Since viewing the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s John Singer Sargent exhibit a few months ago, I’ve been drawn to watercolors. So, when I saw that The Phillips Collection had a new watercolors exhibit, I was eager to visit. After wandering the museum for a little while, unable to find the exhibit, I asked where the watercolors were located. I was told to head to the second floor, but I was not told that the exhibit was occupying a corner room of the museum so small that it makes a dorm room seem spacious.
Starting off with a sob and an uncomfortable laugh, Denmark’s “Helium” and the U.K.’s “The Voorman Problem” are the first two films in the theatrical release collection of the Oscar nominated live action shorts of 2014. They are reviewed by Nolan Miller. “Helium” introduces us to the little blonde Danish boy named Alfred who is bedridden with a crippling and life-threatening disease. Enzo, a new janitor in the hospital, becomes friends with poor Alfred who reminds him of his own brother he lost as a young boy. With each successive visit to Alfred’s room we learn piece by piece of Helium, the collection of houses suspended by balloons where sick children go when they die to “get their strength back.” As Enzo gets close to the end of his fantastic tale complete with brief scenes of Alfred’s imaginings of Helium depicted on screen, Alfred’s condition suddenly takes a turn for the worst. The short ends with Alfred, supposedly close to death, finally leaving for Helium by way of the gigantic, gold and red zeppelin called the “Helium Express.” An overly sentimental piece complete with a soundtrack oscillating back and forth between melancholy and hopeful tracks to shove its point home, “Helium” is designed to tug, no, yank violently at the heart strings of the audience.
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.
Aside from the Phillips Collection’s impressive permanent collection, the current Vincent van Gogh exhibition, titled van Gogh Repetitions, made for a lovely afternoon of art. On display through January 26th, the Phillips Collection is lucky enough to currently have some of the artist’s best-known works under their museum’s roof. The exhibition is especially interesting because it’s not simply showcasing van Gogh’s works, but instead diving into his tendency to create multiple versions of the same painting.