Nine larger-than-life art pieces
The opening exhibition WONDER featured site-specific, gallery-sized installations by nine major contemporary artists, including Maya Lin, Leo Villareal and Janet Echelman. These larger-than-life installations comprise surprising materials worked in transformative ways that explore new directions in craft and transform the Renwick itself into an immersive work of art. Each artist has taken over different galleries in the building creating nine independent installations all inspired by the Renwick.
ege carpet flatters both the installation and museum
Janet Echelman explores volumetric form without solid mass, overtaking the museum’s famed Grand Salon with a suspended, hand-woven net surging across its hundred-foot length. The complex form is composed of many layers of twines, knotted together in vibrant hues that interplay with coloured light and shadow drawings on the walls. A carefully choreographed lighting program subtly changes the experience of sculpture with every perspective. Visitors find themselves transported into a dreamlike state, gazing skyward at an ethereal choreography of undulating colour.
An important part of the installation is the ege carpet designed to complement the sculpture suspended from the ceiling and to aesthetically flatter both the sculpture and the iconic Grand Salon. Numerous designs were trialed before reaching the final textile typography of an aerial form, in monochromatic hues. Eliminating colour and focusing on undulating lines strengthened the result achieving a playful contrast to the vibrant hues of the voluminous net.
The work’s title is 1.8 (One Point Eight), which refers to the length of time measured in microseconds that the earth’s day was shortened as a result of a physical event, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which hit Japan with devastating effects. The forms in the sculpture and carpet were inspired by data sets of the Tsunami wave heights across the Pacific Ocean. The artwork reminds us of our complex interdependencies with larger cycles of time and matter. Its physical presence is a manifestation of interconnectedness – when any one element in the sculpture moves, every other element is affected. “As individuals we may feel fragile, like a length of thread,” Janet Echelman explains, “but when knotted together we have the capacity for incredible strength and resiliency.”
The 4,000 square-foot area rug exceeded expectations as explained by Janet Echelman: “The carpet for the Smithsonian’s Renwick is a smash hit. Visually it is an extension of the sculpture above – luring people to lie down, take photographs and share on social media.” Sara Gray from the Exhibitions Department at Smithsonian American Art Museums agrees: “Renwick’s popularity with the public has far exceeded even our wildest imaginations, we are quite pleased. The carpets throughout the space have been the source of much of the positive feedback.”
What a WONDERful staircase
ege was also invited to join a staircase design collaboration with Smithsonian American Art Museum resulting in a dramatic modern take on traditional red carpet. French architect Odile Decq’s organic puddle shape in two custom hues is completed by the ultra-opulent texture on the luxurious 80/20 wool-nylon quality enticing art lovers up the stairs to the Grand Salon.