Art Exhibit Review: Damage Control at the Hirshhorn


Vera Hanson

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Last weekend I had the chance to escape from my essays and find a bit of peace at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Currently on view is an exhibition called Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950. If I’m being honest, I am not normally drawn to exhibits that are largely centered on film, television and sculpture, but I was left completely captivated by many of the chilling pieces at this exhibition. On view through late May, Damage Control works to explore the themes of destruction in art and the context in which these pieces were created. Stemming from the “escalation of the arms race and the prospect of nuclear annihilation” in the early 1950s, the exhibition uses different art mediums to convey the significance of media coverage of these disasters, both large and small.

For me, one of the most mesmerizing and unsettling moments at the exhibit came from the work of the artist Ori Gersht. An Israeli photographer, Gersht’s “Big Bang 1” is a video showing a still, non-moving vase of flowers. After tense and distressing music in the background plays for over a minute, the vase finally explodes. As a group of us crowded around the video screen, Gersht’s work left all us viewers visibly shaken. It was in the contrast of simplicity and ‘destruction’ that the artist’s execution of his work was so successful. Gersht’s piece conveys one element in a much larger motif of demolition and chaos represented at the exhibit.

In addition to Damage Control, the Hirshhorn Museum was a great location for a relaxing Saturday morning. I highly recommend going up to the third floor and taking advantage of the ‘observation’ room fully equipped with desks and couches overlooking D.C. Other exhibitions that are currently on view include Black Box: Gerco de Ruijter and Barbara Kruger: Belief Doubt. While both are incredibly different from one another, together they are very worthwhile.

The Hirshhorn is located on the National Mall at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. The museum is open from 10am – 5:30pm daily and admission is always free. Also, Jake Chapman, an artist with work featured in Damage Control, will be giving an Artist Talk on Wednesday, December 11 at 7pm. So, be sure to check that out if you’re interested in gaining more insight into the mind of one of the artists central to the exhibition.

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