- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 28, 2002

The horror of September 11, 2001, damaged Washington's arts institutions last year. Museums had to cut exhibitions and staff. This year, museums and galleries were just beginning to recover when October's three-week sniper shooting spree caused people to stay away again, even after the arrest of accused snipers John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad. Visitation is just now beginning to climb.
Despite these adversities, museums served up their usual delectable fare with a special focus on sculpture and photography. The National Gallery of Art led with blockbusters including "Quest for Immortality: Treasures of Ancient Egypt." Using both tiny and enormous sculptures, a life-size reconstruction of the 15th-century Pharaoh Thutmose III's decorated and inscribed burial chamber, intricately crafted gold-and-gem jewelry, boats for taking the dead through the underworld, and powerful stone lions, the gallery took visitors through a simulated birth and rebirth.
Another enormously popular exhibit, still on view at the gallery, is "Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil," an often humorous survey of visual trickery beginning with the classical Romans and continuing to today's popsters. Sculptor Duane Hanson fools visitors at the exhibit's entry with his superrealist sculpture "Security Guard." Many have asked the "guard" for directions. The 17th-century Dutchman Samuel van Hoogstraten invited visitors to step into his painting "View Down a Corridor," a succession of receding doorways. Twentieth-century artists such as Pablo Picasso attached painted papers to collage surfaces to project them into space.
Sculpture hasn't always garnered the attention it deserves at the National Gallery. The museum recently set this right with the opening of its $3 million West Building Sculpture Galleries showcasing more than 1,000 sculptures and decorative-arts objects. In a suite of 22 superbly designed galleries, the installation covers nine centuries, from the intensely religious sculpture of the Middle Ages through early-20th-century works by Auguste Rodin and Edgar Degas.
Sculpture also figured prominently in two National Gallery exhibits of Americana, "An American Vision: Henry Francis du Pont's Winterthur Museum" and "Drawing on America's Past: Folk Art, Modernism, and the Index of American Design."
Recently opened to the public, "America's Past" unveils many of the miracles of the 18,000-work gallery collection. Curators culled the 80 best watercolor renderings of quilts, weather vanes, cigar-store Indians and other arts of the Colonial period through the 19th century. About 40 of the original sculptures also are in the show. The most stunning is the metal "Gabriel Weathervane" with its painted depiction by Lucille Chabot. Originally from the steeple of the Universalist Church in Newberryport, Mass., "Gabriel" was crafted from gilded sheet iron and copper.

The Phillips Collection mounted the all-encompassing exhibit "Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late" last fall; it mainly featured Bonnard's paintings and prints but also included some of his unusual sculptures and photos.
Sculpture and photography were important in the Corcoran Gallery of Art's stepped-up 2002 exhibition program. The Corcoran first focused on Spanish modernist Joan Miro's rarely shown late sculpture, "The Shape of Color: Joan Miro's Painted Sculpture," on view through Jan. 6.
Mr. Miro was in his 70s and 80s when he made these outlandish-looking comic figures. "It is in my sculpture that I will create a truly phantasmagoric world of living monsters; what I do in painting is more conventional," he wrote in 1941. Born in Barcelona, he combined a Catalonian folk art of great humor with the French brand of surrealism he learned in Paris.
The just-opened "47th Corcoran Biennial: Fantasy Underfoot" features sculpture in the guise of conceptual and installational art. Nancy Davidson blew up inflatable materials to make "Double Exposure." It is two bulbous red forms held by substantial blue rope that float in the museum's enormous atrium. Ken Feingold used silicone, pigments, fiberglass, steel, electronics, mixed media and ventriloquist's puppets with projections to make the haunting and bizarre "Self Portrait as the Center of the Universe" as well as his other installations.
Two artists focus on questions of human identity as related to technology and globalism. Tim Hawkinson evokes worlds beyond the human realm with cyborgs, strange hybrid organisms that imply connections among human beings, animals and machines. He made a special installation of polyethylene, vinyl, aluminum, mechanical components and water for his gigantic, otherworldly "Drip." Bruce Yonemoto focuses on ideas of global unity and fragmentation. His collection of desktop globes shows the world as a physical entity but also as a universe divided into political units.
Photography also was hot at the Corcoran. "Here Is New York: A Democracy of Photographs," an exhibition of 2,000 heartbreaking images taken on September 11 and shortly afterward in New York, at the Pentagon and at the site where Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa. was a big hit in Washington. The show was truly a "democracy," a collection of photos taken by ordinary people who wanted to contribute their images. It was open to everyone. Photos were scanned into digital files and printed on inkjet printers. The organizers clipped them to simulated clotheslines that stretched across the Corcoran's galleries.
Controversial photographer Wendy Ewald opened this year's photography program at the gallery with "Sacred Games: Wendy Ewald, Collaborative Works With Children,1969-1999." The photographer found children the world over used cameras to record what she called "their fierce sense of place that is neither frightened or uninformed."
She was working on a Canadian Indian reservation when she discovered that children often shot more expressively than she. That was a turning point for her. Ms. Ewald has worked cooperatively with young people since then, encouraging them to picture their lives or write on her film negatives.
The Corcoran combined its strengths in photography and sculpture with "Picturing the Corcoran's Sculpture: Photography by David Finn," on view for two more days. Mr. Finn used unusual camera angles, special lighting and focus on details to help viewers see sculpture in new ways.

The Corcoran, as well other museums and commercial galleries, showed several modern and contemporary artists. The gallery last summer honored its own William (Bill) Newman a teacher at the Corcoran College of Art, Washington painter and computer artist with his first, much-belated retrospective. He applies the cutting-edge technology of computer-manipulated art with old-master painting techniques.
University of Maryland art professor W.C. (Chip) Richardson also chose the summer to show "Bottom," his 10-foot-by-10-foot floor installation. He invited visitors to the Fusebox Gallery to enter the geometric grid of interlocking black, blue, red and white T shapes and squares. Viewers then could follow the flying reds that spiral up and out from the grid. Known as a master of vibrating geometries and color, Mr. Richardson did not disappoint.
"Big Al" Carter and Peter Waddell both showed at the Anton Gallery, slated to close after 20 years in business. In his first exhibit at Anton in 10 years, "Stick to Your Ribs: New Work by Allen D. Carter," Mr. Carter used sticks ice cream and popsicle sticks, pickup sticks, tinker toys and dowels to delineate the gaunt faces, huge eyes and outsized hands of his pained-looking portraits.
Peter Waddell hails from New Zealand but has settled in Washington as its foremost history painter. Critics praised his Octagon Museum exhibit, "Inside the Temple of Liberty, 19th-Century Interiors of the United States Capitol," with its remarkable views of rarely seen rooms.
Mark Leithauser, artist and National Gallery design chief, showed paintings created from drawings of whimsical, fantastic insects and animals made for "Darlington's Fall," a novel in verse by his brother Brad at New York's Hollis Taggart Galleries.
Washingtonians are still recovering from last month's Art-O-Matic 2002, the free-for-all of 1,000 performing and visual artists at the Waterfront Mall in Southwest. This was the third non-juried, volunteer-organized, multi-media Art-O-Matic offering area artists an alternative to showing in local galleries.
Stars included members of MeltDown, the highly successful art-glass program at the nearby Millennium Arts Center; Barbara Kerne, who made "Journey to Immortality," a commemoration of her late father in a moving, room-size installation; Pat Goslee, who displayed small, organic, wax-based encaustic paintings; Alice Davidson Sims, who created the fascinating and bizarre "Guardians for the Children;" and Patricia Buck, who covered large walls with witty evocations of old-master prints.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden exhibited the work of two major sculptors last year, as well as 14 from "Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera." Spaniard Juan Munoz is credited with giving new life to realist sculpture. Ron Mueck, who was born in Australia and resides in London, created unsettling, superrealist figures for his "Directions Ron Mueck" show last summer. The 1960s Italian artists of Arte Povera, rebelling against the past, explored new ideas as well as unconventional materials such as metal tubing, cotton, coffee, live plants and neon.
The Corcoran and, naturally, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, devoted major shows to women. The Corcoran's "The Gilded Cage: Views of American Women, 1873-1921" collected 35 paintings illustrating the pampered lives of turn-of-the-century women.
Not to be outdone, the women's museum mounted an intriguing overview of three pioneer North and Central American female painters: Canadian Emily Carr, American Georgia O'Keeffe and Mexican Frida Kahlo. Works by the little-known Ms. Carr were the most interesting. The museum also organized "Feminism and Art: Selections From the Permanent Collection" last summer, a less-than-successful warm-up for its major exhibition of feminist Judy Chicago last fall.
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art rightfully call themselves the Smithsonian's National Asian Art Museums. Last season's high point was the Sackler's "Adventures of Hamza," a story of heroes killing giants, beheading a rhinoceros and slitting enemy throats. Another standout, still on view at the Sackler through March 9, is "The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from South India," an exhibit of the superb and rare Chola dynasty religious bronzes.
Another gem of a show was "Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints From the Anne van Biema Collection," at the Sackler through Jan. 19. It celebrates the van Biema gift of Edo period prints, mainly of Kabuki theater actors.
The National Museum of African Art opened "In and Out of Focus: Images From Central Africa, 1885-1960" in December and definitely has a hit on its hands for 2003 as well. It demonstrates how photographs first portrayed a romantic view of Central Africa, then the reality of exploited natives on rubber plantations and farms.

Graphics displays are always big in Washington, and the National Gallery's "An Artist's Artists: Jacob Kainen's Collection From Rembrandt to David Smith," still on view, shows the extraordinary print collection of the late Washington painter, printmaker, collector, writer and curator. The little-known Washington Print Club, active in the area with educational programs, tours and exhibits mounted its "Windows on Work: Building America From the Collections of the Washington Print Club" last summer.
The Textile Museum presented two extraordinary textile shows last year: one on the genesis of silk weaving, with fine examples from the museum's collection, and another on the "Classical Tradition in Anatolian Carpets," borrowed from holdings all over the world. It shows the development of Anatolian, or Turkish, weavings from the 15th to 19th centuries and is on view through Feb. 16.
An exhibit of the little-known Beauford Delaney (1901-1979) celebrated the recent reopening of the Smithsonian's Anacostia Museum and Center for African-American History and Culture. Mr. Delaney favored yellow as an expressive tool, and "Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow" shows his multifaceted approach to using this color.

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