WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the museum’s 30th anniversary – as well as the 20th anniversary of its support group, the James Renwick Alliance (JRA) – with a new installation of its permanent collection.
Highlighting clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood, the museum’s acquisition of all of the works represented was made possible by the JRA. The installation is on display now through the end of May as part of a rotation of the collection that occurs twice a year.
“I could not imagine a better way to reflect upon the Renwick’s accomplishments than by exhibiting some of the finest pieces acquired in the past two decades,” said Elizabeth Broun, the museum’s Margaret and Terry Stent Director. According to Kenneth Trapp curator-in-charge of the Renwick, “I chose this selection of works because it truly displays the breadth of our collection. Objects in all media are included, with our ‘old friends’ that have withstood the test of time exhibited alongside more recent acquisitions.”
The installation includes work by major artists such as Dale Chihuly, Michael Frimkess, Mary Lee Hu and John McQueen. Richard Mawdsley’s “Feast Bracelet,” 1974, represents one of the earliest gifts the JRA made to the Renwick in 1983. With silver, jade and pearls, Mawdsley creates a miniature feast complete with tableware, pie, wine and food. Nancy Crow’s quilt, titled ‘Crucifixion,” 1977, is one of the most recent acquisitions made possible by the group in 2001. Crow uses traditional quilting technique and structure to express her experiences and feelings.
“The Rick Wrigley Renwick Cabinet,” 2001, by Rick Wrigley is an example of superb design and furniture craftsmanship. Created specifically for the Renwick Gallery and inspired by an 1808-1809 sideboard, this elegant wooden piece displays imagery of two eagles representing freedom and American politics. The eagles attack a snake to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.
Michael James explores fiber as a medium in “Quilt #150: Rehobeth Meander,” 1993. The lively, musical quality of the quilt reflects James’ beginnings as a painter. Limited by the canvas, he learned to quilt, but deviates from traditional quilting and focuses more on the dynamic play of form, texture and color.
Eric Hilton’s “Storm,” 1996, conjures images of cosmic events from a storm on the ocean floor to disturbances in space. A tight, rigid square exterior contrasts with a soft, mysterious and organic internal form. Hilton has eliminated all color in the piece, but at the same time “Storm” reflects the color found in its setting.
For more information about a variety of programs scheduled in conjunction with this rotation, including the Thursday at 1 pm gallery talk series “Take a Break at the Renwick,” call 202-633-8070 or visit AmericanArt.si.edu.
The Renwick is on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW. Hours are 10 am to 5:30 pm daily. Admission is free. For information, 202-357-2700.