Spencer Finch, Passing Cloud, (394 L Street NW, Washington, D.C., July 7, 2010), 2010, dimensions variable. Fluorescent light fixtures and lamps, filters, monofilament, and clothespins. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin. Photo: Chan Chao.
“I see the President almost every day, as I happen to live where he passes to or from his lodgings out of town…. I saw him this morning about 8 ½ coming to business, riding on Vermont avenue, near L street…. Mr. Lincoln on the saddle generally rides a good-sized, easy going gray horse, is dress’d in plain black, somewhat rusty and dusty, wears a black stiff hat, and looks about as ordinary in attire, &c., as the commonest man…. I see very plainly Abraham Lincoln’s dark brown face, with the deep-cut lines, the eyes, always to me with a deep latent sadness in the expression. We have got so that we exchange bows, and very cordial ones.”
– Walt Whitman, “ Abraham Lincoln,” No. 45 (August 12, 1863), Specimen Days in Prose Works, Philadelphia: David McKay, 1892, p. 43.
Spencer Finch, Open Cloud (64 Ways of Looking at a Storm Cloud, after Constable), 2010. Fluorescent light fixtures and lamps with filters and welded aluminum structure, 192 x 156 x 156 in. Courtesy of the artist and Rhona Hoffman, Chicago. Photo: Denny Henry.
In the summer of 1863, poet Walt Whitman and President Abraham Lincoln crossed paths. Even though Whitman had never actually met the President, he truly believed that they shared a personal bond. A relationship defined by human nature’s yearning for a connection. And with President Lincoln’s undeniable charisma and accessibility, it was most likely a relationship most of his constituents believed they boasted as well. Although years have passed, and the President now rides a limousine named ‘The Beast’ instead of “gray horse”, the attraction that continues to draw many visitors to DC today is the prospect of sharing a single moment in time with their magnetic leader.
NOW at the Corcoran is the museum’s answer to ramping up the context of their historical collections. “As a contemporary art museum, it is a natural place for thinking about new art, making new art, and displaying new art, and that is what the NOW program is all about,” says Sarah Newman, Curator of Contemporary Art. For the series of exhibitions, the museum will present new and site-specific work by emerging and mid-career artists.
NOW at the Corcoran’s inaugural exhibition presents new work by artist Spencer Finch. Finch could easily be classified as a scientist, in addition to artist, because his body of work most often sits at the intersection between these two professions. He is best known for his investigation of the elusive, attempting to reconstruct an obscure experience or sensation, while at the same time openly recognizing the hopelessness of the endeavor. In My Business, With the Cloud, Finch attempts to “make something solid out of air, and explores the nature of our desire to do so”, much like that of the romantic relationship explored above. He studies everything from NASA satellite imagery to atmospheric patterns, and represents his findings through abstract and eye-catching paintings, photographs, and installations.
Passing Cloud, the installation Finch created specifically for the Corcoran’s Rotunda, attempts to capture a brief moment in time through representation of a passing cloud. As a site-specific installation, Finch replicates the light and shadow of a passing cloud at the corner of Vermont Avenue and L Street on August 12, 1863, the spot at which Whitman waited and watched the President ride by. Using theater gels, crumbled into cloud-like forms, Finch portrays an intangible concept through the most mysterious matter of them all. The clouds in the sky will always keep moving, just like the moments that define our lives.
Both the aesthetics and historical context of the installation makes it quite intriguing, one that any Washingtonian would appreciate, however, the conception behind Finch’s work may not sit well with everyone. The desperation surrounding the artificial cloud is enough to turn any optimist into a pessimist. Yet, no matter how you full or empty you see your glass, one thing is for sure, Spencer Finch is truly fascinating.
Spencer Finch will be giving a lecture on his work at the Corcoran Gallery of Art this evening, December 14th, at 7 p.m.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art is giving away two FREE tickets to one lucky We Love DC reader. To enter, just leave a comment on this post by 3:00 p.m. today! The winner will be notified shortly after.
To purchase your own tickets please click here.
My Business, With the Cloud will close on January 23, 2011; however, the rotunda installation will continue to be exhibited through the month of February.