Art + Culture

Dedicated to (the Future of) Art

This weekend it was a balmy 70 degrees here in Washington, D.C. As a lover of mild weather, this weekend inspired me to trek into the District on a weekend sans restaurant plans. Because I work downtown and spend so much of my week between Farragut Square, Dupont Circle, and Foggy Bottom, I rarely venture back to those neighborhoods on my “free” days unless I’m linking up with friends for food and/or drinks. This weekend was the exception; I broke my own rules for an escape in the arts – a trip to The Renwick Gallery.

The Renwick, the part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum that is dedicated to craft and design, recently reopened in November after a two-year renovation. Designed by and named after architect James Renwick, who also designed the Smithsonian’s “Castle,” the Renwick was first opened in 1896 to display the private art collection of William Wilson Corcoran. Corcoran stated the purpose of the building was to “encourage American genius” and the museum’s mission, “Dedicated to Art” is chiseled in the building’s stone above its doorway.

Renwick Gallery Front Old

Photo Source: Blog of The Smithsonian Associates


To mark the dawn of a new period for the museum, these words have been tweaked slightly.

Renwick Gallery New Exterior

Photo Source: DRB

In keeping with its mission and focus on craft, decorative arts, and design, the inaugural exhibit, Wonder, features the contemporary works of nine artists – Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Tara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin, and Leo Villareal. Each artist took materials and refashioned them to create an interesting, imaginative sensory experience.


Chakaia Booker ANONYMOUS DONOR Renwick Gallery WONDER

ANONYMOUS DONOR by Chakaia Booker made of tires. Great sensory experience – the smell of rubber tires, and the feel of textured rubber. Photo Source: DRB

An LED lighting installation greets visitors at the top of the stairwell.

Volume by Leo Villareal Renwick Gallery

Volume by Leo Villareal Photo Source: DRB

Knotted and braided fiber suspended from the ceiling with programmable lighting and movement bring to life Janet Echelman’s 1.8.

Echelman sought to display a map of the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the 2011 Tokohu, Japan earthquake.


Janet Echelman Renwick Gallery

1.8 by Janet Echelman Photo Source: DRB

Janet Echelman Renwick Gallery

1.8 by Janet Echelman Photo Source: DRB

It was pretty cool to just lie across the floor and just look up.

1.8 by Janet Echelman Renwick Gallery WONDER

1.8 by Janet Echelman Photo Source: DRB

Tree sculpture

Middle Fork by John Grade Renwick Gallery WONDER

Middle Fork by John Grade Photo Source:DRB

In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus Renwick Gallery Wonder

In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus Photo Source: Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Jennifer Angus Renwick Wonder Insect Exhibit

In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus Insect Detail

Patrick-Dougherty Shindig Renwick Gallery WONDER Large Nest

Shindig by Patrick-Dougherty

When I shared the pictures of Tara Donovan’s creation with my friend, she replied “That’s what my apartment looked like after the bar exam.” I couldn’t help but laugh because I could totally relate.

Tara Donovan Renwick Gallery

Untitled by Tara Donovan Photo Source:DRB



Towering stacks of index cards Photo:DRB

Mystery solved! I guess we now know what happens to all of those index cards after academic exams everywhere!

My favorite piece of day, an installation by Gabriel Dawe. Made of thread fiber, the lighting and thread color created an amazing to see prism-like effect.

Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe Renwick Gallery

Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe Photo:DRB

Such a meticulously crafted beauty.

Wonder can be seen until it begins its closure in two phases in mid-2016. The second floor galleries will close May 8, 2016, and the first floor galleries will close July 10, 2016.

For more images through the eyes of others, head on over to Instagram  #RenwickGallery.

Sending you dreamy bliss,


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