Walking along a D.C. street and seeing a huge sculpture of poet Maya Angelou might surprise a pedestrian passing by – but it might spark curiosity.
That’s exactly what the Renwick Gallery and Golden Triangle Business Improvement District had in mind when they planned its joint exhibit “No Spectators,” which opens in the museum and around the District Friday.
The two-part exhibit called “No Spectators” brings art from the Burning Man music and art festival in the inhospitable Black Rock desert of Nevada to the nation’s capital. The Renwick Gallery features large-scale, immersive artworks that fill the museum to the ceiling. And for the first time, the exhibit extends beyond the museum walls around the Golden Triangle, a 43-square block neighborhood that stretches from the White House to Dupont Circle.
In giving the premise of the exhibit, Stephanie Stebich, the director of the Renwick Gallery, said the Burning Man festival is a unique environment for experimental, eye-popping art that they wanted to bring to the District.
“The scale, the communal effort and the technical challenges inherent in creating works for the desert are part of what sets Burning Man apart from other art experiences,” she said.
In the Renwick Gallery, Marco Cochrane’s “Truth Is Beauty” features a massive stainless steel sculpture of singer and dancer Deja Solis. Under the installation, the quote “What would the world be like if women were safe?” appears in multiple languages.
Cochrane wanted to bring attention to issues like women’s bodies, violence against them and how women’s energy changes when they feel safe, according to the exhibit. This version of “Truth Is Beauty” is only a third the size of the 50-foot sculpture that appeared at Burning Man in 2013.
A more tech savvy, eye-popping exhibition, FoldHaus Art Collective’s “Shrumen Lumen” presents itself as an interactive cluster of fungi. Each oversized mushroom has a footpad underneath where viewers can stand and watch it blossom, imitating breath with a hissing sound. LED lights are embedded inside that glow through the skin of the fungi, bringing the installation to life.
A back room in the gallery holds Candy Chang’s inspiring “Before I Die..,” which encourages viewers to come face to face with mortality, asking them to write what they’d like to do before they die. About 4,000 walls like this one have been created in 78 countries around the world, including at Burning Man.
Across D.C., six installations have been erected by Golden Triangle Business Improvement District. Steven Simon, the marketing director of Golden Triangle, said he hopes the exhibit allows students and other commuters to take in new sights from travels that have become a routine route.
“The artwork we now see in our daily routes to work or school create vitality, a higher level on interest and meet the quality of the neighborhood,” he said.
HYBYCOZO’s “Golden Spike” is located on Connecticut Avenue and K Street and it investigates the relationship between math and art through geometry. The sculpture uses a decorative method called “non periodic tiling” that patterns pentagons without repeating them. The installation is fitted with LED lights which light up the surrounding concrete area at night. Passers-by look up from their phone in awe and appreciate the painstaking beauty of the piece, which is made from powder coated steel.
Mischell Riley’s “Maya’s Mind,” found on 17th Street and between H and I Streets, is a sculpture that replicates Maya Angelou’s head atop three books. Her head is open so viewers can see into her brain, which holds an open cage with birds flying out. Riley said she was inspired by Angelou’s use of art to overcome childhood sexual violence.
“I had a similar childhood experience as Maya and my art pulled me through it,” Riley said. “She is my hero and I identify with her and there need to be more monuments dedicated to women and people of color in this nation.”
“The Art of the Burning Man” closes in two phases. The first floor closes on Sept. 16 and the second floor closes on Jan. 21. “Beyond the Renwick” and its installations will remain open through December 2018.