Winter 2016/17 Must-See Exhibits in Washington DC Cindy Carlsson shares a few favorites

Are you in Washington DC over the holidays?

Even if the weather is frightful, there are always plenty of museums to visit . . . and several have spectacular temporary exhibits right now.

Visions and Revisions: Renwick Gallery Invitational 2016

The Renwick Gallery features contemporary American craft and decorative arts from the Smithsonian collections. After being closed for two years, the newly redesigned galleries reopened just a few weeks ago – which is really cool.

But right now this year’s Renwick Gallery Invitational (on exhibit through January 16, 2017) also features the work of four very different artists who share a fascination with transformation, ruin, and rebirth.

Jennifer Trask

Jenifer Trask combines mostly natural materials in intriguing ways to create elaborate assemblages.

Norwood Viviano

Norwood Viviano explores the rise and fall of cities, turning changes in population, industry, and land use into art that is equally beautiful and intriguing. He has two installations on display at the Renwick: Global Cities and Mining Industries.

Global Cities uses hanging blown glass pendants (like large Christmas ornaments) to illustrate population change over time in 29 cities around the world.

To add context, the floor below the installation shows the location of each city, with a historical timeline imprinted on the wall behind.

In Mining Industries, Viviano focuses on changes in density and industrial development in American cities such as Boston, Houston, New York City, and Lowell, Massachusetts.

These cast glass pieces simulate the city’s current land use, while site maps layered within each piece – and visible from the bottom via mirrors – show the city’s peak industrial land use.

Kristen Morgin

Kristen Morgin transforms raw, unfired clay into bits of old-fashioned Americana. Two separate approaches are included in the show: clay objects so lifelike they are can be mistaken for antique store finds and rough clay sculptures that appear to be in an advanced stage of decay.

Steven Young Lee

Steven Young Lee is a clay artist working in a mix of Eastern and Western traditions.

While he creates very nice classic pottery, he’s noted for his “ruined” vessels – pieces which are intentionally designed to appear damaged.

Bonus: Janet Echelman 1.8 Renwick

Created for an earlier exhibit, Janet Echelman's luminous network of light and waves remains on exhibit into spring. Visit it now for the best Zen experience in the District.

Janet Echelman named this work for the 1.8 microseconds taken from the length of the day when the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

The drape of the hand-woven net (made from 51 miles of twine) and the pattern in the carpet below (created from discarded fishing nets) are inspired by data points that show the Tsunami’s movement across the Pacific Ocean.

The Art of the Qur'an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts at the Sackler Gallery

The Sackler Gallery is presenting The Art of the Qur'an: Treasures from the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts (through Feburary 20th.) The exhibit features beautiful historic Qur’ans from early in the 8th century to through the 17th century, many of which were owned by sultans and other powerful leaders.

Each Qur’an on display is a work of art, with beautiful calligraphy and glowing illuminations, but the exhibit also delves into the meaning of each text exhibited and its role within the larger text allowing visitors to put them into a bit of context.

For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw at the National Museum of the American Indian

For a Love of His People: The Photography of Horace Poolaw is a retrospective of Poolaw's images of the Kiowa community in rural Oklahoma during a period of tremendous change.

Poolaw’s photos give us a glimpse of a community that is both traditional and modern. They are without the outside perceptions so often seen in photographs of native peoples. The difference is well explained by Poolaw’s grandson, who recalled seeing a photo of well-dressed family members by their car when he was a child. John Poolaw explains:

Until I saw this particular photo, the only other [historical photos] I had seen of Indians were the occasional images in textbooks, which were most often boarding-school portraits in which the Indians always appeared to be sad and stiff. I enjoyed seeing my grandpa’s photo of sharply dressed Indians by a shiny car—they all looked so happy.

It was only later in life that he realized that all of the modern young people in his father’s photographs probably also spoke Kiowa and carried out their traditional customs.

I found it even more fascinating that they were able to do so and look so care-free, confident, and elegant in adapting to their changing worlds.

Bingata! Only in Okinawa at the Textile Museum

If you are looking for something bright and cheerful to counteract a cold dark winter day, head over to the Textile Museum at George Washington University for Bingata! Only in Okinawa (through January 30, 2017).

The show draws on a textile tradition unique to Japan’s southernmost prefecture. An independent kingdom until 1873, Okinawa had its own language, culture, and textile traditions.

Among these unique traditions is bingata, a printing technique noted for bright color and intricate patterns.

If you get to Washington DC in the next month, stop in to see these wonderful exhibits before they disappear.

Winter 2016/17 Must-See Exhibits in Washington DC

December 2016

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