Kriston Capps

  • Hank Willis Thomas and Baz Dreisinger’s The Writing on the Wall projected onto the US Department of Justice building. All photos: Liz Gorman.
    diary June 19, 2020

    Washington Postcard

    A VIDEO PROJECTION on the facade of the US Department of Justice building played to an audience of one for its debut last week in Washington, DC.

    Moments after the light beam touched the limestone, an agent from the US Department of Homeland Security arrived, demanding to know who the projectionists were with. They weren’t “with” anybody, one of the four of them said. The agent made a call on a radio. He put his face in their faces. He shouted. Military jeeps swept down Pennsylvania Avenue, but they glided past the tense nighttime scene.

    The standoff lasted only minutes. The projection squad

  • Tabor Robak, Guts, 2019, aluminum extrusion, expanded aluminum sheet, LED neon, UV-printed brushed aluminum frame, hardware, cables, 96 × 84 × 3 1⁄2". Photo: Johnny Fogg.

    Tabor Robak

    Four rectangular video screens mounted at the top of Tabor Robak’s MiniJumbo, 2019, played ticker-like news streams of text that breezed by, familiar and forgettable: SMOOTH SAILING WITH ONLINE BANKING, for example, or LOOKING FOR ANSWERS? BIBLE. The literal meanings of these phrases are so anodyne that one couldn’t help but try to decrypt the deeper meaning of his expansive video installations.

    “MENTAL,” the artist’s solo show at von ammon co and the gallery’s inaugural outing, was full of text and meta-text. On the four larger screens of Robak’s miniature Jumbotron, which hung from the ceiling

  • Elena Manferdini, Forms and Ground III, 2015, ink-jet print on paper, 19 x 13".
    picks March 07, 2016

    Elena Manferdini

    As an architect, Elena Manferdini works at the intersection of theoretical design and the decorative arts. Her architecture frequently takes the form of installations, or vice versa, and is scaled to human experience, especially when it operates at the level of a lobby or facade. Manferdini’s aesthetic is also suited to prints and textiles, owing in part to the ebullient range of pastel colors she employs—a quality that distinguishes her in a field that tends to be relentlessly severe and sleek. Her paper works, then, are not preparatory studies for building designs but a critical dimension of

  • Left: Artists Mark di Suvero and Charles Gaines with Gretchen Berggruen. Right: Hirshhorn director Melissa Chiu. (All photos: Liz Gorman)
    diary November 11, 2015

    A Tale of Two Cities

    MONDAYS ARE SLOW FOR CONGRESS. The so-called bed-check votes that kick off the week for the world’s greatest deliberative body keep senators and representatives grounded in Washington, DC, deciding new names for post offices and confirming benign appointments. Otherwise, Senator Tom Udall might have graced one of the biggest parties the National Mall’s ever seen—a party that took place in Lower Manhattan.

    That left Jill Cooper Udall, a board member for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, without a date for the museum’s fortieth anniversary gala at 4 World Trade Center. So she asked Iris

  • Left: Hirshhorn Museum director Melissa Chiu and Robert Bahadori. Right: Artist Shirin Neshat (middle). (All photos: Liz Gorman)
    diary May 22, 2015

    Hirshhorn of Plenty

    CURTAINS OF RAIN greeted dolled-up attendees for Saturday night’s gala at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Valets with oversize umbrellas led tuxedos and gowns from their black cars on Independence Avenue to the soggy red carpet at the museum’s entrance. It was all for naught: There was no staying dry, but it hardly mattered.

    Dark skies lifted, eventually, making for an auspicious evening for...what, exactly? The event was intended as a fete for Shirin Neshat, the Iranian artist whose video and photography graces “Shirin Neshat: Facing History,” a midcareer survey that opened this week.

  • Hiroshi Sugimoto, Surface of Revolution with Constant Negative Curvature (Mathematical Model 009), 2006, aluminum and mirror, 76 x 27 1/2".
    picks March 26, 2015

    Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Sculpture is only a sliver of Hiroshi Sugimoto’s practice. It’s a shame there isn’t more of it: This project show finds the Japanese artist tabbing effortlessly between dimensions. A trio, no, a trinity of sculptural works in machined aluminum dwells on the same sense of arrested time that Sugimoto captures in his photographs. “Conceptual Forms and Mathematical Models,” a sampling of his sculpture and related photography, is a satellite of a larger survey also at the Phillips on Man Ray’s “Shakespearean Equations” paintings. Both shows revolve around nineteenth-century mathematical models (a

  • Kerry James Marshall, Great America, 1994, acrylic and collage on canvas, 103 x 114”.
    picks October 07, 2013

    Kerry James Marshall

    While Washington, DC, celebrates two important civil rights milestones in 2013—the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation—it is also honoring African Americans in its largest art museum. For the first time in the institution’s seventy-two-year history, the National Gallery of Art is presenting a solo show of a living African American artist. And while it is surprising that this has not happened sooner, it is especially so in Kerry James Marshall’s case, as his work is such a perfect fit. (Note that the National

  • View of “Marlin Underground,” 2012.
    picks October 18, 2012

    Dan Steinhilber

    Tucked away in a marvelous Philip Johnson–designed building in Washington, D.C.’s tony Foxhall neighborhood, the Kreeger Museum is as proud of its building as it is of its handsome, modest, modern collection. The Kreeger commissioned Dan Steinhilber to create a site-specific solo show, and so he did, but he considered the building not as a museum but rather in its context as a former home. Rummaging through the old belongings of David and Carmen Kreeger and selecting long-hidden and discarded ephemera—a loveseat, an ironing board, three horrid stuffed marlins—Steinhilber reveals a secret history

  • Colby Caldwell, blind (2) [fall], 2011, waxed archival pigment print, 28 1/4 x 34 3/4".
    picks May 02, 2012

    Colby Caldwell

    The southern gothic is a trope in American photography, and it has a long history in Washington, DC, well beyond the many exhibitions bearing the theme that have appeared in the capital, such as shows by William Eggleston, Sally Mann, and William Christenberry. Colby Caldwell, with his latest solo exhibitions at Hemphill and Civilian Art Projects, strives to prove that dilapidated antebellum structures still constitute a relevant subject and an integral component of the American photographic canon.

    Caldwell’s series “spent,” 2009–12, divided between both galleries, presents oversize, highly

  • A view of Doug Aitkens's SONG 1. (All photos: Liz Gorman)
    diary March 26, 2012

    Screen Song

    DOUG AITKEN’S SONG 1 took one bunch by surprise: joggers. As Washington’s fit ran their twilight routes on the National Mall on Thursday evening, they inevitably slowed to take in the spectacle, necks craned toward the facades of the Hirshhorn. There, at the Smithsonian museum, or, more specifically, on the museum, Aitken had begun projecting his new video, using eleven mechalike projectors to transform the entire exterior surface of the ring-shaped building into a film screen.

    In-the-know onlookers lined up early in the afternoon, lugging lawn chairs from the museum’s patio to the perimeter of

  • Robert Ryman, Painting with Steel 15 1/8 x 13 5/8”, 1978, 
oil stick on paper, white painted steel frame with round bolts, 15 1/8 x 13 5/8” overall.
    picks September 06, 2010

    Robert Ryman

    Robert Ryman’s “Variations and Improvisations,” his first-ever solo exhibition in Washington, DC, finds the artist exercising a seemingly quiet theme with considerable muscularity. Over the course of twenty-six paintings produced between the 1960s and the present, Ryman explores the white square, a subject he has worked with for his entire career. Several of the pieces on view are straightforward compositions, but the greater number reveal an irreverence that runs contrary to the white-square abstractions of artists like Malevich or Rothko. For Spectrum VIII, 1984, Ryman’s signature (plus the

  • Mary Early, Untitled (wreath), 2008–10, wood and beeswax, 48 x 100”.
    picks July 16, 2010

    Mary Early

    That Mary Early’s work qualifies as post-Minimalist is plain. By first building components and then balancing them against one another in roughly circular structures that have not been mapped out in advance, she largely allows early decisions in her process regarding the form of her pieces to dictate the final shapes of her assembled work. In turn, the whole obscures the parts. In her latest exhibit at Hemphill Fine Arts, these parts include levers, cross-shaped bars, and elongated rails she has hooked together to form circular fencelike structures. But her process is not so obvious, nor its