A Quick Trip to the Museums (2 cents)

Last Sunday, I took the opportunity to visit a number of Washington museums to see some temporary exhibits. I found some of them very interesting; others I could have done without.

My original goal was to see the exhibit of contemporary Argentine art at the Ridley Center. More than 80 pieces by more than 30 artists, I was disappointed in that most of them seemed mediocre at best, only a few of interest, and all of them depressing, depressing, depressing. Do we really have to see a second rate portrait of Eva Peron eating the intestines of Che Guevara?

From there, I walked through the exhibit of art by Haitian children following the earthquake. Art as healing. These were drawings by elementary school children – none of them had the characteristics I am used to seeing in Haitian art, although the colors were often bright and appealing. One thing, though: even though the childrens’ lives had just been totally upheaved (I know, that’s not a word, but it should be) by the earthquake, they were much less depressing than the Argentinian pieces.

Through the underground passageway from the Ripley to the National Museum of African Art. Much of the exhibit space is closed for new installations, but there is one exhibit (on the first exhibit floor – one floor below ground level) of selections from the permanent collection. This is a beautiful exhibit. Every piece is worth looking at, and the signage, organization, backdrops, and lighting are extraordinary. Highly recommended.

One more thing about this museum. There is a small exhibit called Brave New World. In this exhibit, is a video/mirror piece by a man named Theo Eshetu. I don’t want to spoil your surprise, and am not sure I could describe it anyway. This is a must-see. Highly, highly recommended.

From the African Art Museum, I went to the National Building Museum. I went there to see the exhibit on World Fairs of the 1930s. I don’t recommend this one, much to my dismay since I am a World Fair fan. Not that they don’t have a lot of interesting world fair ephemera, they do. But the exhibit is so over-cluttered that I just couldn’t look at it. I had to escape as quickly as I could.

The trip to this museum was not a complete loss, though. There is another exhibit on the 16th century architect and architectural historian Andrea Palladio – it was everything the world fair exhibit was not. Beautifully displayed drawings, books, models, and photographs, and excellent explanatory material. Palladio as historian of Roman architecture, Palladio as draftsman and architect, Palladio as author, Palladio as inspiration for later (and particularly for American) architects. Highly recommended.

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