Author Archives: Philip Kennicott

A vexing delay on the Corcoran’s historical designation

The postponement of a decision last week by the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board is troubling. At its monthly meeting, the board heard testimony about the Corcoran Gallery and whether historic landmark protection should be extended to its interior spaces. George Washington University, which took over the Corcoran’s art school and building last summer, strongly opposes extending landmark status to more than a few, largely ceremonial areas easily accessible by the public. The D.C. Preservation League has submitted a nomination to include much more of the building, including galleries to which the public once had ready access before the Corcoran’s board of directors decided to commit institutional suicide by dividing the school from the museum, handing over the art to the National Gallery of Art and letting GWU take over the educational program.Read full article >>



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Exhibit on Kahlo, Rivera shines welcome spotlight on Detroit museum

DETROIT — In July 1932, Frida Kahlo ended up in Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, where a complicated pregnancy came to a painful end, perhaps a miscarriage or the result of abortion. Her ability to have children may have been compromised by injuries from a violent bus accident in 1925, so it isn’t clear exactly what happened. But Frida’s husband, the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera, referred to the event as “Frida’s tragedy,” and a self-portrait Kahlo made shortly after shows her glassy-eyed, with a frightened and drawn expression.Read full article >>

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What’s the most shocking thing on view at the Bjork exhibition? Music.

Of all the visual delights and exotica on display at the Museum of Modern Art’s Bjork exhibition—androgynous robot sex, canoodling with snakes in the rain forest, and the famous Alexander McQueen “Pagan Poetry” dress with its drafty upper reaches—perhaps the most quietly shocking was the visual presence of actual music. Yes, printed music, pasted on the walls where visitors queue to enter the multimedia “Songlines” galleries, and also on the covers of the multiple catalog inserts.Read full article >>



What’s the most shocking thing on view at the Bjork exhibition? Music.

Of all the visual delights and exotica on display at the Museum of Modern Art’s Bjork exhibition—androgynous robot sex, canoodling with snakes in the rain forest, and the famous Alexander McQueen “Pagan Poetry” dress with its drafty upper reaches—perhaps the most quietly shocking was the visual presence of actual music. Yes, printed music, pasted on the walls where visitors queue to enter the multimedia “Songlines” galleries, and also on the covers of the multiple catalog inserts.Read full article >>



A setback for D.C. arts and culture, years in the making

They had already decided on a Saturday night in mid-September, and they had a tentative program: an evening of George Gershwin, Kurt Weill and Daniel Schnyder, a Swiss composer and saxophonist whose music crosses just about every definable stylistic boundary, from jazz to world music to opera. It was going to be a “hard-hat concert,” performed in the raw, crumbling space of the 1869 Franklin School. It would showcase the possibilities of the historic structure and generate support for the renovation of the historic building.Read full article >>



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Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s killing of D.C. cultural project shows only money matters

Not much good, culturally, came of the last mayor of the District, and now the new one is off to a dismal start. Little more than a month into her administration, Muriel Bowser has abruptly canceled one of the most promising cultural projects to take root in the District in decades, tearing up an agreement two years in the making with the Institute of Contemporary Expression.Read full article >>



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Art review: ‘Man Ray — Human Equations: A Journey From Mathematics to Shakespeare’

In the mid-1930s, the American expat photographer, painter and surrealist Man Ray was introduced by his friend Max Ernst to a curious collection of dust-covered objects at an elite school for higher mathematics in Paris. Made of plaster, wood, wire, paper and other materials, they were three-dimensional models of complex trigonometric equations. To Man Ray, they had an appealing weirdness, suggesting biomorphic and human forms, curious saddles and declivities, bulging cones and at least one shape distinctly like an amply proportioned human posterior.Read full article >>



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The National Gallery’s great feast: What was gobbled from the Corcoran

It’s still too soon for people mourning the loss of the Corcoran as an independent, local arts institution to celebrate the absorption of its magnificent art collection into the National Gallery of Art. At this point, it feels like passing the old mom-and-pop diner on the corner, now boarded up, empty inside, with a “coming soon” sign announcing the latest trendy restaurant. Of course it won’t be the same. The atmosphere is gone, the old crowd dispersed, but the food will certainly be better, more up-to-date, and there’ll be a real wine list!Read full article >>

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Piero di Cosimo, a misunderstood master, at the National Gallery of Art

In the fourth and most dramatic room of the National Gallery of Art’s captivating Piero di Cosimo retrospective, the walls are devoted to paintings in the round, a form known as a tondo. Some of these are on a grand scale, and one of them, borrowed from the Toledo Museum of Art, is in exceptional condition. The Virgin Mary looms large in “The Adoration of the Child,” resplendent in a brilliant red dress and sumptuous blue cloak. Her hands are held closely together, but the fingers don’t quite touch, a gesture that captures something between the otherworldliness of prayer and the tangible, maternal desire to reach out and caress her sleeping child. Beneath the two figures tadpoles swim in a dark but limpid pool.Read full article >>



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Season preview: At last, Piero di Cosimo gets a retrospective — and it’s in D.C.

Piero di Cosimo remains an enigma, and likely always will. The Renaissance master traveled once to Rome, but otherwise lived his entire life in Florence, where he was highly regarded, especially for his decorative floats, or cars, designed for the celebration of Carnival. What we know of him comes mainly from the work itself — often deliciously idiosyncratic and full of odd and intriguing details — and from fewer than a dozen pages devoted to him in Giorgio Vasari’s “Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects.” Read full article >>



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