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Strange Bodies: Figurative Works from the Hirshhorn Collection

Strange Bodies: Figurative Works from the Hirshhorn Collection
Ron Mueck, Untitled (Big Man), 2000. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, Museum Purchase with Funds Provided by the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Bequest and in Honor of Robert Lehrman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, 1997–2004, for his extraordinary leadership and unstinting service to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

Strange Bodies: Figurative Works from the Hirshhorn Collection

Strange Bodies: Figurative Works from the Hirshhorn Collection

Strange Bodies: Figurative Works from the Hirshhorn Collection

Strange Bodies: Figurative Works from the Hirshhorn Collection

December 11, 2008 to November 15, 2009
An important strength of the Hirshhorn is its holdings in figurative art. Strange Bodies brings together some of the most praised and popular examples from the collection. Works on paper can only be on view for several months at a time in order to maintain their best condition. Exhibition curator Kristen Hileman has taken this opportunity to introduce different pieces into the mix. Works that have not been on view for awhile; new acquisitions, such as Yinka Shonibare’s The Age of Enlightenment—Antoine Lavoisier, 2008, a recent purchase featured in the spring issue of this publication; and a few surprises have switched out some of the more delicate works.

Mid-July will be viewers’ last chance to see the Hirshhorn’s unique in-depth collection of works by George Grosz, which will be replaced by the poetic, yet unsettling film A Life of Errors, 2006. Made by the young Canadian artists and husband-wife collaborators Nicholas and Sheila Pye, the piece was acquired through the Hirshhorn’s Contemporary Acquisitions Council in 2007.

Looking back to works from a slightly earlier era, other new additions to the show include James Rosenquist’s 1961 The Light That Won’t Fail I, a painting that presents fragments of the body in a way that is at once Pop and ethereal. Georg Baselitz’s Meissen Woodsmen from the same decade demonstrates a different approach to painting, fracturing figures to the point that they begin to disintegrate into abstractions.

The overall grouping of sculptures, paintings, drawings, and film that comprises Strange Bodies spans the last hundred years, but the works reveal a common impulse toward depicting the human body, whether it is in a realistic, expressionistic, or surrealistic fashion. The loaded, at times dark, content figurative art can carry is explored, as is the fundamental human connection that occurs when one encounters an image of a fellow individual.

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