Saturday, September 18, 2010

Going Fourth

Yesterday (now two days ago, at least to those on the East Coast) was not as absolutely balls-out great as the day before, but that’s hardly a fair standard. On its own it was one of the best days I’ve had since my trip started.

Due to the very late previous night I didn’t get up until around 8:30, and wasn’t mobile until almost two hours after that. I had a few stops on my itinerary, but no set plan, which was just as well: I got off on the first Metro stop, U Street/African-American Civil War Monument/Cardoza, to get a look at said monument. I found it, after going the wrong way, with the directions from some helpful residents. Inscribed with the names of the 209,145 black (UNION) soldiers who served, it’s a very touching spot.

I decided to detour to the African American Civil War Museum, which was relocated in the Thurgood Marshall Center and unfortunately took up only one small room. Next, lunch at Busboys and Poets, a restaurant, with a bar and book store and performance space, that’s devoted—naively, if worthily—to social justice and peace. Then the National Building Museum, and a revisiting of the Edvard Munch exhibition at the National Art Museum. After it closed five I was informed by the security that the National Portrait Gallery was open until seven, and off I went. I left my little hippie bag in a locker there when they closed, and I would not have gotten it back had I not spotted a guard taking a cigarette break. A fine night at Nellie’s, a gay sports bar not far from where I was staying rounded off a pretty great trip.

I’ll put up a post about yesterday/today, the beginning of the final leg of my trip, Philadelphia. But not very long. It’s quite late.

Notes and Observations:

- I don’t know if it was due to lack of resources or just that it’s in a temporary location (probably both), but the presentation of some very interesting items (newspaper clippings, illustrations, a grisly photo of slave’s whipped and scarred back ) in the African American Civil War Museum leaves a lot to be desired. Everything was so crammed together it was hard to focus or get any context. This has to do, I think, with how presentation affects evaluation of the information presented, which I had never thought much about before in terms of museums (usually just scholarship applications).

- Edvard Munch really had a problem with women. That said, Towards the Forest is one of the most indescribably beautiful and bleak works I’ve ever come across (though I’ll admit I haven’t seen much of Munch’s ouvre, which is supposed to be overwhelmingly depressing), and The Lonely Ones is also quite compelling.

- To understand the tyranny of “realism” in Western painting, one need only visit the National Portrait Gallery. After a pretty interesting collection of contemporary public figures, done in very eclectic styles, one is bombarded with portraits from colonial times onward, with so many that one’s mind just shuts them out after awhile.

Quote of the days:

“We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”
- Thomas Jefferson

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