associate curator Evelyn Hankins.
Currently on View:
“UP7TH: beyond our walls”
A new work by Russian-born graphic artist David Polonsky debuted this fall on three massive high-resolution LED screens near the entrance to the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro station, located north of the Hirshhorn at Seventh and H Streets, N.W. The 30-second animation is shown several times each hour, reaching a daily audience of more than 115,000 people, reinforcing the Hirshhorn’s commitment to providing a platform for artists working in film, video and other new media. Developed in collaboration with Orange Barrel Media, a firm specializing in cutting-edge digital communications, “UP7TH” is the result of a dynamic partnership between the latest in technology and the best in contemporary art.
Polonsky is best known for his work as art director and lead artist on the Oscar-nominated film “Waltz with Bashir” (2008). Based in Tel-Aviv and recently an artist-in-residence at Rhode Island School of Design, Polonsky is currently working on an animated science-fiction feature film. This project is organized by associate curator Kelly Gordon.
“Directions: John Gerrard”
Nov. 5, 2009–May 31, 2010
John Gerrard’s (Irish, b. Dublin, 1973) works hover between fact and fiction. They present actual scenes from desolate corners of the American landscape and unfold in real time so that patient viewers can experience the progression of the day from morning to night in each setting; however, what looks like a live shot is, in fact, a manipulated, fabricated image. Gerrard photographed every site from 360 degrees and then animated the stills into seamless cinematic panning shots. Instead of the overt conflicts so prominent in video games that use this same technology, the artist relates realistic elements—a pumping oil derrick, a pig processing plant, and a vintage storm photo superimposed on a real farmscape—with elegant subtlety. Yet while these works recall the stark illumination and precision of twentieth-century realist paintings by Charles Sheeler, Charles Demuth, and Edward Hopper, their heightened effects also underscore the bleak ramifications of depleting natural resources. Gerrard’s mesmerizing replicas re-imagine landscape art and offer meditations on the impact of our habits of consumption. This exhibition is organized by associate curator Kelly Gordon. “Directions: John Gerrard” is made possible in part by Trellis Fund.
“Black Box: Phoebe Greenberg”
Nov. 30, 2009–April 11, 2010
Part nightmare, part morality tale, Phoebe Greenberg’s (Canadian, b. Ottawa, 1964) film “Next Floor” (2008) provides a metaphor for society’s excessive consumption. The artist conceived and produced this work with director Denis Villeneuve and a feature film–scale crew. By turns intense, hilarious, shocking, and gruesome, “Next Floor” was awarded Best Short Film, International Critics Circle, at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. Greenberg, whose work is inspired by Theater of the Absurd, is also influenced by her study of physical theater with Jacques Lecoq in Paris. She is best known as the head of Phi, a music and film production company, and as founder and director of Diving Horse Creations (DHC/ART), a Montreal-based theater and contemporary art space. This exhibition is organized by associate curator Kelly Gordon. Support for the Black Box program is provided in part by Lawrence A. Cohen/Ringler Associates.
About the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden welcomes all visitors to experience the transformative power of contemporary art. The museum collects, preserves and presents international modern and contemporary art in all media, distinguished by in-depth holdings of major artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. By collaborating with artists on exhibitions, programs and special projects, the Hirshhorn provides an important national platform in Washington, D.C., for the vision and voices of artists. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25) and is located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W.; admission is free. Visit www.hirshhorn.si.edufor more information or to download Hirshhorn podcasts on the collection and exhibitions, as well as talks with artists and curators.