Saturday, April 25, 2009

Corcoran - Maya Lin Exhibit

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is located about a block or two southwest of the White House and in our experience, is one of the better private art museums in a town that is certainly not lacking for them. J and I were given an annual pass last year and have visited on several occasions, usually taking advantage of special exhibits and functions. However, we recently went back and paid for the honor. With so many free world-class art exhibits available, it says a lot that we'd seek out one that requires purchasing a ticket. We were not disappointed.

Maya Lin is the artist/architect who is best known for her design of the Vietnam Memorial. At the time, she was only 21 years old but has since developed an impressive portfolio. Her most recent projects have featured large scale representations of naturally occurring shapes and structures that are presented in three-dimensional pieces and are intended to be interacted and/or lived with.

Unfortunately, the exhibit did not allow us to take pictures, which was regrettable because Maya Lin is a master of creating objects that feature subtle details that can only be appreciated by moving around them. These seemingly simple compositions are a photographer's (I use that title very loosely) paradise and I found myself lamenting the missed opportunities to play with light, form, and perspective. Fortunately, Maya Lin's website is chock full o' pictures and I would encourage anyone to explore it (look for the Systematic Landscapes gallery). Despite the virtual access, there is certainly something to be said about being able to see this exhibit in person where you can walk in, around, and under each piece.

The exhibit is small, containing three major pieces that each take up an entire room, as well as a dozen or so supporting works. The limited numbers is actually an asset, as it allows people to immerse themselves in each piece. 2x4 Landscape is the signature element and is a massive hill or wave made of vertical 2x4s of various heights. In a similar effort, Blue Lake Pass is a mountain range made up of a series of 3 foot by 3 foot plywood cross-sections that you can walk through. Water Line is a wire sculpture suspended from the ceiling that mimics the ocean floor that surrounds one of the world's most remote islands.

What I loved about the exhibit was the drama of each piece, both large and small. Having that all of the shapes were natural, each felt familiar and organic, which evoked memory and emotion. While they all were certainly aesthetically beautiful and interesting, the ability to interact and feel connected to the art was memorable.

J's Perspective

B is definitely the artist of the family. He took art classes as a kid and has a natural eye and appreciation for art. My artistic talent is limited to stick figures and my knowledge of art is fairly limited. Due to this rift in our artistic capabilities and awareness, we don't always enjoy the same art exhibits. Often, I'm wandering toward the gift shop while B is still looking at the same painting from the 43rd angle.

Maya Lin's exhibit was one we both really enjoyed. For me, it was the perfect size and I found her work to be interesting and thought provoking. I loved the natural elements of her pieces and the fact that you could walk in and around them. I highly recommend Systematic Landscapes for those who shy away from traditional art exhibits.

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