The Renwick Gallery, the 156-year-old building part of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., has a new mission in life. It reopened last week in a grand fashion with Wonder, an exhibition of nine contemporary artists who each took over a room in the newly-remodeled space. The exhibition will run for the next six months.
Above image: Chakaia Booker, Anonymous Donor, 2015. Photograph by Ron Blunt.
Two years and $30 million in renovations left the Renwick with an updated design and a new philosophical outlook. Renwick director Elizabeth Broun told the New York Times that the institution will now focus on “craftsmanship in a digital age.” More than that, Broun wants to see art that is not cloistered and instead “looks out.” The new mission can be seen in the computer-aided installations and in the gallery’s encouragement of photography.
“It’s not a precious object in a studio,” she told the New York Times. “It engages the world in a broader way.”
The immersive installations were created by Jennifer Angus, Chakaia Booker, Gabriel Dawe, Dara Donovan, Patrick Dougherty, Janet Echelman, John Grade, Maya Lin and Leo Villareal. Curator Nicholas R. Bell said that the concept of “wonder” was “deeply intertwined with how we experience art.” He said that the nine artists excel in startling their audiences, overwhelming them and inviting them to marvel at their works. The gallery states:
While the nine artists work in strikingly different media, they are connected by a shared interest in materiality and the labor-intensive creation of objects by hand in a digital age. Their works are created by exploring the potential of unlikely materials and utilizing both traditional techniques and cutting-edge technology. The resulting installations are expressions of process, labor and materials that are grounded in our everyday world, but which combine to produce awe-inspiring results.
Below are photographs of the installations, accompanied by brief descriptions.
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