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My Big DC Adventure

As the president was rushing back to DC to reinsert the wooden stake in Tom Delay's heart—wait, that's not possible—I was taking a look at the 48th Corcoran Biennial: Closer To Home. I don't get to the Corcoran very often, so this was a good excuse. If they would include me in an exhibit, I'd surely show up more often and even spend some money in the gift shop: nice T-shirts.

Closer To Home is a small show for a biennial, which is a good thing. The work is nicely laid out and given a lot of breathing room. There's nothing ground-breaking and Congress won't have a special session to decry the end of our moral values (we're in DC): it's too late for that. The artist getting the most print from the exhibit is George Condo and his wildly distorted portraits. After the initial jolt from the imagery, his work holds up: he's a skillful painter.

Corcoran Gallery of ArtKathryn Spence created colorful piles of thread (bird nests) accompanied by a series of graphite drawings of birds, and some quite stunning hand-embroidered rolls of paper towels. Another painter to note is Dana Schutz. Paintings bursting with this much florescence don't usually work for me, but these are solid, enjoyable paintings. Here is a list of all the artists in this exhibit: if you're in the area, check it out.

While you're there, the permanent collection has some 14,000 pieces, including a beautiful Bierstadt (no image available), and right next to him is Sunset In The Woods by George Inness. The Corcoran is planning a Frank Gehry addition someday [which I dubbed the Powerbook Wing last March—CTD], so there is an exhibit of architectural models and drawings of past and future projects. It's amazing that it's possible to actually build these sculptural feasts. I'm concerned about the multimillion dollar debt loads on museums due to a rash of expansions, but this would be a great addition to the Corcoran and DC.

National Museum of the American IndianI've been anxiously awaiting the opening of the National Museum of the American Indian. The beautiful organic form in sandstone has been growing on the mall for several years. It's as far removed from the gray granite and marble government buildings as it can be, and I love it. My love wanes inside though. It's a stunning, as in stun gun, overload of graphics and electronics, and the collection that I could find was weak. This could be a fabulous place. Get rid of harsh advertising graphics, open up the spaces, and focus on the objects and art. Where are the dancers? The story tellers? The totems? (The main hall should be filled with totems and large sculptures). There's so much rich heritage to pull from: this is a weak beginning. A bright spot is the media room. It's a great curved bank of some 30 computers in front a wall of glass overlooking the Capitol and the mall. This would be a fabulous place to spend research time. Come on, NMAI, you've got prime real estate: open this place up! You've just had over one million visitors in your short time open: give us a reason to return over and over. I know I sound harsh, but I expect much from this museum. There is a powerful story to tell.

I agree with Mark. For example, I don't understand why there is not something along the lines of this exhibit (mentioned here on January 7), which is coming to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and not the National Museum of the American Indian.—CTD

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