February 27, 2007

Be One with the Art

Over the weekend I trekked down to the Hirshhorn museum to meet the inestimable Ms. Thorson (Esq.) and prowl the new "Refract, Reflect, Project" exhibit of light installations. The show was a mix: a few stunners, a lot of day-glo conversation fodder, a few that were particularly dated or flat. My favorite was Olafur Eliasson's "Round Rainbow" (shown right), which is a large, rotating, ring prism that creates an incredible evolving pattern in an otherwise bare room. Another one I liked was James Turrell's "Milk Run"--again, an immersive piece, so dark that your eyes have to adjust before you can see the gently glowing geometries of blue and yellow. Maureen compared it to being inside a refridgerator as someone cracks the door...this was after she mistakenly tried to walk right up and into the piece, causing a security guard to intervene.

At the periphery of the light show were a few lingering pieces from the Hirshhorn's last major exhibition, Hiroshi Sugimoto's photography. Below is one of his "theater" photographs. From the catalogue, detail on his process:
"To create each image, Sugimoto would take a long-exposure photograph of a cinema screen for the entire duration of a movie, resulting in a blank white screen. 'Different movies give different brightnesses,' he said. 'If it's an optimistic story, I usually end up with a bright screen; if it's a sad story, it's a dark screen. Occult movie? Very dark.'
The project was partly the result of wanting to make a simple form visible: 'The simplest forms have authority, like a blank white light. And how do you photograph that? You need a framework to make it visible. But this is not simply white light; it is the result of too much information.'"

I loved this show. Sugimoto's work is notable for its composition and its luminosity. He has a series of seascapes in which all chronistic references, such as ships or coastline buildings, are cropped from the horizon. What remains is an equilibrium of water and sky, distinguishable from each other only by the faintest striation of waves and clouds. The installation itself was very sophisticated: a darkened room in which only the Iris prints were lit, and they managed to do a spotlight projection that hugged each rectangular piece. 9 or so of the seascapes, from all different locales, were hung on a gently curving wall. A series of benches invited quiet contemplation.

If I were not an editor, I would try to work in a museum. Washington is filled with niches of art--the Rothko room at the Phillips, the atrium of Calder mobiles at the National Gallery, the Monet room at the Kreeger--that provide me a greater (and quieter) joy than pretty much anything else. My mother's an artist; my flatmate's an artist. It's where my gravity lies.

I'll be offline for the next few days; as a general rule, I don't lug my laptop to AWP. A full report when I return...within the past week or so I've received notice of poems accepted by both Coconut and Pebble Lake Review, so there is much to celebrate in Atlanta!


Anne Haines said...

Congrats on the acceptances! I look forward to hearing all about AWP.

Steven D. Schroeder said...

Have fun in Atlanta, and congrats on the good publications!

Ken Rumble said...

Hey Sandra,

Sugimoto's work sounds really terrific. I've been wanting to see some since I read an essay John Yau wrote about it awhile back. So the work is still there? I'm going to have to get back up to DC soon....

Also, I saw you at AWP at the Saturday night reading -- I was sitting behind you and at the bar -- but missed saying hello. I did notice, however, that you were wearing a killer skirt.

Anyway, I had a blast at AWP and hope you did, too.


Sandra said...

Thanks for the kind wishes, folks...and Ken, I'm so sorry I missed you! Yes, Sugimoto's work is terrific; unfortunately what's up now is just a handful of the theater shots. But if we cross paths the next time you're in DC, you can take a look at the exquisite catalogue book from the show.

Finally, (verbal) AWP snapshots to go up later today.