Watch This: Our New Exhibition, Watch This!
April 23, 2015
Watch This! Revelations in Media Art presents contemporary artworks that trace the evolution of a continuously emerging medium. The exhibition explores the pervasive interdependence between technology and contemporary culture. The exhibition, on view at American Art beginning tomorrow and running through September 7, 2015 includes 44 objects from 1941 to 2013, which were acquired by the museum as part of its commitment to collecting and exhibiting media art. The exhibition marks the first time that 30 of these works will be on display at the museum.
To kick off the show, we will be presenting an artist panel discussion tomorrow, April 24 at 6 p.m. in the museum's McEvoy Auditorium. This event is free.
Picture This: Renwick Renovation Update
April 22, 2015
The Renwick Gallery, built in 1859, was the first structure in America created expressly for the purpose of showcasing great works of art to the public. Since 1972 it has been home to American Art's craft and decorative arts program. For the past two years it has been under renovation and will reopen to the public on Friday, November. 13, 2015. The museum, located across from the White House, will reopen with restored historic features and entirely new infrastructure, including LED lighting in all its galleries.
The Renwick's opening exhibition, Wonder, featuring nine major contemporary artists, reflects the commitment inscribed in stone over the front door, "Dedicated to Art." Stay tuned for additional information about the celebratory reopening weekend of public programs and three special publications.
Artist Talk: Mark Bradford, Artist and Maker
April 17, 2015
Mark Bradford's hand is visible in his celebrated multi-layered collage paintings. These often riff on themes and signs he finds in the urban environment. On Monday, April 20, at 6pm in American Art's McEvoy Auditorium, the artist will be discussing his Amendment series in the third annual James Dicke Contemporary Artist Lecture. The Amendment series looks at the Bill of Rights in a progression of collage works whose words become increasingly illegible. The words blend into the abstracted work, losing their intent and meaning, the way they sometimes do in real life.
"The line of my making or my art practice goes back to my childhood, but it's not an art background, it's a making background," artist Mark Bradford told PBS's Art 21. Born in Los Angeles in 1961, Bradford worked in his mother's hair salon, in charge of making the signs that he would embellish with his calligraphic hand. "The hand was very early in my work—signage, text—I've always been a maker."
If you can't make the talk, you can watch live or later via our webcast.
Luce Artist Talk: A Couple of Questions with Four Artists
April 15, 2015
This month's Luce Artist Talk is on Saturday, April 18th at 1:30 p.m. and will feature four multidisciplinary artists who are participating in the Source Theater Festival's Artistic Blind Date project, organized by CulturalDC. These artists, Bruce McKaig, photography, Alison Waldman, dance, Carmen Wong, theater, and Ashi Day, music, are collaborating on full-length plays for the Artistic Blind Date project. Recently, Eye Level sat down with these artists to discuss their work and collaborations. Luce Artist Talks are presented in collaboration with CulturalDC.
EL: How does collaboration impact and influence your work?
BM: I sometimes teach workshops in the business of art, business strategies, funding, marketing, sustainability. At one such workshop in 2012, after working with 15 artists for 2.5 hours, I asked everyone to think and then state one need they have right then: one resource that is missing and thus some part of their work is on hold. We went around the table stating each person's need, and five minutes later 30 per cent of those resources had been met. All of those timely resources changed hands in just a few minutes. I believe the most powerful thing about collaboration is how it opens our eyes to possible resources already at our disposal. Collaborative ventures maximize the return on these resources.
AW: Every dance, even a solo, is a collaboration, because it relies on the energy of an audience. Because it's a performance, the viewer's presence is important - and I have to consider them in everything I make. Otherwise, the piece becomes masturbatory and an invaluable piece of work. This thought always keeps me in check. And of course when I add the valuable time, energy, and creativity of others' work as a part of a process, there has to be a reason why each of their elements is there, a part of that work, just like I think about viewers. It keeps me in check by constantly asking myself "WHY?". And to answer those questions, there is always a lot of trial and error in the beginning: lots of ideas thrown out, tested, and discarded. And you get used to that quickly.
CW: The work I do (via banished? productions, and increasingly in my conceptual food-art practice) is almost entirely collaborative but I steer the project's aesthetics and try to make the most informed decisions (advised by my clever collaborators!) on the thousands of arbitrary open-ended questions that need to be made. These fellow-artists teach me so much during and after the process of working together.
AD: All of my work as an artist —a singer, a composer, an improviser— is on some level collaborative. When I compose a piece, I generally create sheet music to be performed, as opposed to creating a finished recording. Like a script of a play, the thing that I've created is incomplete without others taking it up and adding their own artistry. I often see different, even opposite ways that a performer or ensemble could portray a particular musical phrase or idea. And the challenge is to write the piece, as well as the markings for tempo, dynamics, etc., in a way that will encourage performers to find various ways of performing it that are in fitting with the underlying ideas in the piece and yet their own. While I may have my own artistic ideas to express, I can go further and to more exciting places when I work with others.
EL: What excites you about the Artistic Blind Date (ABD) project?
BM: My ideal ingredients for collaborative projects are inclusive, innovative, and educational. Inclusive: facilitate the inclusion of diverse participants, revisit archaic relationships that divide rather than unite artists, public, and funders. Innovative: don't participate in the discussion, reframe it. Educational: celebrate the challenge of innovative works by exploring how people learn. I think history, personal and collective, is the glue that binds inclusive, innovative, and educational. Historical frameworks, whether repeated or rejected, provide a Rosetta Stone of sorts, helping me to blend historical and contemporary themes using a vast array of media to develop experiential works that mix exhibition, installation, and performance.
AW: It's so easy for artists to get tunnel vision and forget what other approaches there are. That's why collaborations are so powerful. The ABD project not only gives me the opportunity to pull ideas from fellow creative brains, but it encourages me to step outside of my routine and play in their sandboxes and learn from them. It gives us the chance to make something totally unique. I think it's also a good representation of how important it is in life to be open-minded and give yourself over to the possibility of new pathways.
CW: I've been learning a ton about score-creation from a dance and aerial-dance perspective, which is hugely different from mine. The vocabulary has indeed been helpful in incorporating these ideas within my practice. This ABD process has also made me very aware that a different work mode can happen, and because it is low-stakes, I feel I don't have to claim ownership in the same way. This is truly refreshing.
AD: I have always been inspired by other art forms. For better or worse, I tend not to write absolute music. I need a text, character, dramatic situation, visual, or some other medium to serve as the source or content that the music is expressing, translating, commenting on, etc. Theater is wonderful, because it is a natural place for combining various art forms. The ABD project was intriguing to me because I would have a chance to work with other kinds of artists that I otherwise may not meet, yet alone collaborate with, in an extensive way. The experience is giving me the opportunity to go outside of my zone of comfort —normally creating a choral score, or maybe singing a piece— and to explore all the different avenues of possible things I can do with my imagination, resources, and skill set.
Five Questions (+1) with Michael Heaston of the Domingo Cafritz Young Artists Program at the Washington National Opera
April 7, 2015
Chief of External Affairs Jo Ann Gillula posed these questions to Director Michael Heaston of the Domingo Cafritz Young Artists Program at Washington National Opera, who will be performing their annual semi-staged excerpts from operas on Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m., at American Art in a free performance at McEvoy Auditorium.
Eye Level: I understand this performance is entitled Faces of Love. I certainly understand why you are presenting the trio from Barber of Seville, but how does the final trio from Faust, surely one of the most wrenching scenes in opera, qualify?
Michael Heaston: Absolutely! In this famous scene we see the inevitable conclusion of a story that examines many facets of love. The story begins when Faust's narcissism (love of himself) drives him to make a deal with the devil to return to his youth. This then leads to his love affair with Marguerite.
EL: How did you select such a wide and varied repertoire to include Fidelio as well as Don Carlo?
MH: Again, not exactly the operas I would classify as highlights of love scenes. In the Fidelio excerpt, Marzelline has fallen in love with Leonore (who has taken on a male disguise as "Fidelio" in order to rescue the man she loves, her husband, Florestan). In Don Carlo, we examine an odd love triangle that features mistaken identity, passionate love, revenge, and finally brotherly love. Love is the driving force behind much of the operatic repertory, and we hope that featuring such a wide range of it will help our audience to realize that passionate love scenes are just one facet of love as presented in opera.
EL: So can you explain how you are characterizing these different faces of love?
MH: We have covered a lot of categories this evening: passionate, obsessive, new, tragic, illicit, brotherly, and the list continues. Love is truly a curious motivator for a lot of decisions in opera and, unfortunately, many of them seem to be poor!
EL: What are some of qualities you look for in a Domingo-Cafritz artist and how long do they apprentice with the company?
MH: The top two qualities are talent of the highest level and incredible potential for growth. The color of the voice, skill at the keyboard, and musical instincts must be world-class. Most artists are with us for two seasons.
EL: I see a love of ice cream in the Kurt Weill sextet that concludes the performance —from his Street Scene. Is there another kind of love represented, and why did you select this delightful piece?
MH: We are delighted to present this ensemble. Aside from the love of ice cream (which I imagine we all share) the scene displays a love of country and America. Through the eyes of an immigrant we see the wonder and amazement of a new life in this country. With the term "national" being firmly embedded in the name of our company, it is important to me that we find ways to celebrate this great nation through opera. I think this is a particularly fun way of doing so.
EL: What new technology will you be utilizing in this performance?
MH: We are pleased to bring technology from our opera house to the museum. For the first time, we are using supertitles to make this performance more interactive and appealing to the audience. The less people have to bury their noses in printed translations the more the performances can come alive. I hope everyone is as excited as I am about this!