Four Hands // Bill Viola // Black-and-white video polyptych on four LCD flat panels, continuously running // 2001
“The Moving Portrait,” an exhibition dedicated to media and video works by Bill Viola, were on view in the National Portrait Gallery in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Viola uses events from the past, both historical and personal, to create his works. “The Raft,” was inspired by Theodore Gericault’s 1818-1819 “The Raft of the Medusa,” which depicted a French shipwreck near Senegal in 1816. However, instead of a raft of shipwrecked men, Viola shows men and women being knocked down by crashing water. As they rise the water comes and knocks them down again. This video projection was made for the 2004 Athens Olympics. While this work was inspired by a historical event and a past painting, “The Dreamers” was influenced by Viola’s near-drowning as a child. This work consists of seven video screens of seven individuals suspended in water. One of the individuals is Viola himself.
The Raft // Bill Viola // Color high-definition video projection 5.1 channels of surround sound, duration: 10:33 minutes // 2004
The Dreamers // Bill Viola // Seven channels of color high-definition video on seven plasma displays: four channels of stereo sound, continuously running // Performers (L) Gleb Kaminer (R)Rebekah Rife // 2013
Man with a Briefcase // Jonathan Borofsky // COR-TEN steel // 1979-1988
A colossal statue of a 27 foot tall man sporting a hat and carrying a briefcase is located outside the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C. This figure resembles the classic image of a typical salesman, walking door to door. This subject is a reoccurring theme by Borofsky, seen in other large scale statues in cities such as Forth Worth, TX and Minneapolis, MN. This particular statue is a newly acquired work by SAAM.
Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii // Nam June Paik // forty-nine-channel closed-circuit video installation, neon, steel & electronic components
Located in the heart of our nation’s capital is an art museum dedicated to acquiring and exhibiting American art. Known as SAAM, the Smithsonian American Art Museum has an extensive collection of works including early America, the 19th and 20th centuries and portraiture, to name a few. Here are a few that caught my eye.
Snails Space with Vari-Lites, “Painting as Performance” // David Hockney // oil & acrylic on canvas with Vari Lights // 1995-1996
Drag-on // Karin Davie // oil on canvas // 1999
Sculpture Group Symbolizing World’s Communication in the Atomic Age // Harry Bertoia // brazed & welded brass & bronze // 1959
Nenuphar // Alexander Calder // sheet steel // 1968
William Jefferson Clinton (Forty-second president) // Chuck Close // oil on canvas // 2006
Tableau Noir // Alexander Calder // painted steel // 1970 // 140 x 145 x 140 in