Getting intimate with art

Don’t be afraid to use a magnifying glass at the Luther Brady Art Gallery.

The gallery will be showcasing about 60 prints as part of its “Intimate Treasures” exhibit that runs through June 3. The exhibit takes the theme to heart, inviting visitors to peer close enough to the tiny works so that they can see each and every intricate detail.

“For those who do take the time, their quiet contemplation will be richly rewarded,” organizer Chris With wrote in the gallery guide.

The works are on loan from the collections of members of the Washington Print Club, who chose the small gallery, located on the second floor of the School of Media and Public Affairs building, as the site of their 18th biennial.

Some of the works are drawings, but most are original prints that the artists themselves were involved in making. With explained that it took four months to put the exhibit together. The club first decided on a theme – small, intimate art – and contacted members of the organization asking for pieces to borrow.

Committee members visited people who had pieces they were willing to loan, and then made recommendations to the six-person committee as a whole about which pieces should be included in the exhibit. Because pictures were not available of most prints, organizers had to rely on the judgment of the few people who had actually seen each piece.

One of the gallery’s most notable works is Francisco Goya’s “Asta su Abuelo” (And So Was His Grandfather), from the famous “Los Caprichos” series. The piece, which shows a donkey reading his family tree, represents the prime minister of Spain, who was also lover of the queen. Goya feared consequences for his critical Caprichos and ultimately took them off the market, giving the plates and unsold prints to the king.

Other prominent artists included in the exhibit are Rembrandt van Rijn, James McNeil Whistler and the American cubist Max Weber.

Another exciting piece is a set of two prints by American John Taylor Arms that are each about one-inch square. Taylor’s work necessitates the use of a magnifying glass so see the painstaking detail of the individual steps and bricks of a bridge. He has even managed to sign his name, probably using a needle to create lines so delicate.

The gallery is also hosting “Insectes Singuliers,” by the Belgian painter James Sidney Ensor, who paved the way for surrealism and Dada. Ensor’s 1888 drypoint print features his face on a beetle’s body with a woman who has taken dragonfly form. The painting is based on a poem about a beetle who wants a fly as his lover – problematic because beetles usually eat flies.

Lenore Miller, director of University art galleries, saidit took about two-and-a-half hours to arrange the works in the gallery. The works are not arranged in chronological groupings; they are arranged based on “aesthetics and experience,” she said. The prints are clustered in areas such as historical prints, images of the city, images of the country and images of art itself. She said arranging the works was “its own creative process.”

Miller explained that members of art organizations benefit by sharing their collections with the community.

“You get to see (your pieces) in context, in a wide range of works,” Miller said.

The Luther Brady Art Gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and admission is free.

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