Corcoran Makes Me Dizzy

I guess the Corcoran Gallery makes me dizzy in a good way and in a bad way.

In a good way, the Thomas Downing room made my eyes go in and out of focus, pop around the paintings as they recognized different colors patterns.  The painting at left, Ring Five, is similar to his other Spot Paintings.  The circles of color are arranged in patterns of symmetry that seem to move and shift on the canvas.  The Downing paintings are well arranged and reside in  their own room on the second floor, right next door to his teacher, Sam Gilliam’s.

It’s the rest of the Corcoran that makes me dizzy in a bad way.  The permanent collection paintings, that is everything before 1900, are stuck on the walls on the first floor in a jumbled mess.  There doesn’t seem to be much reason for all this except that they just have too many good paintings.  The Gilbert Stuart Washington and the Frank Church paintings are the only ones to have much respect paid them on the walls.  The others are hung high and low, with the glare off the higher ones making them nearly impossible to see.  Come on, Corcoran, you have my $10, now show me you know what you’re doing.

Living in DC, I can be choosy with my museum patronage.  If I can see amazing art at the Hirshhorn and the National Gallery for free, why would I pay actual money for thoughtless presentation?

Case in point: I will always be happy to pay $10 to visit the Phillips Collection.  I have never been disappointed there, not by standing speechless in the enclosed Rothko room, not by getting up close and staring at Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, not even by the Lucian Freuds (which are certainly not for everyone).

A convenient time to try out the Phillips is the Phillips After Five program.  Every Thursday, the Collection stays open late for live music, mostly jazz, and a cash bar.  It’s a good time to mix culture with society, if you’re not already.

So, yes.  The Corcoran disappointed me.  But I will be back for the Off The Walls student art sale from December 9-11 in the North Atrium.  I look forward to the art students, alumni and faculty blowing my mind.  If I by anything, I will arrange it myself.


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