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Worth the Galleries: The Best Contemporary Art of 2014

From Washington City Paper
By Kriston Capps
December 22, 2014  |  weblink

For the major art museums in D.C., 2014 was a throwback year. The National Gallery of Art mounted a big retrospective of Andrew Wyeth and a minor survey of El Greco. The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden mounted an all-new permanent-collection hanging for its 40th anniversary. Meanwhile, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, following a long and fateful struggle, finally shuttered. To their credit, the Phillips Collection and the Kreeger Museum, both modernist museums, expanded on their record of showing relevant contemporary art with sculpture shows of Bernardi Roig and Emilie Brzezinski, respectively.

To find the very best new work in D.C., though, viewers had to stray far and wide from the National Mall. Whereas the 14th Street NW corridor used to be the reliable hub for the city’s art scene, now its galleries are spread out among all four quadrants. The following list is by no means an encyclopedic compilation of great art shows from 2015. But these exhibitions proved that, despite the loss of a few commercial galleries, the city’s art ecosystem is still alive and relevant.

“A Layered History,” Dean Kessmann

In the most academic work of the year, Kessmann, an art professor at George Washington University, scanned an entire 1,184-page tome of Western art history, H.W. Janson’s History of Art, into his computer to assemble his raw materials. He then applied these pages to a curving 40-foot wall to make a literal history at a glance. As a print, it transcends a pointy-headed discussion about the construction of art history, instead bending art history itself to serve as his own artwork.