Art is so personal and subjective, it’s sometimes good to hit a reset button of sorts and visit an exhibit where you enjoy yourself so thoroughly that it’s easy to forget to feel defensive or lost. Defensive, because you feel like you may not know a lot about art in order to understand what it is you’re seeing. Lost, because the magnitude of the works laid out before you is exhausting to the point that you can’t take things in in one visit –and you don’t want to come back for more, thank you.
Yesterday, I had the good luck of previewing the Renwick Invitational’s “Visions and Revisions,” which opens officially on Friday. The exhibit is comprised of four artists’ works in different media. When exhibited together, these bodies of work challenge the viewer to see the art from a different point of view before it is fully understood. The apt name, Visions and Revisions, is not just clever word use: It is a gentle but necessary direction to every viewer, to see it and see it all again.
In media as different as bones, glass, unfired clay and porcelain, each artist develops themes of loss, change, perspective and identity. Some of the pieces are so beautiful that you want to dive into them and get lost in their creaminess, delicateness or icy glassiness. Other pieces draw you in with nostalgia, then sucker-punch you into understanding that maybe what you knew was not right– it was so very wrong. If you allow yourself the time, you will find a piece with which you may connect deeply. I connected with about half the room, but my strongest reaction the first time around came from Kristen Morgin’s Mighty Mouse (2006), a piece so delightful and yet ominous and brutish that it took me to some dark corners of my childhood in the time I took to make its picture.
If you go:
What: The Renwick Invitational’s “Visions and Revisions.”
When: Opens Friday, September 9, 2016. Open through January 8, 2017.
Where: Smithsonian’s American Arm Museum, Renwick Gallery, 1661 Pennsylvania Avenue NW