Friday, July 9, 2010

Trip to Washington D.C.

I finally decided to write up a bit about my trip to Washington D.C. a few weeks ago. First off. It took about 6 hours to drive down there. What a journey driving in my car, I like driving in it as it's quite comfortable to ride in. I got to D.C. and when I reached the city, I immediately forgot a turn I was supposed to take, and ended up spending another 20 Minutes trying to get back to where I needed to go to make it to the hotel. D.C. can be even worse than NYC with their roads. NYC is way more efficient in their uses of road planning than D.C. is. I do not recommend driving through D.C. if you aren't already used to it. Take a cab or go on the trains and then walk the rest of the way.

I finally got to my hotel which is called the Embassy Inn, not a bad place, but not worth the $160 a night to stay there. I ended up in a basement room which barely had any air conditioning. No view whatsoever, but you don't go to D.C. to stay in a hotel all the time. I don't know why these places never have a mini-fridge so I can keep drinks cool. They are not dedicated to customer service I guess.

Joseph Marioni speaking on Robert Ryman.

I met up with Joseph Marioni, Wade Wilson and Paul Rodgers after checking in. We all decided to meet up later at the Phillips Collection to hear Marioni's talk on Robert Ryman, which BTW was intense. I got to walk to the Phillips with Wade and we quickly got to know each other and found out we have a lot of the same thoughts on many fronts.

The Phillips Collection is an awesome place for modern art, and also for portraiture and landscape painters of the past. Lots of fantastic painting in that place. They had a wonderful small De Kooning that I was interested to see. Though it's always hard to view a painting behind a piece of glass. I was searching for a wonderful Guston painting from the 50's but alas they must have put it in storage. That was a real let down for me, as it's the only Guston from his Ab-Ex period that i've gotten to see and it's quite stunning.

The Rothko Room as always is quite amazing. Always a very quiet place for introspection. The lighting in there seemed to be even darker than I remembered from the last time I witnessed the room. The paintings always look so somber in there. The tension within the paintings really get's one in the gut, twisting your insides, only letting you go when you finally decide to leave the room.

Friday, the four of us decided on another trip to the Phillips where Marioni told us about the ways he is planning on doing his show there next year. I can't wait to see the show. I know with Joe's love for art and how things are situated will make the rooms look quite exquisite.

Next up was visiting the Hirshhorn Museum and the BIG Yves Klein show. Oh man, it was amazing to finally see these 12 ft wide paintings you only ever dreamed about seeing. The scale is overwhelming when you've only ever seen them in a book. Times like these make me think that art books should always be very big to help give you a slightly better sense of the scale of the paintings. It is amazing to get to walk around a show, well shows with all the extra rooms of art they have at the Hirshhorn, with a group of gentlemen that REALLY know their art. I felt like not only was I getting to finally see these paintings, but I was getting history lessons and painting lessons at the same time. After the Klein show, we escalated up to the third floor to see their permanent collection. Which included a room of four HUGE Clyfford Still paintings. I think each one was about the same size. One blue painting in particular really grabbed me and didn't want to let go. I felt like to really take this room in, I would have had to stand...they didn't have a bench in that front of each painting for a few hours and really soak in it's aura.

The Sugimoto room really messes with your head as you walk in there. The room was almost completely dark, other than a set of I think 6 large format photographs of his famous seascapes. All lit with theatre lighting to really keep each photograph under it's own special light, not disturbing the others. Another room I wish I could spend a day inside. Along with the Satie like music coming from the film next door, it really made for an ominous room. I made sure to pick up the Klein book there, which is the most photographic intense book on Klein ever produced. I also made a point to pick up the DVD there, which is an hour long documentary on Klein that is very in depth and allows you to see so much more video of Yves than seen before.

After that was the NGA. But this time it was only myself and Joe. As Wade had a meeting and was also meeting up with Painter Jill Moser. Joe went almost right for the Barnett Newman room with all the Stations of the Cross paintings. I gotta admit that the room does look way better than before. They have closed it off from the other rooms that were behind it, so now it is it's own space. I think they even lowered the lighting a bit as the paintings looked really great in this new room. Outside the room they had Helen Frankenthaler's Mountains and Sea painting, which is known as the first of the Color-Field paintings. So pleased was I to finally get to see this monumental painting. Which after repeated viewings, really began to look like an abstracted painting of flowers, and not necessarily a color-field painting. It was amazing that Helen let the NGA have it for a time, THANKS Helen for letting me finally get to see this amazing painting!

After a while we finally met back up with Wade and I got to meet Jill Moser, who I've known of since 99 when she had a show at Jan Maiden Fine Art in Columbus Ohio. That place was the eye opener of my life. I got to learn of oh so many amazing painters that she had shown. We all went right back to the Newman room. I think maybe Joe wanted to set up camp in there, I could tell he Really dug that room, as I did. Now I just wish that the NGA had a big "Who's Afraid" painting, so I didn't have to go across the pond to see one. We finally made it to the Rothko Room in the tower a bit before the place closed for the day. Man what a sight....I made sure to let them all walk way ahead of me so when I saw it for the first time my view wasn't blocked by anyone. Seeing a group of paintings like that really does make you feel small and insignificant. Which is what Mark was probably going for when making them. That along with the Morton Feldman "Rothko Chapel" playing in the room made for a very serious and ominous feeling that just kind of penetrated your core. I can only wish that I can see it again and there not be anyone else in the room to walk past me next time. I wish Paul could've seen it with us, but i'm sure he's probably seen it when it first came up. He had to head back to NYC that day. And after we finished our viewing of the NGA, we all took Jill to the train station too so she could head back home. I tell ya it must be nice to know you are only an hour or so train ride from NYC to DC. But I guess like anything, you do it so often and eventually you take it for granted.

The next day was pretty much packing, hanging out a bit with Wade and Joe, and heading home. Another fine trip to DC under my belt. I definitely think next time I'm not going in summer and i'm going to stay a few extra days to really see more museums and galleries. We did go to the Lincoln Monument and the Vietnam Memorial along with walking down the mall to see the WWII memorial. All amazing monuments dedicated to those who helped shape and protect our country.

Here's the photos from my trip...enjoy.

That first look was amazing.

I always look at the edges. It's really one of the best ways to take pics of these paintings.

Joe standing with the Rothkos.

From Joe's talk at the Phillips. That's Wade and Paul. Not taken very well...but it's a great memory for me.

The night sky above DuPont Circle.

Anthony Caro in the NGA. It was one of his "ledge" pieces.

Joseph Marioni: The Painter and Wade Wilson at the Memorial.

Joseph Marioni and Myself at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Washington Monument as seen from the Lincoln Memorial.

The WWII Memorial.


  1. Thanks for telling us about your trip to D.C.
    Would love to have heard Joseph's talk on Robert Ryman. Ryman's work usually leaves me cold, but I'm sure Joseph could shed some light on things for me, given the previous discussion of his own work you posted.
    I often get the sense of abstracted images instead of "fields of color" from looking at Frankenthaler's work, but I've only seen a few in person.
    How were those Rothko's in comparison to others you've seen?

  2. Hello William. Thanks for your insights bro. I'll see if Joe is interested in letting his treatise on Ryman be available on the net, so you can read it for yourself.

    The Mountains and Sea was only the 2nd work of her's I had seen, the other was one from the Columbus Museum of Art. It's one with basically just a big blue field over the natural canvas. It's really a good painting IMO. But I would love to see a show of her's in NYC to really get to see her work.

    The Rothko's are always hard to discern from other paintings. There are always pieces one likes better than another. They have obviously been made with better quality paints than the seagram painting that the NGA has to show. Probably made with the same quality paints as a few of the others they have up for view in the NGA. I would like to see these paintings in a smaller room like the Rothko Room at the Phillips to kinda dive into them though.


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