The Hirshhorn usually isn’t the first museum that comes to mind when I think of outings on the National Mall with the kids. The permanent collections, particularly the many interesting sculptures on display along the main walkways, and my kids’ curious little hands are an unfortunate combo among “do not touch” works. And most of the traveling exhibits at the venue dedicated to modern and contemporary art are way over their heads.
But Suprasensorial: Experiments in Light, Color and Space is an exception. In the Hirshhorn’s words, it’s “the first exhibition to reevaluate the evolution of the international Light and Space movement through the work of five pivotal Latin American artists.” In my 3-year-old daughter’s words, “It’s so cool!”
I first heard about it from a friend a couple of weeks ago, then again among the comments on my post about the disappointing exhibit at The Torpedo Factory. My curiosity was piqued, so Sasha and I headed to the Hirshhorn a couple of days ago — the stroll down to the Mall a nice way to enjoy the incredible weather, and the exhibit a good way to make up for the letdown of Play.
Suprasensorial may not have been created with kids in mind, but many of the installations can be appreciated on several levels, including from a child’s perspective. The artwork is intended to immerse viewers, so they can experience light and space in new ways. All of the displays are interactive in some way, and a few are exceptionally fascinating, and quite fun. “Chromosaturation” even requires special paper covers for your shoes before you enter a room divided into three areas lit by different colors, creating an illusion of seamless space, making you feel enveloped in ethereal color.
“Light in Movement” takes you through a room illuminated by light reflected off small, square metal plates dangling from a large rectangular board mounted high on a wall, light projected directly on it. The light bounces off the plates and looks like it’s dancing on the walls, quite a mesmerizing sight.
Both Sasha’s and my favorite installation was “Blue Penetrable BBL,” a large rectangular cluster of blue nylon strings, hundreds of them, hanging from the ceiling. And you’re supposed to walk through them, feeling the rings swarm around you and making the open space just beyond seem to disappear. Sasha must have wandered through it 20 times, interrupting the relative quite of the museum with squeals of delight.
We had a peek at “Trashiscapes,” a large room with blue mattresses and pillows scattered about the floor, each supplied with an emery board (so you could file your nails, of course) as large images from the 60’s were projected on walls and Jimi Hendrix played loudly. I thought it looked pretty rad, but Sasha was freaked out, so we didn’t get the whole experience of lying down and grooming our nails while listening to trippy tunes.
We moved on to the final display, which looked like a long fence constructed of blue lights. It gave everything a muted purplish glow, which absolutely awed Sasha: “Why is my jacket purple now? It was pink!” We took time to inspect more of our clothes before making our way out.
The entire exhibit took about 40 minutes to view, and that included some post-tour strolls through the blue string jungle.
Afterward, we checked out exhibits on the lower level, where my sweet girl elicited quite a few laughs from museum staff with her comments about the Big (Naked) Man sculpture. And back upstairs, we walked among those pieces that usually draw Sasha’s hands right in, and I got indication that she’s learning how to be a good museum-goer: A “No touching!” warning to others viewing the art.
Hey, she’s getting there.
For the art that you can touch, Suprasensorial will be on exhibit through August 12. The Hirshhorn is open daily from 10am – 5:30pm, and admission is free. It’s easily accessible via Metro’s Blue/Orange (Federal Center and Smithsonian stops) and Yellow/Green lines (L’Enfant Plaza stop).