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Read City Paper’s full cover story on the Glenstone expansion.
“Livro do Tempo I (Book of Time I)” (1961)
Part painting, part mosaic, and part detailed calendar, “Livro do Tempo I” comprises a series of 365 sculptures installed on a single wall in a dedicated pavilion. The Brazilian artist’s variations on a theme, with each panel rendered in primal shapes and primary colors, are typical of her sense of rhythm, playfulness, and repetition. This work operates as a single all-over painting—one to be taken in from the pavilion entrance—but rewards close looking like nothing else on view. It teases out how a year is a sum of so many days without feeling didactic. Pape works across genres in minimalism, from installation to performance, and with any luck her wilder pieces will one day be at Glenstone.
“Ever Is Over All” (1997)
Best known today as the inspiration for Beyoncé’s “Hold Up” video, Pipilotti Rist’s video, “Ever Is Over All,” is a delightful departure from a dark time in art. In an era when Matthew Barney’s labyrinthine video installations and the Young British Artists’ adult themes dominated the late ’90s scene, Rist offered up breezy violence and kaleidoscopic abstraction as a kind of gleefully manic self-portrait. Where Bey yielded a baseball bat, Rist smashed cars using a long-stemmed flower. The empowering don’t-fuck-with-me vibe is the same; the VHS-looking warp of post-painterly video abstraction is all Rist’s.
Glenstone’s permanent collection gallery is a procession of career highlight-reel works (and a few missteps: a Jackson Pollock painting feels like checking off a box). One minimalist gallery, though, could almost serve as a mission statement for the broader enterprise. Featuring work by three artists—Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, and Lynda Benglis—the room is cool, dark, feminine, and aggressive, a shrine to process and formalism. On view are three works by Hesse (a rarity, since she died at 34): “Several” (1965), “Constant” (1967), and “Sans II” (1968). This ample trio of biomorphic, seductive minimalist painting-slash-sculptures could anchor any gallery by themselves; alongside mighty contributions by Benglis and Serra, it’s almost overwhelming.
With its pavilion devoted to Cy Twombly, Glenstone tips its hat to the Menil Collection, one of its closest museum peers anywhere, without stepping on its toes. Houston’s Menil has a world-class Twombly gallery, and another space devoted to his ethereal abstract paintings would have been so duplicative as to be nearly insulting. (That’s never stopped anyone from building another Rothko room, but anyway.) Glenstone opted instead for Twombly’s lesser-known sculptures, which will make it a destination for fans. Five white-painted pieces see his loose scribbly lines expand into space. A different Twombly room could’ve been a blunder; this one reaches for must-see status.
“Baled Truck” (2014)
In D.C., Charles Ray is most famous for a work he never finished. Frank Gehry picked the sculptor to depict Dwight D. Eisenhower in statuary for his forthcoming Ike Memorial— before conservative critics glommed onto Ray’s bare-footed boy design and made it the centerpiece of a manufactured outrage. Ray’s “The New Beetle” (2006), on view in his pavilion at Glenstone, made for an easy target: It’s a life-size vision of a naked boy playing with a toy Volkswagon bug. Corruption is at the root of Ray’s work, but not the way the culture warriors think. “Baled Truck” is a key example. It’s a re-creation—carved from solid stainless steel by machine—of a crushed pick-up truck. The fraying dream of the middle class is what makes Ray’s work unsettling.
“Water Double, v. 3” (2013–2016)
Roni Horn is an example for how Glenstone aims to do museuming differently: by following fewer artists, giving them longer runways, and collecting them in depth. She is one of the few photographers that the Raleses appear to have taken a shine to (if their collection is any tell). Horn’s photography is only one aspect of her sometimes-inscrutable practice, which includes sculpture, text, and lots and lots of repetition. Her work in the Pavilions building passageway comprise two solid-cast glass drums. These eyeball-boulders refract light in a mind-bending way—a smirking take on the lens.
Big Phrygian (2010–2014)
While much of Glenstone’s collection emphasizes chilly themes, there’s room for narrative and craft here, too. Martin Puryear’s “Big Phrygian” is an oversized creation of a Phrygian cap, a symbol for liberty during the French Revolution. Puryear, who is African-American, has said that he adopted the symbol after seeing an engraving of a black citizen wearing one. The piece is made from cedar; Puryear is one of the nation’s best living craftsmen. The sculpture occupies a place of pride, in a corner passageway that both flatters and reflects the high craft of Phifer’s architecture.
How Ya Like Me Now? (1988)
One of only a few pieces on view at Glenstone that reflects black experience directly, David Hammons’ “How Ya Like Me Now” was savaged upon its 1988 debut in D.C. Installed at the Washington Project for the Arts, the painting—which depicts a blond-haired, blue-eyed, white-skinned Jesse Jackson, underneath the spray-painted lyric by Kool Moe Dee—was attacked by a group of black onlookers. (Who may have reacted less to the content of the work than the fact that it was being installed by white gallerists.) Every problem that underscores this confrontation is still urgent in the art world today.
“Compression Line” (1968)
One of two monumental works by Michael Heizer on display, “Compression Line” is a gash carved deep in the landscape. For the piece, the artist excavated a long line in the soil, then filled it with a deep, empty trough made of weathered steel. Finally, the artist packed all the excavated earth back into the landscape along the sides of the trough, creating enough pressure to fold the sculpture like a sealed envelope. Heizer’s “Collapse”—a set of massive weathered steel beams standing in a steel container buried in the earth—gets its own pavilion at Glenstone. But the building plinth where viewers can see “Compression Line” is an unparalleled convergence of art, architecture, and landscape.
Robert Gober’s “Untitled” is lined with elements that suggest danger. Given its own pavilion, the piece is a room within a room, made with high wooden walls like a theater’s set. The exterior of the room suggests dark hallways; the interior is painting with a woodland scene, evincing a midsummer night’s dream. Running sinks inside suggest that the room is malfunctioning and abandoned; illuminated barred windows set high within the walls betray a prison cell. Piles of newspaper tied up in string, a Gober signature, could be props or another sign still of societal collapse. Outside the discomfiting room, a burning red light over a door at the end of a hallway is threatening or worse. Gober creates an atmosphere whose dark designs and systemic violence become more apparent the longer viewers spend with it. Seen in a different light, the piece could be a microcosm for the museum experience itself: a disquieting stage within a manufactured glen.
For almost 50 years, On Kawara created a single painting just about every day: a register of the day’s date rendered in acrylic. This span of nearly 3,000 paintings are the best known of the artist’s meticulous series of record-keeping projects. He wrote out millions of years in sequence, integers ticking off eras, for example. He mailed thousands of postcards that noted the time he woke up that day. His beloved “Today” series has registered with viewers in a way that few other sustained minimalist exercises could ever hope to. Three paintings on view here represent dates of critical milestones in the Apollo 11 moon landings, but they also defy that simple categorization. Kawara reduces these dates—or elevates them?—into days on which he merely lived and completed his task.