sculpture

Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden by Todd Henson

Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, side facing the National Mall

My brother and I recently visited the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden along the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Hirshhorn is the Smithsonian museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and culture. Outside, between the museum and the National Mall, is their sculpture garden containing a wide range of sculptures, two of which I photographed. Inside is the museum, which contains several floors of artwork.

The main exhibit when we visited was a collection of Infinity Mirrors by Yayoi Kusama. This was popular enough it required (free) timed passes in advance, and they had already run out for the day. So we missed the Infinity Mirrors exhibit this time around, though I would still like to see it.

I think I still have a lot of room to grow and learn as an artist, and the Hirshhorn is a perfect reminder of that. There were many pieces of art I just didn’t get. I’m not nearly as drawn to much of the modern art out there as I am to the more traditional pieces you can find in the National Gallery of Art. But I do try to expose myself to all forms of art, both to learn from them and to try to appreciate them.

Voltri XV steel sculpture by David Smith in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

Sphere No. 6 bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

Untitled (Big Man) sculpture by Ron Meuck in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum

I’ve included a small sampling of some of the pieces I found interesting. I really enjoyed the sculpture garden. I like the Japanese feel to David Smith’s Voltri XV steel sculpture. And I was fascinated by the detail in Arnaldo Pomodoro’s bronze sculpture, Sphere No. 6.

In the museum one of the very first pieces we viewed was Ron Mueck’s untitled sculpture of a Big Man, and it is a Big Man. There’s really nothing in the photograph to give scale to the sculpture. I should have zoomed out to show the sculpture in the context of the museum room it was in, but didn’t think of it. I was amazed at the detail of the piece. It very much looked alive.

One room we entered was completely dark, and on the far wall was a painting by Hamish Fulton titled Moonrise Kent England, 30 September 1985. As you can see the painting is of a full moon (a white circle) in a dark sky (a black wall).

Moonrise Kent England, 30 September 1985, painting by Hamish Fulton in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum

One of my favorite exhibits this trip was in the inner hallway, which is a circular hallway facing the inner courtyard. The piece was titled World Time Clock by Bettina Pousttchi, and was a series of twenty-four photographs of clocks from twenty-four different time zones around the world. Each clock face has a different look, but all the photographs were created at the same local time, 1:55 PM.

World Time Clock by Bettina Pousttchi in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum

World Time Clock by Bettina Pousttchi in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum

I would certainly recommend the Hirshhorn to anyone who hasn’t visited, especially if you enjoy modern art. The exhibits change over time, so there should almost always be something new to see. I look forward to returning in the future. Let me know if you’ve ever visited the Hirshhorn and what your experiences were.



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Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial by Todd Henson

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with yellow wreath

In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday let’s take a short visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, located in West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C. The street address of the memorial is 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., referencing the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and cherry blossoms across tidal basin

The memorial opened to the public in 2011. The design, created by ROMA Design Group, centers on a large stone sculpture created by the Chinese artist Master Lei Yixin. In the sculpture Martin Luther King, Jr. is seemingly pulled from a mountain of stone behind it. The theme for this design came from part of the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech where King said, “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.” Behind all this is a curved wall of quotations facing the tidal basin, and wide walkways to accommodate large numbers visitors.

Cherry blossoms, crowds and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial across tidal basin

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial across tidal basin with Lincoln Memorial in background

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with yellow wreath and controversial drum major quote

It didn’t take long before there was some controversy surrounding the memorial. One of the quotations on the side of the main sculpture read, “I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.” This was a paraphrase from the longer, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.” Some people felt the paraphrased quote misrepresented King’s words, so in 2013 the text was removed from the sculpture.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with drum major quote

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial with stone of hope quote

I photographed the memorial both with and without the controversial quote. Seeing how things do change over time reminded me why it’s important to take the time to photograph subjects when you’re there, regardless of whether you think the photo might turn out well. Sometimes it’s more about documenting something you may never see again, or something that may never happen again. Times do change, and we won’t always have a second chance to go back and photograph it again. This is something I need to periodically be reminded of.

Long exposure showing moving crowds around Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial (drum major quote removed). This photograph is an Infrared black and white.

Another angle of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in infrared black and white

If you’d like to learn more about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial visit the National Park Service website dedicated to the memorial. And by all means, if you have the opportunity, go visit the memorial and the many others in the area. The tidal basin is especially beautiful during early spring when the cherry trees are in bloom. It gets very crowded, but it’s always worth the trip.

Profile of sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Black and white of Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, Washington Monument in background

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. The American holiday marking his birthday occurs the 3rd Monday of each January. In 2017, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is January 16.

Sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial through cherry blossoms

Sculpture at Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Some of the images in this post first appeared in Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms - 2016. A different version of an infrared image of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was posted in Infrared Experiments During National Cherry Blossom Festival. And for images of more National Park lands, including monuments and memorials around Washington, D.C., check out National Park Service Centennial.