Recently we visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. After viewing traditional art in the West Wing, we used the moving walkway through the Concourse to the East Wing, where modern and contemporary art is displayed. The Concourse is enveloped by the 200-foot long light sculpture Multiverse by the American artist Leo Villareal (b. 1967). According to a National Gallery of Art webpage,
“[T]he work features approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED nodes that run through channels along the entire 200-foot-long space… Once the appropriate hardware was installed in the existing architecture, the artist programmed sequences through his custom-designed software to create abstract configurations of light. His programming both instructs the lights and allows for an element of chance. While it is possible that a pattern will repeat during a viewer’s experience, it is highly unlikely. Still, the eye will seek patterns in the motion, a perceptual effect of the hypnotic trailing lights.”
While this sculpture was only intended to be on display for one year, until November 2009, it is still in place and mesmerizing visitors every day.
Anyone who has visited the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. has seen and admired Alexander Calder’s huge mobile (85-foot wingspan, 920 pounds) hanging in the Central Court. However, one of our favorite rooms in Tower 2 contains several smaller sculptures by Calder: of these, arguably the cutest is the standing mobile Rat (even more so than Cow). Rat was created in 1948 of sheet metal, lead, wire, and paint, and its dimensions are 8 5/8 x 15 x 8 in. (21.9 x 38.1 x 20.3 cm.). It was last sold on November 16, 2016 by Christie’s of New York for $943,500.
We have been taking a drawing class to help us think more clearly about photography. Today was field trip day and we visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. The East Wing starts with Picasso before cubism and ends with Mark Rothko. The idea seems to be to take the viewer from something recognizable to something totally abstract with a sensible path between.
Since “the sensible path between” is up lots and lots of steps, we generally take an elevator to the top and find ourselves totally confused until we walk down a couple flights towards realism. There is an outdoor passage between two towers at the top of the museum where they often display something we can recognize after gazing at the Rothkos. Currently, the display features large metal numbers against the Washington skyline. They may only be numbers and we are not sure what they mean — if modern art is intended to have meaning — but we used them to steady our nerves so that we could continue our stroll through modern art.
ONE through ZERO (The Numbers)
This art installation, titled ONE through ZERO (The Numbers) by the American artist Robert Indiana (1928-2018), was constructed from 1978 to 2003 using Cor-Ten steel.
Honoré-Victorin Daumier (1808 – 1879) is one of our favorite artists. When we are in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris or the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, we make sure to visit his caricatures of political figures. On a recent visit to the National Gallery of Art, we focused on the statue of Ratapoil. According to the National Gallery of Art’s webpage Ratapoil,
… the swaying, strutting Ratapoil is Daumier’s brilliant stab at the political ambitions of Louis-Napoleon, who would proclaim himself emperor of France in 1852. … He fashioned Ratapoil (Ratskin) as one of Louis-Napoleon’s agents-provocateurs, a cudgel-carrying bully whose job was to stir up crowds, using bribes and force when necessary, to convince the people to return Louis-Napoleon to power.
Face of Ratapoil
The original statue, only 44.13 cm (17.4 inches) tall, was cast in clay in 1850 – 51, but not cast in bronze until 1891 after Daumier’s death.
These photos were taken on October 4, 2017 with a Canon 100D.
The National Gallery of Art maintains the 6.1 acre National Gallery Sculpture Garden on the National Mall. The plantings are American species of trees, shrubs, perennials, and ground cover. At the center of the garden is a large ornamental pool with sequenced water fountains. (In the winter, this pool is a skating rink open to the public.) Around the pool is a courtyard edged by long concrete benches.
Fountains, National Gallery Sculpture Garden
Fountains, National Gallery Sculpture Garden
Fountains at National Gallery Sculpture Garden
Bench at National Gallery Sculpture Garden pool
Ducks at National Gallery Sculpture Garden pool
School children admiring ducks at National Gallery Sculpture Garden pool
Between the pool area and the decorative fence enclosing the entire garden are 21 large sculptures among the plantings. Our favorites of these sculptures are pictured below.
Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Typewriter Eraser, Scale X