Handi-Hour Back at the Renwick!
November 5, 2015
Handi-hour on Friday, November 13th is SOLD OUT! For those who were unable to get tickets and those who want to get an idea of the crafts ahead of time, we have three different crafts that we'll be making that evening. Public program coordinator Gloria Kenyon demonstrates how to make each craft in individual videos.
Make a marble necklace inspired by Maya Lin's Folding the Chesapeake.
Or create a holiday wreath based on Patrick Dougherty's large sapling installation, Shindig, with greenery from SI Gardens.
Write home about the newly renovated Renwick on stationery inspired by Chakaia Booker's ANONYMOUS DONOR.
In addition to crafts, we'll have craft beer from two local breweries, small bites catered by a D.C. restaurant, and live music. Keep an eye on our calendar for the next Handi-hour, which will be on February 10th, 2016.
The Renwick Gallery Reopens in a Whole New Light
November 4, 2015
Though billed as a renovation, I like to think of the reopening of the Renwick Gallery as a reimagining as well. The newly spiffed up Renwick is in mint condition, ready for the next fifty years, or more. In addition to the physical updates that include preserving numerous historical elements with new state-of-the-art infrastructure, the gallery reopens on November 13 with it's inaugural exhibition in our new space, Wonder. In this age of selfies and cell phones and so many things to distract the eye, it's refreshing to return to the life of the imagination and become reacquainted with a sense of magic moments—the marvelous and the wonderment that gives the opening exhibition its title.
But the Renwick has always been a place of wonder, enjoyment, and transformation. In 1874, the Renwick Gallery opened its doors, becoming America's first building specifically designed to display works of art to the public. More than a century later, in 1972, the Smithsonian American Art Museum began using the Renwick to host programs of traditional and modern crafts, decorative arts and architectural design.
Did you know that the Renwick Gallery was once known as the "American Louvre," in honor of the great museum in Paris? When architect James Renwick, Jr., traveled to France he was inspired by the new pavilions of the Louvre. When the building first opened a decade after the Civil War to display William Wilson Corcoran's art collection, it was hailed as the "American Louvre."
When the Renwick reopens its doors this November, the museum will be seen in a whole new light—LED lights to be more precise. Since 2012, the museum has been working to develop LED lights specifically for the Renwick that equal or exceed the aesthetics of halogen and incandescent lighting used in most museums. The new lighting system is a landmark advance in museum energy efficiency and, combined with other infrastructure improvements, will reduce the building's energy usage by 70 percent and significantly shrink the building's environmental footprint.
Another new feature of the museum harkening back to its American Louvre nomiker, will be a dramatic new carpet for the Grand Stair, designed by French architect Odile Decq in her signature red color. The carpet will appear to flow down the staircase and pool in the entrance near the lobby. The red carpet awaits your visit!
Though changes abound, so does the sense of history and artistic integrity that has always been a hallmark of the building. When you enter the building, the first words you'll encounter are etched in stone above the front door: "Dedicated to Art."Wonder and the Renwick open its doors to the public Friday, November 13, beginning at 10 a.m.
From Paris to Brooklyn: Crosscurrents Between Picasso and Smith
October 30, 2015
One word that comes to mind when visiting the newly opened exhibition, Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection, is liberation. It's not just one generation breaking from the one before, it's a sense that the modern twentieth century opened a world never before imagined. The image is liberated, the line is liberated, and the artist is our guide through this beautifully fractured world. And with nine paintings and nine ceramic works in the exhibition, Spaniard Pablo Picasso's place as the nexus of modernism is abundantly clear.
In 1934, back in the States, American sculptor David Smith set up shop in a corner of Terminal Iron Works, an industrial metal workshop he described as consisting of a “ramshackle series of buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront.” There, he began making sculptures, often from found objects welded together into assemblages. One year later, he created Reclining Figure. As a young man, he learned how to work with metal when he was employed at a Studebacker automotive plant in his native Indiana. During this period, Smith began reading the French art magazine, Cahiers d’Art where he first encountered the works in metal by the avant-garde artists Alberto Giacometti, Julio Gonzáles, and Picasso himself. One of Smith’s earliest welded sculptures, the piece has reconstructed the feminine form, in much the same way the European artists were re-figuring portraiture and representations of the body.
Crosscurrents gives you the rare opportunity to see a significant collection of works by Picasso at the museum. Picasso used paint to break from traditional forms; Smith used scrap metal—a purely American way of seeing things. In 1952 Smith created Agricola IV (also featured in the exhibition), and his work seemed to gain a new freedom, a fresh liberation. According to chief curator Virginia Mecklenburg, "Smith understood that sculpture can also be drawing in space, freed from literal associations."
The exhibition that includes works by Georgia O'Keeffe, Richard Diebenkorn, and Fernando Botero, among many others, comes together to form what Mecklenburg calls “a river of intellectual and artistic commerce that flowed both ways between America and Europe.” The exhibition vibrates not only with correspondences between artists, but with color. The days may be getting shorter and the light more scarce, but light and color—and often a meeting of seriousness and play—abound in this thoughtfully curated exhibition.
This afternoon at 5:30 p.m., join us in the McEvoy Auditorium for a three-part program that explores European and American modernist artists in the exhibition. Speakers include collectors Sam Rose and Julie Walters in conversation with chief curator Virginia Mecklenburg; academic, writer, and cultural diplomat Annie Cohen-Solal; and Gijs van Hensbergen, art historian, food critic, and best-selling author.
Crosscurrents: Modern Art from the Sam Rose and Julie Walters Collection is located on the third floor of SAAM and runs through April 10, 2016. If you can't be there tonight watch it webcast live (and archived soon after the event).
Luce Unplugged: Five Questions (plus one) with Jules Hale
October 28, 2015
If you missed our recent Luce Unplugged, you still have a chance to catch one this fall. Next Thursday, November 5th at 6 p.m. Den-Mate will play a Luce Unplugged set. There will also be a pre-show discussion of the artist's favorite Luce artwork. Den-Mate is the electronic/dance/pop act of Jules Hale, a D.C. music scene rising star, who recently signed with Babe City Records, a well-established local label that's also home to former Luce Unplugged performers The Sea Life and Young Rapids. We talked to Jules about the force females bring to music, her transition from touring to recording, and the energy you can expect to feel at her upcoming Luce show.
Eye Level: You've risen incredibly quickly in the D.C. scene. Tell us where you were three years ago.
Jules Hale: Three years ago I was figuring out what I wanted to create and what I wanted out of life. I spent a lot of time focusing on learning to be comfortable alone. When I started sharing songs on Tumblr and Soundcloud, I found this community of people from all over the world who had the same love and passion for music as I did. I still communicate with people who have been listening to my music since I put out my first recordings. This was way before I created Den-Mate. Den-Mate was my way to change from one mindset to another. It was a period in life where something kind of clicked and led me to focus on this energy force I had been trying to grasp for so long.
JH: Michael Andrade is the best photographer in D.C. I'm so happy we have been able to collaborate with him and Jen Pape on so many projects. Tour was a whole otherworldly experience. I wouldn't know what day it was. Everyday being in the tour van, on our way to a different city, about to meet new people, looking at the scenery we passed, exploring new places, realizing how beautiful and different each city is and the people in them. I realized just how genuinely in love I am with my music and these songs I write. I sing these songs to strangers. I share my vulnerability with them, and I know they feel it. I've seen it. I've felt it. It's kind of cathartic having those tiny moments of human connection that are beyond a normal conversation with someone. Touring is a new world, and I feel a void now not being on the road. I am ready to live a lifestyle on the road.
EL: How has it been transitioning from touring to recording? Also, what can you tell us about your upcoming album?
JH: Since tour we have all been getting back into the real world. We are steadily recording and working to the best of our abilities to continue growing and perfecting the sound. The new album is currently being recorded. It's evolved. It focuses on a lot of feelings I've been collecting the past couple of years. There's a lot of girl power. I made an effort to really focus on my lyric writing. I'm very excited to have my live band come in and record on a few songs. They are all so incredibly talented, and I know that they will do justice to my vision. I've been working by myself on other recordings on the electronic side. We are working with Tommy Sherrod at Full Glass Recording and it's going very well. I'm planning for a release Spring 2016. The album will be called LOCEKE (low-sea-key).
JH: Grimes was a very early inspiration for me. I've noticed my sound has evolved, and I've been listening to a lot of the bands that really inspired me when I was a young, impressionable teen. Alison Mosshart, Karen O, and Warpaint. Warpaint may be my driving inspiration for this album. I feel their music really made me realize the amount of patience and strength women bring to music. It's a force that is irreplaceable. We need way more of that female power in the music business.
EL: Having started as a bedroom project, was it difficult being up on stage for the first time stage performing your songs?
JH: When I first started performing it was a little nerve wrecking. I played shows by myself with my guitar and a sampler. I feel so alive and grateful having a whole band on stage now. You can bounce energy around from band member to band member. It makes performing a lot of fun. I love it. I'm a different person on stage. I can get in your face, roll on the floor, dance like a crazy person.... But starting a conversation with someone, now that's nerve wrecking! Hahaha.
EL: What do you share in common with the other bands on Babe City. How do you see yourself and music as different?
JH: When I was first introduced to Babe City I listened to The Sea Life and Go Cozy and was blown away. When we talked about Babe City helping Den-Mate, I thought it would be a really interesting addition. Although my music is different, I think its fits very well. It branches into new genres but I feel the attitude and passion of the label is there. When I was on tour and listened to The Sea Life every night, I realized their songs are so genuine and the lyrics are honest and relatable. It kind of reminded me of what I strive for in my own song writing. Every band on Babe City is incredibly talented and I know we have something very special and rare that is blossoming into something big.
Don't miss Den-Mate play Luce Unplugged, presented with D.C. Music Download, on Thursday, November 5th at 6 p.m. Come early to grab a drink at our cash bar and hear a staff-lead art talk on Jules' favorite work in the Luce Foundation Center.
Luce Artist Talk: Erin Curtis
October 22, 2015
Known for implementing a combination of shapes and patterns to create energetic paintings, Curtis has developed her artistic style from years of travel. Curtis draws inspiration from her experiences living in places as varied as Vermont, Texas and India. Now her artworks can now be seen here in D.C. This past spring and summer, Curtis's work was displayed throughout Washington as a part of Designed to Recycle, a public art project that used recycling trucks as a mobile canvas for Curtis' colorful creations.
Her paintings' combination of color, shape, and pattern is given additional depth through her technique of layering perforated canvases in order to combine several layers of brightly colored patterns that begin to balance the line between painting and textile.
On Sunday, October 25th, Curtis will be at the Luce Foundation Center to discuss her artistic methods along with the sources of her inspiration. She will discuss objects from the Luce Foundation Center's collection, including Miriam Schapiro's Dollhouse.
The talk will begin at 1:30 p.m. Beverages will be served until 3:30 p.m. Curtis' work will be on display at our neighbor Flashpoint Gallery from October 24 through November 21, 2015.