Looking for an indoor place to take your brood over the holidays? Children (and adults) will be intrigued by what lies in front of them at the National Museum of Women in the Arts' new show, Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today. There discussions may be piqued by renderings which can trigger emotions and senses to include, but not limited to, humor, sadness, awareness, contemporary times, and whatever else one can detect and extract.
I guarantee you no one will find it "boring," not the young, not the "don't bother me" teenager, nor the dragged-along Uncle George who doesn't want to go anywhere or do anything.
With representations by 21 contemporary black female artists, the museum is proud to present the first U.S. exhibition by abstract artists of this genre. Reading the labels and hearing the voices of the women who describe their backgrounds and experiences make attempted comprehension much more enjoyable.
The artists' lives span 90 years, from 1891 to 1981, and several of the works are on public view for the first time.
They are "under-recognized" and "marginalized," says museum literature. The museum director, Susan Fisher Sterling, writes: "This exhibition shifts our attention to key practitioners who have not received their due" and are important to contemporary art history.
Named after Mildred Thompson's Magnetic Fields (in the show), a November 28 event will present two of the artists, Susan Snowden and Shinique Smith in public discussion. (See below.)
Maren Hassinger (b. 1947), Wrenching News, 2008, courtesy of the artist. Twisted and torn pieces of the New York Times convey the artist's representation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and its aftereffects which evoke "the poignant sociopolitical issues exposed in the wake of this natural disaster." Call 202-747-3417 and dial 205# to hear the artist speak about it/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A close-up of Howardena Pindell's Autobiography: Japan (Shisen-do, Kyoto), 1982, above/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From left Chakaia Booker, El Gato; Mavis Pusey, Dejydea; and Abigail Deville, Harlem Flag/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Abigail Deville (b. 1981), Harlem Flag, 2014, courtesy of the artist. Made from objects the artist found in Harlem and arranged to contrast and compare parallels between past and present/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Chakaia Booker (b. 1953), El Gato, 2001, collection of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Since the early 1990s, Ms. Booker has used rubber tires which represent travel, industry, ecology, skin and muscle as her primary medium. Here the "regal pose and aura of a feline" is depicted in The Cat. The artist sculpts herself daily with wearable art/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The name of Barbara Chase-Riboud (b. 1939), Zanzibar/Black, 1974-75, may be better known as a poet and author who wrote Sally Hemings, 1979. This is courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery and "exemplifies the artist's interest in developing monuments dedicated to transformative individuals and places."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Sylvia Snowden (b. 1942), June 12, 1992 is the wedding anniversary of Ms. Snowden's parents who, with Howard University, the artist credits for helping her succeed in the art world. This was part of a series which was on exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in 1992 and is hung courtesy of the artist. Call 202-747-3417 and dial 214# to hear Ms. Snowden speak of this work/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Shinique Smith (b. 1971), Bale Variant No. 0017, 2009, Denver Art Museum Collection. Fabric, wood, ink, twine and ribbon comprise the sculpture. The artist weaves her own clothing and pieces she finds "to visualize the tension of accumulation and consumption."/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the exhibition's opening Virginia Treanor, NMWA associate curator, called the museum "a natural platform for an exhibit like this." Several of the artists were born in Washington and Baltimore where some reside. Some graduated from Howard University.
"This is not a survey," Ms. Treanor emphasized in her opening remarks, or "meant to be comprehensive."
Curators were Melissa Messina and Erin Dziedzic, director of curatorial affairs at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri.
In conjunction with the show, Sylvia Snowden and Shinique Smith will speak at the museum November 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Guests pay $25 ($15, members, seniors, and students) to mingle with the artists, see the exhibition and other collections, and enjoy food and beverages. It is close to a sellout. Make required reservations here.
A 144-paged illustrated catalogue is available in the museum gift shop and online.
Other artists in the show are Candida Alvarez, Betty Blayton, Lilian Thomas Burwell, Nanette Carter, Deborah Dancy, Mary Lovelace O'Neal, Gilda Snowden, Kianja Strobert, Jennie C. Jones, Evangeline "EJ" Montgomery, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Brenna Youngblood.
What: Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today
When: Now through January 21, 2018. Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sundays, 12 - 5 p.m.
Where: The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20005
Admission: Free on the first Sunday of the month (December 3, 2017 and January 7, 2018 for this show) or $10, adults; $8, seniors and students; and always free for members and children, 18 and under.
For more information: 202-783-5000
Metro station: Metro Center. Exit at 13th Street and walk two blocks north.