DC at Night

DC at Night

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yes, No, Maybe @The National Gallery

Keith by Chuck Close
When we view a piece of art, we usually see a completed work. But that isn't the case with the exhibition Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working with Crown Point Press now on display at the National Gallery of Art.  There you can examine the artistic process as a sequence of decisions rather than a single inspired vision.

"This gets to the issue of hard work ... of revising, and adding, and subtracting," says gallery lecturer Diane Arkin. "It's a rethinking of inspiration as the only way an artist works."

While the works of more than 25 print creators are on display, the focus is on three of the most significant 20th Century artists to work at Crown Point - Chuck Close, Richard Diekenkorn, and John Cage. Each of those artists approached their work with a much differing style. For Close, it was all about solving self-imposed challenges. Diekenkorn wanted to test possibilities, while Cage, who primarily considered himself as a composer not a visual artist, relied on randomness and chance.

Close, who used friends and himself as subjects for his works, "regarded the face as a landscape or topography," Arkin said. "He would create problems and try to solve them."

Diekenkorn used "his creative eye to figure out when something was done," Arkin said. "Sometimes, he was making and unmaking at the same time. I think the beauty of this exhibit is that you get to see the process the artist goes through. With Diekenkorn, by moving something up or down just half an inch he gets visually satisfied."

Arkin called Cage"an accidental artist" who relied on chance and the Zen idea of the I Ching for his art decisions. "Basically you're shifting the responsibility to choose to the responsibility to ask. He felt that mirrored the way nature works. He would sometimes draw with his eyes closed and consult the I Ching about how long he should draw."

Kiki Smith's print "Home"
Close, Diekenkorn, and Cage each have their own rooms in the exhibition, which is scheduled to close on Jan. 5. Two other rooms are devoted to the other 22 artists and part of the challenge of the show is trying to figure out which of the three processes for creation those artists followed. One of the most intriguing works displayed is "Home" by Kiki Smith. Can you determine what the home is by looking at the picture?

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