Phillips After 5 Series: Spirituality in Art

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Phillips After 5 Series: Spirituality in Art

Summer Whitford | August 5, 2011

Moments of serenity in the midst of public clamor are rare in Washington, but they do happen.  Last night kismet made a quiet moment possible at the
Phillips Collection.  The first Thursday of every month, this tiny jewel box of a museum generously opens its doors after closing time and gives Washingtonians a chance to recharge amidst beauty, sound, and the smells of tasty food.  It’s a great way to end the work day.

The program is called Phillips After 5 and August is a bonus month for fans of the Phillips’ artwork; this is the only time the museum offers the program every Thursday.  You should check out the online calendar to see what’s on offer for August.   It’s a fab way to escape the heat and breathe in a bit of culture.

Culture vultures will love each week’s offerings because it’s a triple play of enrichment: there are tasty bits to eat and drink, the live music is always top-class and the art—well, what can you say about a collection that includes landscapes by Bonnard, the always beloved Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir, and Daumier’s irascible canvas commentary?

These events are always popular sell outs, so your wise to make your reservations early (unless you’re already a member, in which case you can always gain admittance) and arrive early too; there won’t be as large a crowd, it will be easier to have the art to yourself for a bit, sidle up to the buffet, listen to a gallery talk, and grab a comfortable spot for music listening.

On entering the museum, the sounds of people talking, laughing and greeting each other predominated, but as you wound your way through the various galleries, your body soon became attuned to another sound, like music played in a lower register.  As it got louder, the soothing beat crooked its finger and begged you to follow it to its source.  The melody was distinctly Indian but different, almost familiar.  The rhythm was similar to a classical Raga, but with a Western motif.   Ragas are an ancient form of Indian music meant to create deep emotions and spiritual awareness in the listener and the music can be spellbinding, and in this case, enticing.  The word Raga comes from the Hindi/Urdu word rag whose origins are from the Sanskrit word raga, which means passion.

Not fully like the metallic strumming of a sitar, a bit like the thumping of a deep hide drum, and reminiscent of brass bells pealing into a stone tower, the new interpretation of a classical Indian Raga that was being played was the best of both Eastern and Western musical styling’s.   The source of this haunting music turned out to be one man sitting alone in front of the windows playing an electric guitar.  It was artist Jay Kishor and the beauty of his music and guitar playing made it obvious why he is considered a Master Sitarist, musical genius, and guitar virtuoso.  He has developed a new methodology for playing the guitar and sitar that bridges both the East and West in music and this was his first performance of his new works.  His work is both soothing and arresting and the perfect antidote to a stressful day.

  The Color of Night by Jay Kishor  

To his left as he played, were several small screens that slowly projected abstract images from the artist Kandinsky, which Jay accompanied on the guitar.  These moving interpretations of Kandinsky’s images were the work of Robin Bell, a DC native whose work as a multimedia artist, videographer, and VJ have won him awards and a loyal following.  

Later, Robin premiered his latest video remix, his third at the Phillips, which featured his brilliant style of video composition.  His work is unique because he captures the emotions of the images created by other artists and then films his visual response, creating layers of movement, color, and scenic emotion.  (You can watch Robin’s audio-visual show here).  His show was based on the images and interviews of Alwar Balasubramaniam, one of the artists whose work is on exhibit, and the work of Wassily Kandinsky, whose art and its heavy influences from music are being explored in another part of the museum.

Next week’s details: On August 11th Richard Chartier, a sound and installation artist, discusses the importance of music in Kandinsky’s art along Curator Elsa Smithgall, this is included with your admission, plus you can see Bonnard’s wonderful landscapes, and sample peach sangria, deliciously fresh yogurt parfait made from organic goat’s milk from Yola, and enjoy a menu made with locally sourced ingredients.  Make your reservations now.

What: Phillips After 5 Series
When: Thursday, August 4/11/18/25, 2011 | 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Where: Phillips Collection | 160o 21st St NW, Washington DC



Summer Whitford
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