May 13, 2011
Friday, May 13 Not Your Father’s Planetarium Show
Cosmic Collisions, a planetarium show, is the story of a speeding comet that collides with Earth’s atmosphere. Zipping along at 40 million years per second, the film takes visitors on a journey through time and space that includes colossal impacts and exciting explosions. Scientific visualizations, images from NASA and advanced simulation and imaging technology enhance the experience. Seven shows daily, beginning at 11:00 AM. Tickets are $6.50 members, $9.00 adult (13-and up), $8.00 senior, $7.50 youth (2-12 years old). Albert Einstein Planetarium at the National Air & Space Museum
Saturday, May 14 “Metropolis” with live musical accompaniment
Silent Orchestra returns to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery to premiere an original score for the classic film Metropolis. This 1927 silent German film is set in a society divided into two classes: one of planners and managers who live in luxury, and one of workers who live and work underground. Check out the interview of these film score producers at the Eye Level. 3:00 PM. Free, but tickets required; available in the G Street lobby thirty minutes prior to the screening. American Art Museum
Sunday, May 15 Stripmall Ballads
The Smithsonian American Art Museum says that Edward Mitchell Bannister lived his entire life by the sea and probably made this painting, Untitled (moon over a harbor, wharf scene with full moon and masts of boats), while he was living in Boston in the late 1860s. Although he never traveled abroad, Bannister was influenced by late 19th-century French landscape painting, which shows in his thick brushstrokes, subdued colors and simple compositions. In the painting misty colors and bleak landscape create a mysterious scene, as if Bannister had painted it in the middle of the night. View Bannister’s work of the moonlit harbor and hear more about its creator at 1:30 PM, followed by Stripmall Ballads, contemporary folk music at 2:00 PM. Free. American Art Museum
April 28, 2011
Friday, April 29 Poets & Painters
Celebrate National Poetry Month! Use the paintings at the museum to inspire your poetry. View the paintings and read poetry aloud, followed by a discussion of the artwork. Free. 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. American Art Gallery. Madeline Andre and Arcynta Ali-Childs blogged about poets in the Smithsonian collections.
Saturday, April 30 Meet Andrew Young
Civil rights leader Andrew Young will discuss his experience working with Martin Luther King Jr., and his own role in American history. Young will also sign copies of his book Walk in My Shoes: Conversations between a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey. Free. 2 PM. National Portrait Gallery. Related exhibition: “The Struggle for Justice” National Portrait Gallery
Sunday, May 1 Restoring the Kabul Museum
Learn about the ongoing restoration of the Kabul Museum, as explored in Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. This internationally touring exhibition, though currently not on view at a Smithsonian museum in DC, presents more than 200 objects thought to have been destroyed or stolen from the museum before they were recovered in Afghanistan in 2004. Deborah Klimburg-Salter will give her presentation, “Twice Buried, Twice Found: Reinventing the National Museum of Afghanistan, Kabul.” Free. 2 PM Freer Gallery of Art
January 11, 2011
Whether you pronounce it “twenty eleven” or “two thousand eleven;” whether you’re looking forward to it being The Year of the Rabbit, The Year of the Tablet, or The International Year of Chemistry, we’d like to send you off the right way, with a list of The Top 11 Things you should definitely find time to do around the Smithsonian this year.
1. What could be cuter than four lion cubs? Well, how about seven. The first four cubs—John, Fahari, Zuri, and Lelie — were born to mother Shera back in August of 2010. And a month later, three more cubs—Baruti, Aslan, and Lusaka—were born to Shera’s sister, Nababiep. Luke, the Zoo’s male lion, is the father. These births mark the first time in more than 20 years that the National Zoo has had lion cubs, so don’t miss out!
2. Need a respite from the dreary winter weather? Check out the Orchids—A View from the East exhibit, (Jan. 29- April 24), at the National Museum of Natural History. Enjoy their beauty and learn about their uses in and importance to various areas of Chinese culture. And if you like orchids, the Sackler Gallery is complimenting the live display with 20 works that celebrate the graceful flower as it appears in Chinese paintings. That show opens January 15 and runs through July 17.
3. In other cultural news, is the U.S. post-racial? Can it ever be? And more importantly, how can we ever expect to get beyond race without first understanding exactly what it is? Well, the Natural History Museum’s traveling exhibit, Race: Are We So Different? seeks to help us figure it all out. Opening June 18, the show promises to challenge what we already think we know about race.
4. Five, four, three, two, one. The countdown has begun to the final mission of NASA’s space shuttle program, scheduled for this year. It’s the perfect opportunity to visit the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Whether you’re interested in space shuttles, military aircraft, rockets, or missiles, the hangars at Udvar-Hazy have got you covered. Literally.
5. It has been said that diamonds are forever and that hope springs eternal, so we can expect the Hope Diamond to be around for a while. But its temporary setting, “Embracing Hope,” designed by Harry Winston to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the jewel’s donation to the Natural History Museum, won’t be. Chosen from three designs in a competition last year, it’s a certified stunner. Intrigued yet? Check out the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary film, “Mystery of the Hope Diamond” to get the whole story.
6. And speaking of anniversaries, it’s the sesquicentennial of The Civil War and the Smithsonian has got you covered. Take a step back into the history you thought you knew, with exhibits covering the scope of the war from Lincoln’s legacy, and wartime realities told through artifacts and images, to the black experience pre- and post-emancipation, told through art and artifacts. Continue to check out gosmithsonian.com for your complete guide to the events discussing the Civil War.
7. Pop quiz! What do the buffalo, the great sequoia, Niagara Falls, the gun, the railroad and the clock all have in common? The answer: They all inspired creative thinking. How? Find out when the exhibit, The Great American Hall of Wonders opens July 15 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
8. Feeling crafty? Join in a celebration of both the function and the artistic form featuring the works of artists Cliff Lee (ceramics), Matthias Pliessnig (furniture), Judith Schaechter (glass) and Ubalo Vitali (silver), during the Renwick Craft Invitational, opening March 25 at the Renwick Gallery.
9. Each year, the National Mall transforms into the destination for culture, art, music, food and fun during the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, one of the ATM team’s favorite events. Join us for this year’s celebration, June 30-July 4 and July 7-11, where the focus will be on Colombia, the Peace Corps (in honor of their 50th birthday), and Rhythm and Blues in America. Come learn about how their contributions have added to the rich fabric of our society and to see what folklife is all about.
10. You’re probably familiar with the work of Alexander Calder—the abstract sculptures, the vibrant colors, and the wire mobiles—and have seen it gracing the grounds and galleries at the Hirshhorn. But be sure not to miss the new exhibition, “A New Language,” featuring his three-dimensional wire portraits of iconic figures like Josephine Baker, Babe Ruth, and Charles Lindbergh on display at the Portrait Gallery beginning March 11.
11. If you’ve never been to Hawaii, the National Museum of the American Indian’s annual Hawai’i Festival (May 21- 22) is the next best thing. Enjoy music, dancing, food, and films. And be sure to check out the museum’s “This IS Hawai’i” exhibition to see works from contemporary Hawaiian artists as they explore what it means to be “Hawaiian,” starting May 19.
For more great ideas, updates, help planning your trip, or just directions around the Smithsonian, visit gosmithsonian.com.
November 23, 2010
A strange other world recently emerged in the third floor galleries at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It’s a vivid, surreal land where cities are swamped by floods, man-size mosquitoes taunt ecotourists in the night, cows and pigs and chickens are re-engineered to look more ani-meal than animal, and microorganisms grow huge and threatening.
This is our future as seen by New York artist Alexis Rockman in a show entitled “A Fable For Tomorrow,” which opened November 19. The title is borrowed from the prologue of environmentalist Rachel Carson’s epic 1962 book, Silent Spring. There, Carson chillingly foretold of the dangers the world faced as it grew increasingly dependent upon chemical pesticides. Carson’s book launched the environmental movement and is credited with helping to usher in the ban on DDT.
As did Carson’s work, Rockman’s apocalyptic fable emerges from the artist’s admirable reserve of research and scholarship. In this show, artist and scientist are one; and the museum’s mid-career retrospective of the 48-year-old painter is also a provocative commentary on biodiversity, genetic engineering and global climate change. Rockman frequently consults with scientists and researchers before he begins his work. The artist has contributed to several publications and has taught at both Columbia and Harvard Universities.
Curator Joanna Marsh says the interdisciplinary approach makes Rockman a “master of merging fact and fiction.” The show, she says, is a perfect example of how the Smithsonian Institution itself has long formed a tradition of embracing the “intersection and the interplay of art and science.”
And in fact one of Rockman’s friends and mentors is Thomas Lovejoy, who served as the Smithsonian’s assistant secretary from 1987 to 1994 and was the scientist who coined the term, “biological diversity.” In our December issue, Lovejoy says Rockman’s paintings depict “a surrealism that is seriously anchored in reality.” (Learn more about Rockman in Cathleen McGuigan’s article “Picturing Tomorrow.”)
“I’m picking through the debris,” said Rockman at a recent press preview. His 2006 work, Hollywood at Night (above) reduces the famous California hillside to a lost civilization where the city of Los Angeles is barely distinguishable in the distance, its lights and power extinguished. All that is left to sparkle are the moon and the fireflies.
But all is not lost and dreary in this fabled world, the final gallery explodes with the seven-panel, 2007 painting entitled, South. A glorious floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall panorama depicts in chill blues and grays the place where immense glacier meets water—a sight the artist took in aboard a cruise ship on an expedition he took to the Antarctic Peninsula. The work, housed in a dead-end cave of a gallery, lends a sense of cautious hopefulness to the dreary depictions on the walls of the other galleries. But in order to leave the exhibition, visitors must first retrace their steps once again back through Rockman’s disquieting Tale of Tomorrow.
September 2, 2010
Don’t miss out on these world-class exhibits, closing soon at the Smithsonian museums:
Closing 9/06 – “Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2009,” National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery presents 49 of the finalists’ works that were selected from the second triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. Dave Woody, winner of the competition, received the grand prize of $25,000 and an opportunity to create a portrait for the Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. The competition invited artists working in the figurative arts to submit portraits of people close to them. Submissions were accepted in all visual arts media, including film, video, and digital animation. Through January 18, 2010, the public can vote online or on-site for the artwork to receive the People’s Choice Award.
Closing 9/12 – “Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers,” Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
The first American retrospective in nearly 30 years of this highly influential French artist’s career examines his life and work from the mid-1950s to his untimely death in 1962. Artist, composer, judo master, Rosicrucian, proto-conceptualist, and performance artist, Klein was a multifaceted talent who believed in the transformative power of art. In his series, including the Monochromes, Anthropometries, Cosmogonies, Air Architecture, Fire Paintings, Sponge Reliefs, and Actions, Klein sought to place the immaterial at the heart of his work.
Closing 9/26 – “Christo and Jean-Claude: Remembering the ‘Running Fence’,” American Art Museum
On view are nearly 50 preparatory drawings and collages, along with photographs, film, and components, that document the creation and installation of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s epic project the Running Fence, Sonoma and Marin Counties, California, 1972-76, a white fabric and steel-pole fence, 24 1/2 miles long and 18 feet high, that ran across the properties of 59 ranchers in Sonoma and Marin Counties north of San Francisco. The project attracted far wider public involvement than any previous work of art, including 18 public hearings, three sessions in the Superior Court of California, and the first environmental impact report ever done for a work of art. Paid for entirely by the artists, the Running Fence existed for only two weeks and survives today as a memory and through the artwork and documentation of the artists.
Closing 9/26 – “From FDR to Obama: Presidents on TIME,” National Portrait Gallery
Regardless of how newsworthy a person may be, there is no magic formula for getting one’s picture on the cover of Time magazine, with one exception: the president of the United States. Founded in 1923, Time has put on its cover all incumbent presidents from Warren Harding to Barack Obama, with the exception of Herbert Hoover. Beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, this exhibition explores the modern presidency through the covers of America’s oldest and most recognized weekly news magazine. The show includes approximately 30 works of presidential cover art, representing a variety of mediums, from traditional oil paintings to a pop-art sculpture bust of Richard Nixon made from strips of newspaper headlines.
*Private Collection. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo by Shunk-Kender, © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, courtesy Yves Klein Archives