Holiday Arts Preview: Visual Arts

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Gordon Parks Self-Portrait, 1941 gelatin silver print sheet: 50.8 × 40.64 cm (20 × 16 in.) Private Collection

NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

Gordon Parks: The New Tide,
Early Work 1940–1950
Through Feb. 18

Within just a decade, Gordon Parks (1912–2006) grew from a self-taught portrait photographer and photojournalist to a visionary professional, becoming in 1949 the first African American photographer at Life magazine. For the first time, this exhibition provides a detailed look at Parks’s early evolution, also demonstrating how he influenced and was inspired by a network of creative and intellectual figures that included Charles White, Roy Stryker, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. Featuring some 150 photographs, as well as rare magazines, newspapers, pamphlets and books, the exhibition opens with Parks’s elegant society portraits, which established his career as a professional photographer in Saint Paul and Minneapolis. It continues through his 1942 Julius Rosenwald Fund fellowship, in which he spent a year “portraying the Negro in his intellectual, professional, educational, social, farm, and urban life”; a variety of projects for government organizations and private corporations; and later assignments for major fashion and lifestyle magazines, including Ebony, Circuit’s Smart Woman and Glamour, in addition to his freelance work and early photo essays for Life.

RENWICK GALLERY, SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM

Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018
Opens Nov. 9

The eighth installment of the Renwick Invitational, a biennial showcase for mid-career and emerging craft artists, “Disrupting Craft” presents the work of four artists who are challenging the conventional definitions of the craft by imbuing it with a renewed sense of purpose, developing responses to the contemporary political landscape while analyzing their own cultural histories. Tanya Aguiñiga (b. 1978) infuses natural fibers with a performative and often surreal quality that reveals raw personal narratives with a scope of universality. Sharif Bey (b. 1974) interweaves his roles as educator, father and ceramicist, exploring cultural histories and identity with works that range from the utilitarian to the sculptural and purely abstract. Dustin Farnsworth (b. 1983) manipulates wood into haunting storylines that inhabit intricately detailed portraits of today’s youth. Stephanie Syjuco (b. 1974) uses social practice and the tropes of craft to challenge our perceptions of “types” in contemporary America, uncovering the manifestation of the handmade within digital processes and virtual networks of dissemination.

(LAST CHANCE) NATIONAL GALLERY OF ART

Sense of Humor
Through Jan. 6

Prints and drawings have consistently served as popular media for humor in art. Prints, which can be widely replicated and distributed, are ideal for institutional mockery and social criticism, while drawings, unmediated and private, allow for free rein of the imagination. “Sense of Humor” celebrates the rich yet often overlooked tradition of humor in works on paper from the 15th to the 20th century. Emerging in the Renaissance, satires and caricatures began gaining popularity by poking fun at the human condition using archetypal figures from mythology and folklore. By the 20th century, this style of art had become a genre in itself: cartoons. Works by cartoonists such as R. Crumb, George Herriman and Winsor McCay are presented alongside mainstream artists like Calder, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. From Renaissance caricature to British satire in the 18th century and counterculture comics of the late 1960s, the show features a vast and giddying range of artists, including Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Jacques Callot, William Hogarth, Francisco de Goya, Honoré Daumier, Roger Brown, the Guerrilla Girls and Art Spiegelman.

“Asta su abuelo (“As far back as his grandfather”) from “Los caprichos,” 1799. Francisco de Goya. Courtesy NGA.

DUMBARTON OAKS

Juggling the Middle Ages
Through Feb. 28

“Le Jongleur de Notre Dame,” or “Our Lady’s Tumbler,” is one of the earliest modern Western affirmations of the importance of art. A juggler gives up his career to join a monastery. There, he sees the monks worshipping a statue of the Virgin Mary. Struggling to think of a gift worthy of her, he decides to perform a juggling act before her statue. Mary, moved by his generous gift, blesses him. Featuring more than 100 objects — including stained-glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, household objects and vintage theater posters — “Juggling the Middle Ages” follows the tale from its rediscovery by scholars in the 1870s to its modern interpretations in children’s books, allowing visitors to consider the role of the Middle Ages in the fashioning of modernity, for example in Gothic Revival architecture and films inspired by Arthurian legend.

An artifact in the exhibition “Juggling the Middle Ages” at Dumbarton Oaks. Courtesy Dumbarton Oaks.

NATIONAL BUILDING MUSEUM

Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering
Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters
Opens Nov. 17

Since its first Nickelodeon opened in 1905, Baltimore, a thriving industrial epicenter at the dawn of the cinematic age, has been home to more than 240 movie theaters, many of them grand and historic. Only a handful still function as theaters, while others survive like ghosts on the streets of Charm City in such forms as pharmacies and churches. “Flickering Treasures” invites visitors to travel in time through a survey of Baltimore’s moviegoing past from 1896 to the present, using photography, oral histories, architectural fragments and theater ephemera to illuminate themes of memory, loss and preservation. Throughout, works by photojournalist Amy Davis offer contemporary views of these often abandoned spaces, alongside archival images depicting the rise and fall of an industrial metropolis, illuminating the impact of social and economic upheaval on the city. Through the lens of theater design, construction and use, the exhibition engages with a familiar architectural form that few have likely considered in relation to urban history.

Parkway Ð 5 West North Avenue, 2012 — The auditorium retains much of its Baroque glory, despite more than three decades of abandonment. ItÕs now the Maryland Film FestivalÕs home.
CREDIT LINE: From “Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters,” by Amy Davis. Used with permission.

HIRSHHORN MUSEUM

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer: Pulse
Through April 28

Three major installations from Mexican Canadian artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s “Pulse” series come together in the Hirshhorn’s largest interactive technology exhibition to date. Known for straddling the line between art, technology and design, Lozano-Hemmer (b. 1967) has filled the museum’s entire second level with immersive environments that use heart-rate sensors to create kinetic and audiovisual experiences from visitors’ own biometric data. Over the course of six months, “Pulse” will animate the vital signs of hundreds of thousands of participants. Each installation captures biometric signatures and visualizes them as repetitive sequences of flashing lights, panning soundscapes, rippling waves and animated fingerprints. The exhibition begins with Pulse Index, which records participants’ fingerprints at the same time as it detects their heart rates, displaying data from the last 10,000 users on a scaled grid of massive projections. With Pulse Tank, sensors turn each visitor’s pulse into ripples on illuminated water tanks, creating ever-changing patterns reflected on the gallery walls.

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