renwick gallery

12.03.2015

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to visit the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. The Renwick Gallery is part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and has just re-opened following a 2-year renovation. As you can imagine, it was packed!

The exhibition on display was called ‘Wonder’, and I truly recommend it. Though there are few art pieces altogether, each one fills-up an entire room, and redefines the notion of what modern-day sculptures and installations can be. The variety of pieces, artists and materials made the interactive exhibit extremely fun to navigate through.

The first piece when you walk in is a stalagmite-like world created by Tara Donovan using stacks and stacks of paper cards.

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This piece by Gabriel Dawe is mesmerizing primarily because when walking around it, your eyes become confused trying to understand how the sculpture was built, and trying to adjust to the delicate string, which appears sharp when looked at directly, but soft and blurry when seen from the corner of the eye.

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Patrick Dougherty’s piece was made of several giant bird-nest like structures, all created by twisting branches onto one another.

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John Grade was the only artist to have two pieces on display. Both sculptures were made by casting real trees, then using the shape to re-create the structure using small, glued-together pieces of wood, and sanding them down. Like a large-scale Kapla game! The result is breathtaking, especially with the larger piece.

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Leo Villareal’s piece hangs above the staircase as you ascend to the second floor. His hanging light installation makes me think of a majestic, delicate and modern chandelier.

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Janet Echelman transformed the museum’s largest room into a soothing, colorful haven. Using loosely woven colorful fabric hung from the ceiling and light projections, she referrenced the heat maps of an earthquake. (I could be remembering this wrong, so please correct me if you know better!)

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Maya Lin’s piece consisted of marbles taking over a room, to re-create the shape of the Chesapeake.

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Jennifer Angus’ piece was my favorite – probably due to the tremendous amount of intricate details. Using real insects, she created patterns, shapes and decorations to fill an entire room. From a distance, it looks like regular (albeit beautiful) wallpaper – but come up close and you might squeal if you’re not a fan of insects. What’s more – she created the magenta background color using pigment extracted from the insects themselves.

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