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Learn about the National Gallery of Art’s East Building

The pressure was on. The builders were responsible for something locals and visitors to the nation’s capital would admire forever. So went the rallying cry: “You’ve gotta do it right. You’ll just never do anything like this again in your life.” Those words set the tone of a mini-documentary about the late 1960s construction of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. The video stitches together behind-the-scenes footage of architect I. M. Pei’s geometric vision, tracing its 10-year transformation from a pit of exposed earth into a “stone in the nation’s crown.” Despite the concrete and hammers, shots of sun rays streaming through the iron skeleton add a delicacy to the documentary, and the care is clear: “You don’t get a second shot at it,” one craftsman says. To dress the outside, artisans hand-picked individual marble slabs, sourced from the same Tennessee quarry that provided the material for the Gallery’s West Building in 1941. Once again, the pressure was palpable, as Pei’s minimalist design allowed for no exterior decorations to hide mistakes. This step alone took nearly four years to complete. Later, in 1976, sculptor Alexander Calder stopped by to discuss his mobile for the foyer, his last major work, which he approved one week before his death. The towering kinetic shapes still greet visitors today—or will, once again, when the museum reopens. Until then, delight in watching the individual shapes hung, one after another. And when you do return, you’ll be awed by more than just the art on the inside. The video is available at nga.gov. Free. —Emma Francois

Gordana Geršković: Texturescapes

If you’re Gordana Geršković, a photographer who trains her macro lens on abstracted and decontextualized surfaces, there’s really no risk of running out of raw material. So it makes sense that only a year after mounting an impressive exhibit at the Foundry Gallery, Geršković is back with an exhibit, Gordana Geršković: Texturescapes, that echoes the best of her previous work, but with little overlap between the two shows. In an online-only exhibit sponsored by the BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown, Geršković offers color images that feature a widely varied palette, often discovered during the artist’s urban walks and nature hikes. Her works sometimes echo satellite images of urban street grids or beaches, scanning electron micrographs of cells, or surfaces of far-flung planets—views far more dramatic than their original sources, which range from pavement and bark to eroding rock. While it’s a pity that a viewer can’t press their nose right up to one of her prints as they could at an in-person exhibit, BlackRock’s online interface allows Gerskovic’s images to be expanded well beyond thumbnail scale to something close to their full effect. The exhibition is available through July 31 at blackrockcenter.org with an accompanying catalogue. Free. —Louis Jacobson