Saturday, December 31, 2005

Best. Painting. Ever.

I'm serious. I love this painting. It was in the film The Royal Tenenbaums. This is titled Bad Route. See the website here. I'm not sure who the artist is, it may be Miguel Calderon.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Somehow apropos for the ending of this year.

looking back

Scanning the blogs, it seems like the thing to do right now is come up with some sort of top ten list for the year. I've only been here (as a blogger) since June, and my memory isn't very good, so not sure I'll be able to be that organized. I may come up with a randomized list of things I liked, lame as that would be.

Anyway, snagged from Eyeteeth, Paul Schmelzer wrote in February on Divinity for the Reality-Based Community. Since this subject most likely won't go away any time soon, it's still relevant.
Art, it seems, allows us to ponder the sacred in non-dogmatic terms --i.e. divinity for the reality-based community. Of course now is not the heyday for that bunch. But perhaps there's hope in what theologian Finley Eversole called a "spiritual underground." For him the term referred to a complex notion that artists who confront the emptiness of a godless world-- writing in 1963, he was thinking of Rothko, Pollock, and de Kooning--connect us to the holy by presenting its inverse: "If our artists have been incapable of religious faith, they have at least shown us that modern man is incapable of unfaith." But I suggest that artists make up a spiritual underground in a different sense. While many mainstream religions are being hijacked by rigid fundamentalists, contemporary artists make up a loose-knit band of the covertly spiritual. If artists of the "secular mystery" can create work that resists co-optation by religious and political ideologues, perhaps we can call on them in more enlightened times to reacquaint us with the joys of asking questions we don't yet have the answers for.
Spirituality and art has been something of an ongoing theme in this blog so far, oddly enough, so I appreciated Paul's entry. I haven't put enough thought into the subject to be very coherent about it. Maybe next year!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


Last day in Michigan. Luckily I brought the warmer weather with me and it's been in the 30's. Yeah, I lived here most of my life but the past five years in Washington have eroded my immunity to cold (i.e. below 10 degrees) temperatures.

Lots of cookies were eaten, gifts were given. Got to play with my two-year-old nephew, who is into very repetitive games. I got a book on Chuck Close and a trip to the Rodin/Claudel exhibit for Christmas, and a replica of a Rodin hand. The exhibit was great, I'll write about it when I get back to the East Coast.

Tomorrow will bring the joy of air travel. I'm not exactly tall and I feel squished, I can't imagine what it's like for anyone 6 feet or more.

Back to work on Thursday.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


One more thing, over at NEWSgrist... as a radical militant library technician I found this hilarious. Not to mention disturbing.

One internal F.B.I. message, sent in October 2003, criticized the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review at the Justice Department, which reviews and approves terrorist warrants, as regularly blocking requests from the F.B.I. to use a section of the antiterrorism law that gave the bureau broader authority to demand records from institutions like banks, Internet providers and libraries.
"While radical militant librarians kick us around, true terrorists benefit from OIPR's failure to let us use the tools given to us," read the e-mail message, which was sent by an unidentified F.B.I. official. "This should be an OIPR priority!!!"
Yeah Yeah, so this is just barely art related, but hey.

Here's another take on the subject from the Rogue Scholar. And I got this one in an email at work yesterday from a colleague... just know your interlibrary loans may get you into more trouble than you'd think.

And one more: Radical Militant Librarians and Other Dire Threats

Salz on Art Criticism

Picked up from several places, yeah, everybody's talking about it. But, it's worth a read.

From Jerry Salz - Seeing Out Loud

The best critics look for the same things in contemporary criticism that they look for in contemporary art. But they also have an eye. Having an eye in criticism is as important as having an ear in music. It means discerning the original from the derivative, the inspired from the smart, the remarkable from the common, and not looking at art in narrow, academic, or "objective" ways. It means engaging uncertainty and contingency, suspending disbelief, and trying to create a place for doubt, unpredictability, curiosity, and openness.

Dishearteningly, many critics have ideas but no eye. They rarely work outside their comfort zone, are always trying to reign art in, turn it into a seminar or a clique, or write cerebral, unreadable texts on mediocre work. There's nothing wrong with writing about weak art as long as you acknowledge the work's shortcomings. Seeing as much art as you can is how you learn to see. Listening very carefully to how you see, gauging the levels of perception, perplexity, conjecture, emotional and intellectual response, and psychic effect, is how you learn to see better.

Edward Winkleman has a response. There's a pretty good discussion in the comment section.
With art, in New York City, there's no such guarantee you'll ever know [whether a critic liked a show], even when you know they saw it, even for the largest artists or most powerful galleries. If The New York Times, for example, on average, publishes 7 major reviews and two articles in each Friday edition, that totals about 470 reviews each year. The problem is there are more about 470 exhibitions per month*, meaning that more than 11/12ths of all exhibitions will not be reviewed in the Times. For the Village Voice, the number of reviews is fewer than half that. So if you are the lucky artist who gets a review, you've already beaten incredible odds. At that point, for the review to be unfavorable seems almost cruel.


Will be out of town for the next week visiting my family. Wish me luck, it was 9 degrees in Detroit this morning!!

I may sporadically post over the next week but don't take that as a promise...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

art and influence

Mery Lynn McCorkle writes in her December entry:
Art is a commodity. In art school, in art history classes, it's promoted as a search for meaning but it's a commodity, even when designed to be temporary and outside of the commodity market. Then documentation becomes the commodity. Art reviews exist mostly to tell readers what to buy, other artists what to emulate. One Charlie Finch review at was about what art he would like to buy as he strolled through NY galleries. Consumerism is so much easier than trying to develop a coherent observation.
This is such a hard topic to grapple with - it really gets down to what art means to our (capitalist) society, if art can have any meaning and value at all in such a society that transcends commodity. It's not a new struggle - the artists of the sixties and seventies tried to escape the trap of commodification of their art through locating them in remote locations (earthworks) or making them ephemeral (performance, conceptual art) and yet, as McCorkle points out, even these attempts were sucked back into the system through their documentation once the artist became known.

Sometimes, perhaps naively, I think that museums (especially public institutions) can partially transcend this by showing art in a location that isn't directly linked to buying and selling. Only, the system is so interdependent (museums depend on the gallery system for the most part in order to sift out the wheat from the chaff, as it were, and even public museums depend increasingly on the contributions of corporations and wealthy patrons to remain open) that to view museums as "pure" is ridiculous.

Art with a capital A has never been "pure", outside of the influence of one institution or another - from the Renaissance patron system, to the Church, and before that art either served religion (organized or not) or culture (as functional objects reflecting the beliefs of a society). But at the same time, the most interesting art in my view has always pushed at that influence, either with the wish to undermine it, critique it, or just expand its horizons.

Anyway, many many writers have dealt with this more coherently and eloquently than I could, but it's a question that remains on my mind.

What's in a name?

Reading Off the Wall : a portrait of Robert Rauschenberg by Calvin Tomkins.

Did you know Rauschenberg's given name is Milton?? Milton Rauschenberg really doesn't have the same ring to it.

I've just started the book, but so far I'm enjoying Tomkins' easy-going, engaging style.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

theory theory theory

I only have a vague grasp of high level art theory. Some of the ideas I find interesting, others baffling (such how has anything remotely Freudian lingers in the humanities when it's pretty much out of use everywhere else??) and the rest inpenetrable.

Interesting article with some relevence to contemporary art, since so much of the theory of the last 30-40 years has been drawn from literary theory. Mostly about how the teaching of theory is changing in universities and that even pro-theory scholars are rethinking how it's used.

The Fragmentation of Literary Theory

In the 40 years since Derrida paid that visit to Johns Hopkins, succeeding generations of scholars have had time to fall in love with theory, fall out of love with it, and learn how to live with it. As in any long-term relationship, there's a continuing re-evaluation and reimagining of what works and what does not. Rei Terada, chairwoman of comparative literature at the University of California at Irvine, says: "As the 60s becomes a historical period... we can make finer distinctions and groupings among things that seemed all of a piece closer to the time. ... People are starting to sort out such legacies." No one still believes, for instance, "that all French theory is politically progressive," she says.

...theory is the impenetrable postmodernist stuff that has given many a canon-loving student the heebie-jeebies since the French critic Roland Barthes declared authorship dead amid the intellectual and political tumult of 1968. And since that moment, wave upon critical wave has swept through literature departments: structuralism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, Marxism, psychoanalysis, New Historicism, feminism, postcolonialism, cultural studies.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Durig and Rodin

The following is an excerpt from a larger paper on the problem of forgeries of Rodin drawings. I previously posted a very rough version here. For the sake of clarity I have cut out my footnotes, if you are interested in my sources email me. Please don't reproduce this essay without my permission.

Though his exploits gained him a certain level of fame in the 1930s, Ernst Durig was never to reach the artistic heights of his idol, Auguste Rodin. Born in Switzerland in 1894 to devout Catholic parents, Ernst Durig’s driving ambition was to become a great sculptor. At age eighteen Durig hitchhiked to Paris with hopes of meeting the great Rodin. He claimed throughout his life to have been Rodin's last student. Among Rodin’s published correspondence is a letter from 1905 supposedly from the master instructing “Monsieur Durig” about treatment of a portrait bust of Marcelin Berthelot. While Rodin did indeed sculpt a bust of Berthelot in 1905, it seems unlikely that Durig was the original recipient of this letter, as he would have been nine years old at the time. In a 1948 pamphlet of his sculpture, Durig published another letter written by his idol praising Durig’s talent. To prove his relationship to the artist Durig apparently inserted his name in the body of an authentic letter written by Rodin. While it remains uncertain just how Durig acquired Rodin’s correspondence, his alleged relationship with the artist was at the least exaggerated. However false his claims, Durig did meet Rodin. He owned a photograph of himself as a young man posing next to the sculptor, allegedly taken in Rome in 1915.

It wasn’t enough for Durig to be known as the last student of Auguste Rodin. He seemed to feel the need to surpass the legend. Durig spread the story that he was asked to take over the sculpting of a bust of Pope Benedictus XV from Rodin in 1915, after Rodin’s use of calipers to take measurements angered the pope. Durig claimed that his finished marble was placed in the museum of the Vatican. Rodin, who Durig would continue to use as something of a calling card for the rest of his life, died in 1917. Durig was twenty-three.

According to Dorothy Seiberling in Life Magazine, Durig spent several years with the Papal Guard before settling in Florence, where he was arrested and spent several months in an asylum for harassing an American woman. After his family secured his release, Durig made the acquaintance of the poet Rainier Maria Rilke, who had served as Rodin’s secretary. Rilke introduced him to a wealthy widow whom Durig married. Durig sculpted Pope Pius XI in 1924 and his sculpture The Marathon Runner was “acclaimed by Mussolini as Rome’s most outstanding sculpture of 1926.” Sometime in the late 1920s Durig and his family left Europe for the United States.

Active in Washington, D.C. from about 1930, Durig attained tabloid notoriety in the city. In 1933 his wife reported him missing. There was no sign of him for a month, and the day after his equally mysterious return he and his family were evicted from their home for non-payment of rent. The major D.C. newspapers published a number of sensational articles surrounding the events, with photographs of Durig's possessions and sculptures set out on the curb. The articles at the time claimed that Durig attempted to destroy many of his works in anger. Both Durig and his wife made paranoid comments to reporters regarding a "powerful political enemy" who was hindering Durig's artistic career.

Though he claimed to be Rodin's pupil Ernst Durig failed to absorb any lessons from the artist. While his busts do capture a likeness they are often lifeless. Closer in style to social realism than to Rodin, Durig’s figurative sculpture is mediocre and derivative. The Peace Monument, for example, features a woman gripping a sagging soldier. The composition is awkward, the soldier’s bent legs stiff. There is little sense of the strong emotion Rodin conveyed through his modeling of the figure.

Throughout his career Durig continued to pursue notables, sculpting Mussolini, Harry S. Truman and the poet Tagore, though he was paid for few of these. Offering to sculpt a famous figure for his personal collection, Durig would grow angry when the subject then declined to purchase the bust. In 1937 Durig and his family were present at the dedication of his Peace Memorial in Greenwood WI, for which the city paid him the cost of materials. Durig's wife and adopted daughter were killed in a car accident sometime after this, possibly around 1950. Durig's life went downhill after their death. In 1958 he was admitted to the hospital suffering from malnutrition and the next year he was taken to St. Elizabeth's hospital in Washington, where he died on November 4, 1962.

After Durig’s death a chest of papers was discovered in a storage room at St. Elizabeth’s. The find included many letters written by Rodin and over a hundred "Rodin" drawings. Sotheby's initially authenticated the drawings in 1965 and agreed to auction them to repay the city for Durig's care. By March of 1965, however, Sotheby's declined to auction the drawings due to questions about the attribution. Several months later Life Magazine published their expose of Durig's forgery.

Exhibitions of Rodin’s works on paper were common throughout the period Durig was active. Claiming they were a gift, Durig staged exhibitions of his personal collection of Rodin drawings in Washington, D.C. in 1934 and at Leonard Clayton Gallery in New York in 1937. Of the latter show a reviewer writes “[t]hat Rodin was a master is...evident in these dashing sketches...” which must have pleased Durig immensely, if these were indeed his own work.

Kirk Varnedoe dates the start of Durig’s career as a forger in the United States to 1928. In his discussion of the major forgers of Rodin's drawings Varnedoe describes the characteristics of Durig’s work. He wrote that Durig had no preference for a particular size, media or format and imitated different periods of Rodin’s career. Durig did not shy away from difficult poses, often recreating authentic, published drawings. Though Durig grasped the importance of Rodin’s achievement, stating that “[t]hese later drawings of Rodin’s are better than the early ones because they are more simple and direct, and therefore, more powerful...” he was unable to convey this in his forgeries. While Rodin’s work on paper showed a reduction to essentials and undying curiosity about the human form, Durig focused on details over the whole and displayed no sense of the effect of gravity on the body. His figures typically appear to float unmoored on the page. Unlike Rodin, in Durig’s drawings male-female embraces and combinations of three women are common. As with the other forgers Durig had a favorite body type: large, muscular women with broad shoulders and thick joints, the structure of their bodies ambiguous. The nipples of his women in profile are drawn as separate small circles, an as a loose loop in frontal views. Though not as formulaic as other Rodin forgers, Durig displayed a varied ability with anatomy and tended toward quick, broken marks that lack Rodin’s close observation. His washes are more dense and even than Rodin’s, the flesh often too pink or yellow.

Ernst Durig failed to gain success on the strength of Rodin’s name. Unable to support himself with his legitimate work or his career as a forger, Durig died penniless. Several writers have commented that Durig’s forgery seems to have been motivated more from an overwhelming hero-worship than greed. Despite his failures, he achieved some measure of immortality by the very fact that his forgeries continue to be traded on the market. For decades, Durig’s fame as Rodin’s student was unquestioned proof of authenticity of his forgeries, since they supposedly came directly to Durig from the artist. According to Varnedoe, Durig’s “Rodins” are often found in large groups and have been frequently published, sold in galleries and at auction, and placed in museum collections.

text copyright 2005 Amy Watson

Gallery Talk at the Hirshhorn

The Work of Leonardo Drew
Friday, December 16, 12:30 pm
Meet at the Information Desk
Discover the artist's work and his use of ordinary materials with program specialist Teresia Bush.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Borf Pleads Guilty

With Guilty Plea, Borf to Try the Art of Graffiti Cleanup

edit: I probably should have included some background for the non-DC reader, but don't have time right this minute.

Via DC Art News, here's Borf - And The Crimes And Punishments Of Graffiti Artists Who Are Allowed To Get Away With Murder, wherein James Bailey compares the damages of one teenage graffiti artist with... larger destructive forces.
Hopefully, Judge Leibovitz will next order that all the banned art supplies in D.C. be channeled down South to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. There's a desperate need for graffiti art supplies down there. And while we're on the subject of punishing graffiti artists, there aren’t enough prisons in the country to lock-up the hundreds of thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims turned angry graffiti artists who are feverishly spray painting graffiti that expresses their true feelings about being abandoned by their government all over the debris they continue to drag out of their lost homes and broken lives.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

George W. Bush as Performance Artist

It's... oddly convincing. See here. Not sure what this says about art. It works both as a parody of current art and art writing and politics as well...
In November of 1994, he became simulated Governor of Texas by actually being elected Governor of Texas. Thereafter, his artistic career has flourished. By simulating a deep understanding of evangelical Christians, he gained in popularity unlike any other artists in history. The shockwave caused by his seminal work “Presidential Election 2000” was felt throughout the world. By becoming simulated President of the United States, he has achieved the ultimate goal of many artists: To change the world through art.
And... on the Iraq war...
In terms of originality, this piece is significant for several reasons. 1) It was the most expensive art ever made in history, realized entirely with public funding. 2) It was designed with no ending in mind. 3) It was viewed by the entire world in real time.

Snagged from Black Cat Bone.

Alice Neel @ NMWA

It's such a weird building, the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Very... pink. The lobby, anyway. The collection seems very eclectic.

The Alice Neel exhibition is worth seeing. Very intense portraits of women, never idealized, but never showing flaws just for the sake of flaws, either. Some of the paintings almost border on caricature. I love that Neel painted such a variety of sitters, from intellects to maids. And I love how you can see some of the women's discomfort at the scrutiny of portraiture. From the website:
Selecting her subjects based on outward attributes that revealed inner selves, these images remain unfailingly, and often disconcertingly, honest.
Many of the bodies are twisted and awkward, even (maybe especially) the pregnant women. Her pregnant women are probably the most interesting to me. In one of the captions Neel is quoted saying she thinks that artists have shied away from painting pregnant women because they're "sissies." (The artists, of course, not the women!) I think Alice Neel must have been quite a character to know.

Friday, December 09, 2005


This is a park in my hometown, Kalamazoo, MI. Photo by trekguy on the Kalamazoo Flickr. It's actually Milham Park, even though I titled the photo Bronson Park. Bronson Park is below, again by trekguy.

Chapel of Sacred Mirrors

Last time I was in New York I stumbled across the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. I had been wandering through the galleries in Chelsea for hours and was kinda burnt out on the "white box" experience. At another time I might have found the Chapel either ridiculous or creepy, but at that particular day it was fascinating. According to the website,
The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) is a sanctuary in New York City for contemplation and a center for events encouraging the creative spirit. The Sacred Mirrors, on display in the Chapel, are a series of paintings that allow us to see ourselves and each other as reflections of the divine.
The Chapel is the work of artist Alex Grey. At first I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be some kind of installation art piece, or the work of a cult. Turns out it's a bit like the combination of the two. Not that there is a Chapel Cult, per se, just that you get an odd vibe from the rooms, like you're entering the sacred space of an alien religion, from an alternative universe just this side of the everyday one you live in.

There are two major rooms, separated by a small entryway/shop. The right hand room contains the Sacred Mirrors, 21 paintings installed in a very specifically designed space, full of red and gold and circular mirrors. The paintings themselves are close to human-sized, each in a cathedral-door shaped frame. They are hung in a specific sequence around the room, much like the Stations of the Cross in a Catholic church. Starting with The Material World, the silouette of a man on a field made up of the Periodic Table of Elements, they range through several anatomical works (Skeletal System, Nervous System, etc.), then male and female examples of three major races of the world. After these (the weakest, due to a somewhat generic rendering of each race) comes four paintings of spiritual systems - my favorite being the Psychic Energy System with it's simultaneous portrayal of nerves, bones and chakras, and emitting a kind of crackling lightening (for SciFi fans out there it doesn't look unlike a quickening from Highlander, but not in a silly way). Lastly there are three representations of religious figures (Christ, Sophia, Avalokitesvara) and a more abstract work titled Spiritual World.

They're a mixed bag as individual works, but together they form an interesting space. As I said before, the racial paintings bothered me because of their blandness, and blonde Christs always annoy me. I was drawn to Sophia, even though she's covered with weird eyes and seems to have an alien fetus in her chest. The anatomical works are cool. They could have been boring, too much like medical illustrations, but somehow avoid that.

The second room contains another series, Progress of the Soul. This room, painted in yellows, doesn't have the impact of the Mirrors, but some of the paintings are more successful. I especially liked Praying.

From what I've gathered, the artist uses psychotropic substances to reach a mystical state, and his art is a representation of these visions.

In an interview, Grey states
My work scares some people because the Divine Imagination can be a scary place, which anybody who has tripped knows is true. It's not only that you see scary monsters, or experience your own death, or dissolve into a network of infinite light, but that such all enveloping visions severely challenge any conventional "non-mystical, non-visionary" worldview. Anyone who admits the existence of these boundless inner dimensions realizes they have profound implications about what we believe reality is. Blake and other visionaries knew these dimensions first hand and now with LSD and DMT nearly anyone who has the guts and the curiosity can be introduced to some aspect of the terrain. But we have to remember that during his day, Blake was regarded by many as totally mad.
And, regarding locating his work in a "chapel" as opposed to a gallery,
A secular art gallery or museum is not the proper place for spiritual art. In order to work most effectively, spiritual art requires a sacred setting. The sacred art and architecture of previous cultures have always been sites of initiationinto their unique and culturally bound understanding of spiritual reality. The tribal myths and dogmas that keep religions at war are not the mystical truths at the heart of each religion. Today, a more embracing and universal spirituality is possible. The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors would be dedicated to fostering such interfaith and post-denominational spiritual understanding.
Some of the paintings are a little too drug-trippy to me, they don't connect to my unaltered consciousness. I'm not denying that these experiences are real, just that some of the paintings go a bit over the top, like Cosmic Christ. Maybe in these cases the vision is just too individual, even as it strives to be universal.

Whatever his spiritual beliefs, Grey is an amazing painter at times, managing to achieve a level of transparent detail in his x-rayed figures that doesn't fall into flat illustration. He's obviously more than just a trip-obsessed deadhead - not only are the paintings meticulous in detail, he's clearly studied both Christian and Buddhist religious art closely, and while his art shows these influences it is still very much his own. I admire his very unique vision, and the determination to exist outside the gallery system.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Washington Art events

DC Art News has a great post on upcoming art events in Washington.


A. Salon Holiday Sale and Show, December 10th, 5-8 pm.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Upcoming Hirshhorn Events

Film & Meet the Artist: Alfredo Jaar
Wednesday, December 7, 7:30 pm
Chilean-born artist Alfredo Jaar returns to filmmaking in Muxima, 2005, a meditation on contemporary life in Angola. He will introduce the film, which elegantly relates the disparity of wealth, the rise of HIV/AIDS, and the legacy of years of civil strife. This stunning portrait of an emerging nation is a mostly wordless documentary of impressions organized into cantos. Each has a subtly different version of the popular Kimbundu folk song "Muxima (Heart)." English subtitles.

Lunchtime Gyroscope Talk: Ann Hamilton's Palimpsest Dec 9, 2005 at 12:30pmThe Hirshhorn's Anne Ellegood will explore Ann Hamilton's Palimpsest, 1989. This recently acquired installation-which consists of a room covered with beeswax tablets, thousands of slips of paper containing handwritten texts, and a vitrine filled with snails that gradually eat away at heads of cabbage-evokes the complex layering and gradual decay of memory. Meet at the Information Desk.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lone Star Report

Critic Noah Simblist checks in from Dallas with a new Lone Star Report.


New piece from Joseph Barbaccia.

Marriage, 2005, clay and salad tongs.

I'm fascinated by Joseph's utensil sculptures. They are familiar and disturbing. Uncanny. I'm not a huge fan of Freudian interpretation of art, but here's an excerpt from his essay The Uncanny...
...if this is indeed the secret nature of the uncanny, we can understand why linguistic usage has extended das Heimliche [‘homely’] into its opposite, das Unheimliche...; for this uncanny is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression.
Those hands grasp each other, flesh and mechanism combined. Salad tongs are such an everyday thing, an extension of our hands, a utensil we use at family gatherings. And yet the addition of the hands makes them into an unknown. The thought of using these hands to serve up salad is... creepy. But it's a simple and appropriate metaphor, too. Neither hand alone can accomplish anything... but working together, in concert, they work like... well, a well-crafted utensil. Like a good marriage should.

Friday, December 02, 2005

New acquisitions at the Hirshhorn

Hirshhorn Museum Acquires 15 Contemporary Works of Art

The Hirshhorn Museum has acquired a number of important works of art by established and emerging contemporary artists, including Olafur Eliasson, Lynda Benglis, Lorna Simpson, Thomas Demand, Janet Cardiff and more. Working in variedmedia and representing a diverse mix of creative minds from around the world, these artists express provocative ideas and pose questions about contemporary society. The majority of these works were gifts from board members and other supporters.

Some of my favorites, of those I've seen so far are...

...Olafur Eliasson's “Round Rainbow” (2005), which combines a spotlight mounted on a tripod and a circle of acrylic glass. This device transforms a gallery into a dynamic canvas bathed in rainbows of light and shadow. In a work that is scientific in one respect and sensual in another, the installation brings a phenomenon usually experienced in nature into the museum, encouraging people to interact with their environment in new ways.

And also this very fun piece which was installed briefly in the Lerner Room and I hope will return soon...
Janet Cardiff's “Feedback” (2004) is an interactive sound piece that plays a Jimi Hendrix rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” when the visitor steps on a wah-wah pedal.
"Feedback" is *really* loud. Shockingly loud. And while the Lerner room was a temporary location (the piece will probably occupy its own room, as far as I understand) it was ironically appropriate, with a view of the Capital and the National Archives as you blast "The Star Spangled Banner" loud enough to frighten unwary museum-goers.

(Image of installation at Delta Axis)