Thursday, May 31, 2012

Jasper Johns and Banana Leaves

The Phillips Collection has two new exhibitions, one featuring Antony Gormley, the other showcasing Jasper Johns  Neither exhibition is open to the public yet, but tonight was a members-only preview.  Fortunately, my friend Amy is a member and she invited me to go with her.

I had never heard of Gormley before.  His sculptures were wonderful.  The lithographs and drawings were alternatingly elegant, enigmatic and creepy.  The picture below, for example, strikes me as both radiant and terrifying.

Jasper Johns, on the other hand, is super well-known and was the main draw for me.  I've seen his numbers and flags and targets before, but those were all from fairly early in his career -- I hadn't known about the rest of his massive body of work.  When you've been making prints since the 1950s, and are still going strong today, you're bound to have quite the collection.  Many of his works aren't exactly easy to decipher -- they're definitely best digested by those who are very much "in the know" since they contain intricate references to other artists and other works by Johns himself.  The more I learned the richer the experience became.  For example, the can of paintbrushes in the painting below is a reference to an earlier sculpture that Johns did, and the stripes in the background are a common motif of his (there is also some significance to the wooden base, but I've forgotten what it is).

After leaving the art gallery, we had dinner at Banana Leaves near Dupont Circle.  It's just reopening after a fire last year, and I thought the food was pretty good for a relatively inexpensive dinner.  The honey peanut sauce was unusual and pleasant, but I'll probably order something less sweet next time.

Tom yum soup
Noodles with honey peanut sauce

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