I had heard a lot of excitement about the re-opening of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, and it definitely lives up to the hype. The last time I had visited the East Building was when I was looking at colleges in D.C. in 2012- it was amazing that time, but has definitely improved. It appears that there is more artwork and that there may have been some additions to the collection.
The museum presents a number of pieces from the areas of abstract expressionism, surrealism, pop culture art and the Color School artists (seen above in the painting on the far right). I have always loved modern art as I love the bold colors and, often, the use of geometry and striking patterns. Having taken art history, I also came to understand some of the reasoning behind the use of color, often in what appears to be an oversimplified way, yet actually extremely thought out.
The museum covers a wide stretch of modern art, and it was very interesting to see the progression from surrealism and dadaism to abstract expressionism as I walked through the galleries. It almost reminded me of a mini MOMA, but definitely with its own clear identity hear in D.C. To read more about the changes that were made with the renovation, read more here.
One of the galleries I was most looking forward to seeing was as I would call it, “the Rothko Room.” Mark Rothko is one of those artists that if you haven’t studied modern art, it might appear that they are very simple paintings. I liked the way the label explained his art to the viewers: “He refused interpretations that focused on formal issues of color, light, and space, insisting that he was ‘expressing basic human emotions-tragedy, ectstasy, doom.'”Although perhaps a bit intense, the museum labels give us an idea of what the artist may have been thinking when creating what might initially appear to be just two green square surrounded by a blue border.
One of my other favorite pieces was Leon Berkwitz’s “Coronation,” the piece on the far right side of the image above. I loved how the piece almost looked like tie dye or how a couple other visitors put it “looks like a sunset.”
Leon Berkowitz was an artist connected with the Washington Color School, which were artists who focused on abstract art that looked at different aspects of color.
One part of the museum that is easy to miss, but don’t, is the rooftop terrace. I feel like terraces at museums have become increasingly “trendy” for lack of a better word. Having spent the summer in New York, I think of the rooftop at the Met, which is hard to beat. There is currently a giant blue bird sculpture on the terrace (great Instagram opportunity).