Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Change in the air

For the last several months the newly appointed director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Richard Koshalek, has been quietly at work on a plan to erect a 145-foot-tall inflatable meeting hall that would swell out of the top of the internal courtyard of the museum, which sits on the Mall midway between the White House and the Capitol.

Designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro, the translucent fabric structure, which would be installed twice a year, for May and October, and be packed away in storage the rest of the time, would transform one of the most somber buildings on the mall into a luminous pop landmark. It could be the most uplifting work of civic architecture built in the capital since I. M. Pei completed his East Building of the National Gallery of Art more than 30 years ago.

But it is what the project is intended to house, and to represent, that has the potential to shake up Washington. For decades government power brokers have dismissed much of contemporary culture as a playground for elites. Mr. Koshalek’s vision would challenge that mentality by using performing arts, film series and conferences to foster a wide-ranging public debate on cultural values.

Mr. Koshalek, who is known for his bubbly enthusiasm, has been a champion of architectural causes since his days as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in the late 1990s, when he helped lead the drive to build the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Later he worked behind the scenes with the city’s government agencies and cultural institutions to hire respected architects for their new buildings rather than the kind of politically connected firms that were then the norm.

He arrived at the Hirshhorn last April with a dual agenda: to raise the museum’s national profile and to put Washington in closer touch with creative life around it.
Read the NYT report here.

Lawrence on Wiley

During the 1970s in New York, artists working in the West Coast and Chicago—including H.C. Westermann, Robert Arneson, Robert Colescott and Peter Saul—raised hackles and gained fans for their cartoonish, jittery and emotionally direct works loaded with offbeat materials and associations. The earnest ethos of East Coast art was not in their DNA; minimalist purity and the high-minded musings of conceptual art were anathema.

Among this group was a slightly younger artist from northern California, William T. Wiley, who was being noticed for his skillfully drawn, pun-loaded and casually enigmatic work, often subverting modernism's language of geometric abstraction and assemblage with a glut of personal meaning. Already credentialed by exhibitions in his home state, as well as Chicago, Paris, Milan, the Netherlands and Germany, this "Huckleberry Duchamp," as an Art News reviewer called him in 1974, soon emerged as a national figure.
Read the Wall Street Journal review by Sidney Lawrence here.

Rocco Landesman on the line

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is hosting an Art Works roundtable discussion with National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman on Wednesday, December 16 from 9:30 – 11:30 AM. The location is Busboys & Poets at 2012 14th St. NW.

DCCAH Executive Director Gloria Nauden and Chairman Landesman will be joined by Busboys & Poets founder and owner Andy Shallal and DC Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning in a conversation before an invited audience of DC arts leaders.

That conversation will focus on, “How do the arts work in DC?,” the central question behind Art Works, Mr. Landesman’s leitmotif for his tenure as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Art Works is a triple entendre incorporating the Art Works created by artists such as paintings, dances, and music; the arts as part of the economy with art workers having real jobs, paying taxes, and spending money; and how Art Works on us as human beings with its capacity to inspire people and change lives. Chairman Landesman is spending the next six months visiting neighborhoods and towns all across America, seeing and spotlighting all the ways that art works.
After initial comments from the panel, the session will turn to the guests for their observations on how the arts do or don’t work in the District.

When: Wednesday, December 16, 2009 from 9:30 – 11:00 AM

Where: Busboys & Poets, 2120 14th St. NW

Contact: Marquis Perkins, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (202)286-5797

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