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At the Corcoran: My Business, With the Cloud

The weather was so nice on Saturday, I decided to go inside to look at fake clouds.

I went to the Corcoran for the inaugural exhibit of its “NOW” series: Spencer Finch’s “My Business, With the Cloud.” It just opened on Saturday and will remain there until January.

The tiny exhibit is in two parts. First, the centerpiece, “Passing Cloud,” a huge installation of a sky puff, was made with some sort of blue plastic and wooden clothespins. Apparently it’s supposed to be the cloud that hung over Washington, D.C., the day poet Walt Whitman stopped to watch Abraham Lincoln pass by on his way to the White House. Huh?

Photo credit: Corcoran Gallery
Photo credit: Corcoran Gallery

If you read a little deeper, it turns out Finch did scientific studies to replicate the exact levels of light that would have—maybe—been in D.C. on that corner on that day almost 150 years ago. But if you don’t care, it looks like a giant, clear, smashed up Slip n’ Slide. I wanted to jump in it.

The second part of the exhibit is a single room full of clouds, and art inspired by clouds, made up of photographs, sketches, mosaics, paintings … even Scotch tape. The Scotch tape clouds were, in my opinion, the best pieces. Finch actually managed to capture the translucent nature of clouds with the tape. It’s a surprise when you realize what the pictures are made out of.


From what I’ve read about him, the Brooklyn-based artist seems very inspired and experimental. And I applaud the thought that went into bringing the “NOW” concept (of linking new art to D.C. and the Corcoran) to life through this cumulus theme. Though, I wasn’t blown away. (Call me a bitch. It’s what I do.) I can take photos of clouds in puddles. I can cut squares out of white construction paper and paste them on black construction paper. I can hire a contractor to mosaic my kitchen back splash just like his triptych of weather mosaics.

No, I am more drawn to artists like Chuck Close. Which, thankfully, was still on display just across the atrium. That exhibit shows raw artistic talent—portraiture that makes an imprint in your mind. Then it goes into the intricacies of how other artists and print-makers have taken his work and experimented with different forms of art: screen making, print making, woodcuts. Pulp? Rugs?

Photo credit: Corcoran Gallery
Photo credit: Corcoran Gallery

The process becomes an art form to be marveled at. And soon you forget to look at the actual portraits, which are, quite simply, stunning. You’re trying to figure out how the material went through those intricate metal frames, and how on earth, through hundreds of layers, it all formed such a realistic picture. The most engaging part is a video at the very end of the exhibit that shows his portrait of Roy Lichenstein being created in time-lapse. You can’t step away.


Make sure you see Chuck Close before it leaves next week (on the 26th). And while you’re there, go find shapes in the clouds by Spencer Finch.


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