While AU boasts a location in the District just a few Metro stops from the Smithsonian Institution’s cultural fortresses on the Mall, few students are aware that not only is the Katzen Arts Center home to its own art museum; it also features traveling exhibits by artists from the AU community and beyond. If fighting blossom-seeking crowds on the Mall seems daunting, or if a quiet place to escape the bustling springtime quad and encroaching summer heat is in order, take a short walk to Katzen. Make sure to check these exhibits out before they’re gone!
“Contemporary Glass: Beauty and Innovation,” through April 8
Located on the first floor of the museum, this exhibit features glass work by artists from around the world. Though there aren’t many pieces in the display, each has been chosen specifically for its creator’s influence in the medium and range of techniques he or she employed in its creation. Mostly these pieces are beautiful in their simplicity, like Janis Miltenberger’s “Company of the Faithful” sculpture of a crow perched atop a cactus. Paul Stankard’s “Floating Winter Bouquet Orb” and Czech-born Tomás Hlavicka’s “Aquarium” suspend multicolored, fragile plant life in thick, solid glass, adding technical variation to traditional glass sculpture.
“Stanley Lewis—A Retrospective,” through April 8
Although this is the only nonsculpture exhibit in the museum, it isn’t quite two-dimensional. The renowned landscape artist Lewis destroys his canvas before he begins piling on oil paint. The layered shreds of canvas add depth and texture to his paintings’ and drawings’ already complex compositions—mostly of trees, grass, power lines and any lines that intersect and to create a complex visual field. While Lewis’ paintings may not seem terribly original, his black and white pencil drawings of the stark wintry landscape outside his window in Leeds, Mass., focus on the texture and intricate matrices of gnarled, bare tree branches, sometimes hatched with power lines or pastoral fences. Like his paintings, the paper has been deconstructed to give these drawings a three-dimensional appearance form afar, belying the chaotic graphite scratches and grooves observed up close.
“Duane Hanson: Real Life,” through April 15
If the usually empty museum seemed full, it was probably Hanson’s fault. The sculptor takes the prize for eeriest artist, crafting life-size sculptures out of casts of real live people that the exhibit explains is meant to be the antithesis of the Greeks’ god-like sculptures of impossible corporal perfection. The casts are then painstakingly painted and ordinary, everyday (though now outdated) objects and clothes are used to ease them into the real world.
A painter looks as though he just started to give the museum walls a new, rosy hue, paint roller paused in midair, while a security guard oversees the glass art exhibition, leaning against the wall, his stillness perhaps induced by the museum’s calming quiet. Two diners, one a self-sculpture of Hanson, sip Coke and flip through magazines and are strategically placed next to the Katzen Caf?. Hanson’s sculptures are also placed throughout the museum, which make for some startling instances once one has gone on to the other floors of Katzen.
“Robert Brady: Sculpture 1989-2005,” through April 15
Bay Area artist Brady fuses seemingly divergent modern and tribal art aesthetics in his wooden sculptures. Long limbs and faces with feline features characterize his work. His pieces explore the themes of dreams, matriarchy, shamanism as well as day-to-day life, like “Fall I,” a human figure bent and tumbling down, and the peculiar “Comb”—literally a giant wooden pick.
“Richard Cleaver: Family Fictions,” through April 15
By far the most astonishingly intricate and unique exhibit in the museum, it is a wonder Cleaver’s work is sequestered all the way up on the third floor. His ceramic and wood sculptures depict family themes, each telling a different story, as the name suggests. Inspiration for Cleaver’s work is found in Eastern and Western religious figures, each gold-gilded, paint-stippled, jewel-encrusted and filigree-laden piece resembling a shrine, some even exploring Garden of Eden themes.
“Dreamer” is the first piece one sees, a male figure surrounded by butterflies in a tree growing out of a larger head. Other interesting sculptures are “Cult of the Tsar,” which displays Russian writing, peasants, generals and Tsars in an ominous altar to the suffering under the rulers, and “Family Fiction—Arcadia I,” a 3-D family portrait, complete with the son holding his pearl-encrusted G.I. Joe and the daughter clutching her crystal-encrusted doll. Each sculpture also has working hinges, which allow doors and faces to open and expose each family or individual’s inner self or emotions.
AU student work will also be on display this spring. Through April 15, first-year master’s of Fine Arts candidates will display their painting, drawing, sculpture and installation work half-way through AU’s two-year program. From April 21 through May 27, MFA thesis candidates, having completed the program, will display their art, the culmination of their studies. The Katzen museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.