Stillness in Motion: The Mastermind of Washington DC’s Renwick Gallery

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Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe

The average person with an untrained eye tends to spend more time looking at a moving work  of art than a still work. This seems like common knowledge. A dance may take 20 minutes to be finished and for the period to be placed at the end of it’s sentence. With a marble statue or a few strokes of paint on a canvas, it’s hard execute movement. But as living, breathing human beings, the things we perceive to have the most aesthetic intrigue are things that come alive before our eyes. Vibrant colors, fluid movements, anything that humanity can relate to on a subconscious level. For this reason, we consider the works of Leonardo da Vinci to be more masterful than the two dimensional works of medieval artists. Because, every once and a while, there is an artist that knows how to make their still works adopt motion.

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In the Midnight Garden by Jennifer Angus

This past weekend I had to fortune of visiting the Renwick Gallery in Washington DC. Here I witnessed fixed art come to life. I could have easily breezed past the rainbow made of string dangling from the ceiling, or scurried away from the very real, very large bugs hanging from the walls, or taken one mere glance up at the net hanging from the ceiling, but I didn’t. I carefully inspected the string with my eyes, because I could swear they were moving. I kept inching closer and closer to the creatively organized bugs on the walls, even though they were bugs, and bugs are supposed to repulse me as a human and fellow arachnophobia sufferer. Because this artist took life and made it pretty, and even if people think bugs are “gross” or “ugly”, there is no real reason to believe so. When they are organized in such a beautiful way, no human can deny that all fellow living things can ordain beauty. I spent at least twenty minutes laying on the ground underneath the nets from the ceilings, not in wonder at the fact that it was mere colorless net that’s color seemed to engulf the entire room (which was, by the way, amazing). Rather, I laid their in simple serenity and allowed the tranquil colors and aesthetically caressing arrangement of the nets to consume me. While this technically was a still work of art, I spent nearly 20 minutes looking at it, and not just because I fell victim to a famously long Smithsonian museum line that wrapped around that same room. I looked at it before I even acknowledged the line’s existence, because for 20 minutes the only thing in the world was this piece of art.

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1.8 by Janet Echleman

In my opinion, a piece of motionless art that can captivate one’s attention for so long is an incredible masterpiece. While making dance is a difficult process, one thing it inherently does is force viewers to watch for longer than a quick glance (even if you’re not necessarily paying attention). In a gallery, one isn’t forced to look at anything for any extended period of time, but I and all the other visitors spent a more than a long time watching the rainbow strings glide around without any real motion, and spent more time than necessary laying on a floor (in a public place no less) “watching” a net. Not looking, watching. Because it was moving, even if it wasn’t moving. And that is the essence of good art, the ability to draw people in, even without message or moral.

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