- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

The National Gallery of Art's exquisitely handsome "Virtue and Beauty: Leonardo's 'Ginevra de' Benci' and Renaissance Portraits of Women" (Sept. 30 to Jan. 6) commands the Washington art scene this season.
Originally planned as a smaller National Gallery show focusing on the early Leonardo da Vinci "Ginevra," the exhibit expanded to present the painting in a larger, blockbuster context — that of the phenomenal rise of female portraiture in 15th-century Florence.
These aren't women as we know them now, especially the pseudo-sexy, sticklike models in today's fashion magazines. Their idealized beauty — such as that of the "Ginevra," Domenico Ghirlandaio's "Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni" and Sandro Botticelli's "Young Woman (Simonetta Vespucci?) in Mythological Guise" — came from their moral grace and fortitude.
Wealthy Florentine fathers married off 16-year-old daughters to men twice their age. The young women brought rich dowries and the ability to bear children.
Ghirlandaio painted his profile portrait of Giovanna after she died in childbirth in 1488. She was just under 20 and giving birth to her second child.
Exhibit artists Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo, Ghirlandaio and Agnolo Bronzino portrayed these upper- and mercantile-class women with attenuated necks, flaxen hair, milky white skin and coral lips and cheeks. Poets Dante and Petrarch had set the canon of female physical beauty in their writings, especially Petrarch in describing his beloved Laura.
The exhibit is the next best thing to traipsing off to the Louvre to see the "Mona Lisa" or traveling to Florence to view Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus."
"Aelbert Cuyp" presents another old master attraction at the National Gallery (Oct. 7 to Jan. 13). Although best known for his idyllic views of the Dutch landscape during Holland's golden age of painting, Cuyp (1620-1691) also painted majestic scenes of Dutch harbors, portraits and scenes from the Bible.
William A. Clark's bequest of his eclectic collection to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1925 established the Corcoran as Washington's primary repository at the time of old master paintings. The Corcoran marks the 75th anniversary of the gift in November with "Turning Copper Into Gold: The 75th Anniversary of the William A. Clark Collection at the Corcoran Gallery of Art" (Nov. 3 to March 11).
Stepping up to modernism is the "Henry Moore" sculpture exhibition at the National Gallery (Oct. 21 to Jan. 27) and "Impressionist Still Life" at the Phillips Collection (Sept. 22 to Jan. 13, 2002).
The first major retrospective of Mr. Moore's work in more than 20 years, the exhibit illustrates the artist's crucial role in the development of modern sculpture, especially outdoor public sculpture. "Impressionist Still Life" is the third in a series of focused impressionist exhibitions organized by the Phillips and the first to concentrate on still life.
Washington never has lacked excellent Asian and African shows, thanks to the Smithsonian "Quadrangle" museums built underground on the Mall in 1986. A show starting tomorrow at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery displays rare paintings from the Chinese-Central Asian Silk Road.
Colorful cave painting fragments from the majestic Buddhist cave site of Qizil in China's autonomous region of Xinjiang form the unusual exhibit, "The Cave as Canvas: Hidden Images of Worship Along the Silk Road" (through July 7, 2002). German archaeologists discovered the paintings at the beginning of the 20th century at Qizil, which was an important stopping place for trade on the Silk Road and a major Buddhist center from the third to the seventh centuries.
The ancient city of Antioch lay at the western end of the land route of the Silk Road. It became one of the great cities of the Roman Empire. "Antioch: The Lost Ancient City" at the Baltimore Museum of Art (Sept. 16 to Dec. 30) shows the richness of the city's Graeco-Roman traditions with magnificent Roman sculpture and Roman floor mosaics. Master craftsmen adapted Roman wall paintings to the mosaics. Silk Road travelers then carried the style to Buddhist centers such as Qizil.
Destroyed centuries ago by earthquakes, plagues and foreign invasions, Antioch was "lost" until an American-led team of archaeologists excavated the site in the 1930s. The exhibit curators reunited the 160 treasures for the first time since their discovery.
Returning to the Sackler and moving up several centuries: The exhibit "Word Play: Installation Art by Xu Bing" opens Oct. 21. No major show has been devoted to Xu Bing's work since 1991, although he is recognized as one of the most important Chinese artists to emerge in the past 25 years.
A self-imposed exile, the artist addresses issues of communication with "Book From the Sky (Tianshu)" his best-known work of books, scrolls and wall posters, printed with 2,000 unreadable Chinese characters. The artist says he invented the characters to express humans' struggle with interaction.
The adjoining Freer Gallery of Art features the work of 17th-century ceramic artist Ogata Kenzan, beginning Dec. 9. Kenzan treated ceramic surfaces as paintings, and his distinctly decorative style influenced Japanese ceramics thereafter. "The Potter's Brush: The Kenzan Style in Japanese Ceramics" is based on the 100 signed Kenzan works in the Freer's collection, the largest group outside Japan.
This fall season also focuses on contemporary art, both in the museums and commercial galleries. Jonathan Binstock, 34, new curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran, chose the work of three artists — Mary Judge and brothers Joseph and John Dumbacher — for his first show at the Corcoran (Sept. 29 to Dec. 10).
The three use raw color for works inspired by the elemental appeal of pure pigment. The Dumbachers make dense pigment paintings by stabilizing pure colors with an epoxy and pouring the mixture into various-sized stainless steel compartments. Miss Judge uses an analogous geometric, minimal approach but adds other natural elements such as peat moss and gold for looser geometric designs with biomorphic overtones.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden presents the first survey of the work of the late Spanish sculptor Juan Munoz, from Oct. 18 to Jan. 13, 2002. (He died Aug. 28 at age 48.). His bronze figure ensemble at the museum plaza entrance is a favorite with visitors.
The National Gallery expects to install Frank Stella's 10-ton sculpture "Prinz Friedrich von Homburg, Ein Schauspie" by mid-October. It is one of the gallery's newest acquisitions, and Mr. Stella's first monumental outdoor sculpture to enter a major public collection in the United States.
Curator F. Leonard Campello looked at the work of 1,000 artists for his "Contemporary Realism: A Survey of Washington Area Artists" at Alexandria's Athenaeum (Sept. 9 to Oct. 28). The 80-artist show is the first to survey and exhibit the work of major and emerging area artists working in a realistic manner.
Mr. Campello aims to show a strong realist tradition in the region. The exhibit includes seasoned artists such as William Dunlap, Joe Shannon, Manon Cleary and Fred Folsom.
"Lily Spandorf's 'Washington Never More,'" at the Strathmore Hall Arts Center through Nov. 3, is the largest exhibit of the beloved artist's work ever mounted. Miss Spandorf, who died in February 2000, devoted the last years of her life to recording the old Washington she felt would disappear. The Historical Society of Washington lent the 155 paintings.
Two galleries devoted to cutting-edge art just opened. Washington art consultant Annie Gawlak premieres G Fine Art, 2171 M St. NW, with "Wall Works," a show including Sam Gilliam, Joseph Kosuth, Sol LeWitt and Maya Lin through Oct. 1.
Fusebox, a 1,700-square-foot industrial-style space at 1412 14th St. NW, opens Sept. 29 with artists working in a broad range of media, including digital art, video, installation and performance.
Established galleries initiate the season with challenging exhibits. Gallery K shows the work of respected Washington artists John Winslow and Josephine Hayden (through Sept. 29). Anton Gallery introduces American Indian artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith with an exceptional exhibit titled, "A Journey Through Tribal Lands" (through Oct. 27). Anton follows up with solo shows by Tom Nakashima (Nov. 2 to Dec. 27) and local legend "Big Al" Carter (Jan. 5 to Feb. 28, 2002).
The adventurous Conner Contemporary Art presents underground artist and singer Niagara, through Sept. 29. Her acrylics glorify the many and often surprising identities of the "Niagara Woman." Gangster comic strips from the 1960s inspired these femmes fatales.
David Adamson Gallery will show the photographs of Arthur Tress, whose work is being displayed at the Corcoran through Sept. 23. The Ira Pinto Gallery presents the linear art of Sean Kenny through Sept. 28. Alexandria's Gallery West concentrates on the human figure with "Go Figure: The Human Body" through Nov. 4.
Washington has long been rich with shows of prints, drawings and photographs. The old master drawings at the National Gallery are the most famous, but the museum has also built a fine collection of 20th-century examples. "A Century of Drawing," opening Nov. 18, presents for the first time a comprehensive view of these works.
The Corcoran displays the prints of San Francisco artist Joseph Goldyne, a virtuoso printmaker, (Oct. 6 to Jan. 13, 2002) and prints by Jim Dine and Roy Lichtenstein (Dec. 8 to Feb. 4, 2002).
The Corcoran also presents photographs commissioned by the Nature Conservancy with "In Response to Place: Photographs From the Nature Conservancy's Last Great Places" (Sept. 15 to Dec. 31). It shows the interrelations of humans and the natural world through the lens of 12 distinguished photographers, including Washington's William Christenberry.


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