The upstairs exhibit room at the Renwick Gallery used to be long, narrow, and hopelessly out-of-date. Since it seemed historic (or, to our way of thinking, “stuck in time”), we wondered if it would survive the renovation. One way to find out was to the climb the long staircase at the Renwick to see for ourselves – and what we saw was a seismic change – both in an exhibit and in the Renwick itself.
What were we seeing? The placard explained that “Echelman’s woven sculpture corresponds to the energy released across the Pacific Ocean during the Tahaku earthquake and tsunami, one of the most devastating natural disasters in recorded history. The event was so powerful it shifted the earth on its axis and shortened the day, March 11, 2011, by 1.8 millionth of a second, lending this work its title. Waves taller than the 100-foot length of the gallery ravaged the east coast of Japan, reminding us that what is wondrous can equally be dangerous.”
The design of the carpet and fiber floating overhead followed the seismic mapping.
John Grade found a 150-year old hemlock tree in the Pacific Northwest; made a plaster cast; and proceeded, with many volunteers, to recreate the old hemlock over the plaster cast using half a million small pieces of the carved reclaimed cedar.
Found objects are appealing materials to use. Chakaia Booker used the rubber scraps found in her city to create her own work of art.
We think the new Renwick is worth a stop on your next visit to Washington, DC, and we’re not the only ones enthusiastic about the wonderful installations. Even the security guard encouraged visitors to take a second look, explaining how the installation was constructed to help us visitors better understand the artwork. So, if you don’t take our word for it, the security guard’s enthusiasm says it all.