So much art and not enough time. Folks, just one more day.
Shock of the News at the National Gallery of Art is absolutely must viewing for anyone remotely associated with news or art or history which pretty well includes everyone in Washington, D.C, or why are you here?
The power of art.
This show begins in 1909 with a front page story in Le Figaro by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, an Italian poet and playwright. "Le Futurisme" is about the birth of futurism, a column so audacious and inflammatory, it launched the movement, "shock of the news."
About four years later, Pablo Picasso embedded a piece of newspaper in his collage, Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass, which, according to the event catalog, "was widely considered the first self-consciously modern work of art to incorporate real newsprint."
The exhibition includes 65 paintings, sculpture, prints and other media, arranged chronologically and tracing the development over 100 years. (Interestingly, in the first gallery on the right wall, half of the pieces feature the word “glass” in their titles.)
Said National Gallery Director Earl A. Powell III at the opening, the show shapes “our understanding of modern artists’ responses to the newspaper,” calling the presentation the first to offer an “examination of the newspaper as both a material and subject.”
The show is not newspaper design work, but artists' creations employing newspapers. (Overheard on steps to the Mezzanine: “What’s Shock of the News about?” Answer: “Oh, I saw it in Chicago. It’s comic strips.” Not!)
Many of the pieces make political statements, especially renderings made after World War II: Stalingrad, the German occupation of France, the Black Panthers, Sino-American relations, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Berlin, Palestine, Patrice Lumumba and Moise Tshombe, and oh! Salvatore Dali. He devoted a newspaper to himself. Shocking. Who would have thought?
In the third and last gallery is a work by Sarah Charlesworth reminiscent of the National Gallery's neighbor across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Newseum which features daily window displays of newspaper front pages. Ms. Charlesworth's Modern History: April 21, 1978 shows a portion of the front pages of 45 newspapers and treatment by their editors of a photograph of kidnapped former Italian prime minister, Aldo Moro, who was killed on May 9, 1978 by members of the paramilitary organization, the Red Brigades.
Kim Rugg in “No More Dry Ruins," (2008) cut out every letter from the August 8, 2008 edition of the Financial Times and rearranged them in alphabetical order (illustration at top).
Robert Gober redesigned a wedding page from a 1960 New York Times to include a small story about his own death by drowning at age 6. The article claims his mother was held for questioning.
Perhaps Gober's mother ignored child rearing to concentrate on her wedding business (if she had one) since another Gober piece (Newspaper, 1992) focuses on a photo of a bridal gown advertisement and Gober is the bride in wedding attire! Running on the same page is the story of a beating death of a youth by his mother.
Still another article on Gober's Newspaper, 1992 page describes the Vatican's stance against gay rights which, according to the catalog, annoyed the Catholic Church when the work went up in 2000 at a San Francisco show.
Just before the exhibition's entrance, do not overlook, on the right, Mario Merz’s To Mallarme (2003) which is stacks of 2003 Italian and Arabic newspapers laid out over almost 24 feet with the words, in blue neon, translated from the French, “a throw of the dice never will abolish chance.”
This title comes from Stephane Mallarme’s 1897 poem, "Un coup de des jamais n'abolira le hasard." The newpapers' publication dates coincide with George Bush's invasion of Iraq.
Some of the other artists represented in the exhibition are Robert Rauschenberg, Ellsworth Kelly, Jorge Macchi, Paul Sietsema,Paul Klee, Max Weber, the Guerilla Girls, Hannah Hoch, Joseph Beuys , Andy Warhol, Laurie Anderson, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenberg, Semen Fridliand, and Paul Thek.
The catalog of 200+ pages has many color illustrations and provides rich background about the artists and their works. It was written by Judith Brodie, the National Gallery's curator and head of the department of modern prints and drawings, who spent five years developing the exhibition.
Hurry, before they disappear.
The exhibition was made possible by the Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Foundation. The Corinne H. Buck Charitable Lead Trust helped with the publication of the catalog.
What: Shock of the News
When: Open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Saturday, and 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sunday.
Where: East Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Fourth Streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W.
How much: No charge
For more information: (202) 737-4215
Metro stations: Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian
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