On another hot and sticky July day, eight residents filled the bus to travel into the District for a Highlights Tour of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Docents responded to our mid-day arrival with a welcome willingness to accommodate us, delivering an informative tour of the museum’s diverse exhibits. We viewed Rodin’s sculpture, Iris, Messenger of the Gods, as we commenced the tour. Our docent then led us into an exhibit containing a series of works by abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning, along with an impressive collection of sculptural works by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti.
The Inner Ring walls of the gallery house an exhibit by Nicholas Party entitled, Sunrise, Sunset (see colorful photo) inspired by President Obama’s departure speech as he left office. Swiss artist Party has painted colorful murals directly onto the walls of the museum depicting sunrises and sunsets.
“Sunrises and sunsets are among the few moments in the day when we are reminded that the universe is vast and its measure of time infinite. This perspective, when viewed within a landscape, allows viewers a retreat from the comparatively trivial motions of daily life. By creating a new monumental mural comprised of such landscapes the purpose of this series is to encourage viewers to step back from these frenzied times and occupy a far more expansive position.”
We then viewed a fascinating exhibit contained in the Outer Ring of the Hirshhorn Museum. Recognized throughout the world for his extensive practice of bridging art and activism, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has spent his career redefining the purpose of art as “the fight for freedom.” His exhibit, TRACE, portrays individuals from around the world whom the artist and various human rights groups consider to be activists, prisoners of conscience, and advocates of free speech. The 176 portraits were created with more than 1.2 million LEGOs assembled by hand and laid in six large panels on the floor of the museum. The work centers around Ai Weiwei’s own experiences of incarceration, interrogation, and
surveillance. Note the 360-degree wallpaper installation in the photo. Entitled, The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama But Is Really an Alpaca, at first glance, the repeating graphic pattern looks merely decorative. With a close inspection, however, it reveals surveillance cameras, handcuffs, and Twitter logos, which allude to Ai Weiwei’s tweets challenging authority. Together, his LEGO artwork and wallpaper panel span nearly 700 linear feet. We were all stunned by the detail and time it would have taken to produce this work of art. We enjoyed a wonderful day together at the Hirshhorn.