Before it closes today, a photography show at the National Gallery of Art certainly makes a visit worthwhile to see the second of three celebratory exhibitions of the 25th anniversary of the Gallery's vast photograph collection, this one entitled The Memory of Time: Contemporary Photographs at the National Gallery of Art.
If it is peace and solace you may be seeking, however, this is likely not a good place to drop in since the renderings will leave you anything but calm. Many of the photographs will engage your mind in a tumultuous way, especially two by Andrew Moore (b. 1957): Palace Theater, Gary, Indiana, 2008, and Model T Headquarters, Highland Park, Michigan, 2009.
Palace Theater, a large color picture, is a haunted house, the den of the Phantom of the Opera, a graveyard of old pieces which I loved for its magical effects and the ability to lose myself in what was.
It is full of objects and stimulation, and once you see the photograph, it shall not be forgotten.
Moore's works described in the exhibition's catalogue are photographs of "places which have undergone accelerated cycles of growth and decay, transfigured less by the slow march of time than by sudden catastrophe or cataclysmic change."
The son of an architect, Moore studied photography at Princeton and spent thirty years taking pictures of buildings which have seen their uses change, their facades decay and, in some cases, disappear, like a tree in the forest which eventually withers, bends, and dies. Like an old person in a nursing home with no one to attend to her, sitting, waiting to totally collapse into a heap of death. But those are living things and buildings are not. Or, are they?
To see the Palace Theatre in its last state, one of decay and ruin, one can easily imagine the grandeur and beauty it claimed when it served Gary as a center of activity and performance, color, and vitality. The "before and after." The theater was built in 1925 for vaudeville acts, then it became a theatre, and now...What is it now?
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today Tomorrow will be dying. The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, The higher he’s a-getting, The sooner will his race be run, And nearer he’s to setting. That age is best which is the first, When youth and blood are warmer; But being spent, the worse, and worst Times still succeed the former. Then be not coy, but use your time, And while ye may, go marry; For having lost but once your prime, You may forever tarry.
And then there is Moore's Model T Headquarters, half consumed by a grassy green carpet where moisture and mildew odors seep through the picture, and almost ooze out onto the gallery floor, enough to practically smell the putrid odors. The open door in the photograph leads to past human interaction, while isolation and loneliness are what remain. The curvy lines of the grass contrast with the lines of the door and the wall which mean...what? In a previous life, I saw many empty scenes like this one in empty, vacant buildings.
In the exhibition are 76 photographs by 26 international artists, presented for the first time at the National Gallery of Art. Curators are the Gallery's Sarah Greenough and Andrea Nelson.
We the people are grateful to the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund which made it possible for the National Gallery to acquire these photographs.
The third and last exhibition of the photography series is Celebrating Photography at the National Gallery of Art: Recent Gifts, scheduled November 1, 2015 through March 27, 2016.
The first was In Light of the Past: Twenty-Five Years of Photography at the National Gallery of Art which closed July 26, 2015.
Where: Ground Floor, West Building, National Gallery of Art, between Third and Seventh streets at Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. On the Mall. (Closest exhibition entrance is on Seventh Street.)
Admission: No charge
Metro stations: Smithsonian, Federal Triangle, Navy Memorial-Archives, or L'Enfant Plaza
For more information: 202-737-4215