There’s something about the approach of the winter season that always makes me want to drift away in a museum, quieting my mind by reflecting on art. A recent sojourn to the Phillips Collection to see the Intersections series did just that, and I encourage you to check it out.
Too often art collections can become hidebound and resistant to change. But this museum’s founder Duncan Phillips referred to his collection as the “experiment station,” welcoming artist interaction with radical installations unusual for their time. Intersections seeks to revisit Phillips’ vision by engaging modern artists to create unique works inspired by permanent pieces in the collection. Utilizing physical space that might otherwise be overlooked, these works will help you look at the surrounding pieces with a fresh eye.
There are currently three works on display as part of this series. Let’s start with a bunch of granite suspended on plain black cord.
Washington artist Barbara Liotta’s hypnotic Icarus sculpture hangs from the ceiling of an almost empty gallery, tonally matched with portraits by Delacroix, Modigliani and Soutine. It’s a deceptively simply piece bringing to mind both the weightlessness and weight of flight. Earthy granite chunks form a swooping backbone, like the wings of a bird or some strange dinosaur fossil. Contemplate it from all angles and see how it changes. I found it a gorgeous work of art. It’s on display until January 31, 2010.
Jennifer Wen Ma’s video projection Brain Storm is another haunting piece, tucked into a bare room with a yellow tile fireplace. Silhouettes of a man and a horse journey through a black-and-white landscape that mutates, while they remain the same. A rising storm of sound eventually drowns them out. It’s a beautiful evocation of travel, of solitary determination, paired with similar themed works by Cezanne, Dove and Kandinsky. On display until January 3, 2010.
The third installation is Tayo Heuser’s Pulse sculptures, placed up the museum’s elliptical stairwell. The most effective use of what would otherwise be dead space, they’re inspired by the Mark Rothko collection at Phillips and deserve a close look. What initially looks like stone surface is actually very thin handmade paper molded into fluid shapes and painted in ink. They will be in place the longest, until October 31, 2010.
Intersections will continue through next year and rotate installations through 2011. I’m excited to see what’s next and spend other afternoons being quietly challenged by art.
The Phillips Collection
1600 21st Street NW
Washington, DC 20009