Monday, November 05, 2007

Jenny Holzer at SAAM
For SAAM by Jenny Holzer

"For SAAM" by Jenny Holzer

The Smithsonian American Art Museum debuted a major site-specific light sculpture by Sanborn's LinguaJenny Holzer last Saturday. Holzer is an internationally renowned artist best known for her work incorporating texts into light-based sculptures and projections. The sculpture, titled "For SAAM," is on public display in the museum's third floor Lincoln Gallery with other contemporary artworks from the permanent collection.

I've always liked Holzer's work, due mostly to my interest in text in art.

I am however, more a fan of Jim Sanborn and one of my favorite DC area works by Sanborn on public diplay is Lingua, which is perfectly located in the Grand Lobby of the new DC Convention Center, which by the way, was "supposed" to continue to add art to its vastness and (as far as I know) never has since its grand opening.

Shauna Lee Lange on Going West at The Renwick

By Shauna Lee Lange

We weren't the only ones who couldn't gain admission to the Corcoran's exhibits on a late Saturday afternoon, so if you're headed for the Leibovitz/Adams shows, get there early in the day!

All wasn't lost... the Renwick is a few short walking blocks away and we comfortably strolled through the Going West exhibit without any elbow bumping. The Renwick Gallery is a fine, first rate museum in its own right; it houses a diverse collection of American contemporary craft, art, and design spanning the 19th - 21st centuries.

Featured in the Going West exhibit are about 50 rare quilts from the first quarter of the 19th century to the 1930s. If you can imagine embarking on the journey out west, and having to bring along only a few cherished keepsakes, then your appreciation for the sentimentality of these items will be right on key. Or better yet, imagine the life of a woman newly established in her prairie home, and her need to create items not available at the local Target.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the Going West quilts prove that there was a deep focus on recording family history, using available objects (see the quilt made out of neckties), the irrefutable strength of the creative spirit, and the desire to commemorate important anniversaries in the lives of community members. It's interesting to consider how these quilts might have represented efforts in journaling or even fundraising. And from a crafts perspective, well... they are just inspiring.

If you plan to visit the gorgeously detailed quilts, we'd like to suggest a method of viewing. To really appreciate the work, materials, and time invested in the craftsmanship, the trick is to stand as close to the quilt as the museum curators will allow. Isolate a six inch square, or a series of six inch squares, to really see the art embedded in the various cloths and stitches.

A quilt is a collage, a composite whole of smaller unrelated parts. And although the whole can be quite stunning, the devil is in the detail with a careful examination of the pieces. Considering assemblage, construction, color selection, and composition help to transport one back to the Wild West. Quilts from this exhibition are a fine example of a continuum along the tradition of useful textiles. They provide insight to the essential role that quilts and the making of quilts played in the lives of women on the frontier. They are a testament (in my mind) to feminism even, in their own sort-of-quasi-political-way.

The Going West exhibit runs to Jan 21, 2008. The Renwick Gallery is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and is located on 17 th Street & Pennsylvania Ave, NW. Admission is free. Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed December 25. Tours and General Info: 202-633-8550. Special event scheduling: 202-633-8534. Be sure to check the calendar, as the Renwick hosts a series of crafts demonstrations, lectures, receptions, and musical performances in its mission to collect and preserve the finest in American crafts.

Fellowship for Artists

Deadline: January 15, 2008

Hamiltonian Artists is currently seeking fellowship applications for the 2008-2009 season. Dedicated to support the professional development of emerging visual artists, Hamiltonian Artists is a new DC-area nonprofit organization offering an annual national competitive fellowship program for ten promising innovative artists. All So-Hamiltonian Fellows will be provided with: a stipend, representation by the Hamiltonian Gallery, an annual focused exhibition, seminars and mentorship programs led by arts and business leaders, and career placement assistance.

Hamiltonian Gallery will be a new, dynamic art space in the heart of the burgeoning 14th and U Street cultural district in Washington DC, home to many of the city's best contemporary art galleries. With an anticipated opening date of June 2008, the Hamiltonian Gallery will feature the So-Hamiltonian Fellows as well as other established Gallery artists.

Through innovative and groundbreaking programs, Hamiltonian Artists and Hamiltonian Gallery seek to create a new physical and institutional structure in Washington DC to support emerging artists, broaden cultural dialogue within the community and make visual art accessible to a diverse audience.

The fellowship program summary and online application are available at and iformation on the gallery is
available at

Hamiltonian Artists
P.O. Box 73975
Washington, DC 20056
t: (703) 549-9629


One of the cornerstones in the edifice of my criticism of art criticism is how much better the writing and public is served when difference voices opine on the same subject.

Case in point: the current Foon Sham’s solo joint exhibits at GRACE in Reston and Heineman-Myers in Bethesda.

- Dr. Claudia Rousseau’s excellent review appeared on Wednesday, October 31 in the The Gazette. Read it here.

- A typical piece by Jessica Dawson in The Washington Post's Galleries column on Friday, October, 26. Read it here.

- Joanna Shaw-Eagle’s feature article was published on the front page of the “Arts and Culture” section on Saturday, October 20 in the The Washington Times. Read it here.

- Eileen River’s fascinating profile on Foon Sham’s dialogue work was published on Tuesday, October 16 in the The Washington Post on the front page of the “Style” section, with great photos of the installation at GRACE. Read it here.

Why isn't anybody writing about art anymore?

Peter Plagens on "Why isn't anybody writing about art anymore?"

Today's art world is bigger and wealthier than it was half a century ago, a generation ago, or even a decade ago. In 2002, more than a quarter of the adult population in the U.S. visited an art gallery or museum, a rate of what the federal government calls "cultural participation" (movies are not included) behind only the number of people reading books and visiting historic sites, and ahead of attendance at concerts by double...

...Judging by the newspapers of many major American cities and some national magazines, the more straightforwardly journalistic popular press appears to be covering art with some thoroughness. Roberta Smith, Holland Cotter and Michael Kimmelman at the New York Times, Peter Schjeldahl at the New Yorker, Mark Stevens at New York magazine, Jerry Saltz at the Village Voice, Jed Perl at the New Republic, Arthur Danto at the Nation, Ken Johnson (now) at the Boston Globe, Edward Sozanski and Edith Newhall at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Christopher Knight and David Pagel at the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Baker at the San Francisco Chronicle, Robert L. Pincus at the San Diego Union-Tribune and several others produce a veritable mountain of words about art every month. And most if not all of their publications also print additional art writing by freelancers and stringers [my note: notice that the Washington newspapers are conspicuously absent from this list]...

...Nationwide, though, newspaper coverage of art is down... the trend, over the last five or 10 years, is downward everywhere except perhaps at the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times...

...The Greensboro News & Record's Robinson, however, sets a standard for candor regarding the matter of art coverage:

There are a variety of reasons we don't give art more respect. We perceive that the audience for such coverage is small. It could be a self-fulfilling prophecy--we don't write about it because it's not that much in demand, but it's not in demand because we don't write about it.... Advertising has nothing to do with these decisions. I suppose that if a gallery said it would purchase a premium-priced ad along the bottom of a page focusing on the world of art, we would leap at the opportunity to expand our coverage. To my knowledge that hasn't happened, and theaters and symphonies aren't big newspaper advertisers, but we find the money to write about their productions regularly.... Contemporary art is often hard to understand. I dare say that, if asked, most of the readers I know would subscribe to the Tom Wolfe school of [opinions about] contemporary art...

While noting that almost all newspapers have made cutbacks in the coverage of "the arts" at the same time coverage of the effluvia of popular culture has "exploded," the Monitor's Thomas says that visual art might have some specific drawbacks. First, there's what he calls "the snoot factor"--the perception that modern and contemporary art is intelligible only to a rich, initiated elite. Second, he says, "there's no Picasso," no dominant figure around to pique the general public's interest. The same might be said for critics...
Read this fascinating article, first published a while back in Art in America here.

1992 Redux?

In the early nineties, more than 70 New York galleries went out of business.

Could it happen again? No, say many observers—today’s art market is too global, too rich, even too smart to suffer such a wrenching setback. All the same, one shouldn’t forget that the art market’s biggest climb ever has been based in part on a growing pile of dealer debt. Dealers have borrowed against inventory to fuel bigger shows, art-fair exhibits, and satellite galleries all over the world...

There are now 360 galleries in Chelsea, up from 124 eight years ago. Already, Craigslist has seen a slight bump in its rental listings for gallery spaces in the area. A couple of them even read “Currently an art gallery.”
Read this very interesting piece by Alexandra Peers in New York Magazine here.