Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Artists Virgil Marti and Pae White, in their first museum collaboration, transform the Hirshhorn’s lobby into an immersive environment of color, light and texture. The exhibition includes sculptures in the form of functional couches covered by rich tapestries that employ the technique of tromp l’oeil; bright, ornate chandeliers; a boldly patterned window treatment; and a dramatic gold “bone curtain.” Their work combines nature-inspired forms, such as poison ivy and antlers, with other unconventional design elements, including newspaper headlines and macramé. Responding to the museum’s late modernist architecture, the collaborators seamlessly create a space that evokes retro and contemporary design, as well as high art and popular culture. “Directions—Virgil Marti and Pae White” is on view from March 9 through July 29.
Marti and White have worked together once before. During the summer of 1990, while in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, they published a biweekly newspaper as an homage to an abandoned, unadorned study room. It was at this time that they began to consider the value of questioning whether or not what they were making was art. Ultimately, the two settled on the pointlessness of the debate, a topic Marti recently reflected upon while taping a Hirshhorn podcast.
“A mediocre painting is categorized as art, but that doesn’t make it better than a really great lamp,” he said. “A lamp could still be interesting, even if it’s not categorized as art.”
“The artists are interested in the poetic movement of Art Nouveau, as evidenced in their use of complex, decorative, organic forms, while thematically linking to Conceptual art by exploring the definitions, materials and display of art,” said exhibition curator Milena Kalinovska.
Virgil Marti (born 1962, St. Louis; lives and works in Philadelphia) earned a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the School of Fine Arts at Washington University in 1984 and a master’s degree in fine arts from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1990. His work has been exhibited since 1990 and is most recently included in the 2007 Biennale de Montréal in Canada.
Pae White (born 1963, Pasadena, California; lives and works in Los Angeles) earned a bachelor’s degree from Scripps College, Claremont and a master’s degree in fine arts from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. She has been exhibiting her work in galleries and museums internationally since 1990 and has been selected to participate in the 2007 Sculpture Projects in Munster, Germany.
“Directions—Virgil Marti and Pae White” is organized by the Hirshhorn’s director of public programs Milena Kalinovska. Support for the “Directions” series is generously provided by the Trellis Fund. Additional funding is provided by the Durfee Foundation, Carol and Arthur Goldberg and Nancy and Stanley Singer.
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Smithsonian’s museum of international modern and contemporary art, encompasses some 11,500 paintings, sculptures, mixed media installations and works on paper. The Hirshhorn maintains an active exhibition program and offers an array of free public programs that explore the art of our time. The museum, located at Independence Avenue and Seventh Street S.W., is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25), and admission is free.
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