Works on Paper at the National Gallery, D.C.
Any public arts institution like the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. will constantly shift its exhibitions, a practice which pleases the patrons, curators, and donors. Armed with cultural cachet and deep pockets, this particular art-space is able to show nearly anything it wants. Realizing that I've not paid visit in a few months, I'd like to draw attention to a series of showcases that will last throughout the summer. Though not on par with some of the "blockbuster" shows they've lined up in summers past, it could prove a good chance to compare works, eras, and artists who work on that redheaded stepchild known as paper.
"CLAUDE LORRAIN - The Painter as Draftsman: Drawings from the British Museum" is reported to be the first Lorrain exhibition in the United States since 1982 (before I was born!) and combines a large selection of drawings with a few etchings and paintings. "Fabulous Journeys and Faraway Places: Travels on Paper, 1450-1700" showcases fantastic scenes by many of Europe's leading post-Renaissance artists. Though the exhibition sounds like the name of a mid-1980s jazz fusion album, it should give a good introduction to the scope of imagined scenes that pays compliment to the excellent travel writing of that era. "Private Treasures: Four Centuries of European Master Drawings" brings that beloved (dreaded?) tradition of quality to fore. The collection looks impressive and spans historical epochs, so it should be worth a visit. Finally, "States and Variations: Prints by Jasper Johns" gears for acceptance by lovers of contemporary works. Prints by Johns are always of conceptual interest, if not subtle virtuosity.
Paper is often marginalized in histories of art because of its impermanence. Egg tempura on wood, fresco, oil on canvas, stone, bronze, and glass all have the capacity to endure longer, and under less guarded circumstances. Works on paper are often small, personal, and scaled for home or private contemplation. Further, paper is often used to work through ideas before diving in to other media, and as such can vastly illuminate the creative-artistic process.