“Wonder” at the Wonderful Renwick

I can understand why they call the exhibit “Wonder”. It was unlike anything I have experienced at any other more traditional exhibit. I started on the second floor and one of the first installations I witnessed was the orange monstrosity called “1.8”. Before I even started taking pictures, I noticed that most of the floor space of the room was covered with people lying on their backs. I estimated four dozen people that were literally floored by this artwork. Some were staring and others were talking to each other; most were taking pictures. There was no sign suggesting people lie down like that, it was just something that happened. This art had a communal effect on its patrons like no other art I had seen before. All these people had their backs on one floor photographing one piece of art.

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Normally I would get annoyed at any other exhibit I would go to because of all the people taking pictures. A lot of the time, uninvited strangers would be the unintentional focus of my pictures. At “Wonder” the art was created and presented in such a way so that it was almost interactive with its audience. While this did not eliminate my annoyance at the presence of everyone else, it did mitigate the deluge of photo-bombings that I would receive at any other museum. Also, the ceiling installations helped against capturing people.

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Everything at this exhibit was impressive, but what really blew me away was the room-filling piece “In the Midnight Garden”. Similar to what Joe said in his post, it was specifically the scale and the fact that every single bug was real, not a replica. The amount of time that was undoubtedly put into creating the piece is by itself something admirable. To be able to incorporate hundreds, even thousands, of Southeast Asian insects into a beautiful mosaic-like artwork is the measure of a visionary artist.

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“Wonder” is an exhibit worth photographing more than non-contemporary art because there is no wrong way to capture the installations. Capturing a painting like the “Mona Lisa” or something large like “The Last Supper” while impressive, I agree would take away from that visitor’s experience because they have to spend quite a bit of time lining up the perfect shot and getting a few takes in. At “Wonder”, visitors are forced (so to speak) to pay attention to the art before they take their pictures because there are limitless ways to photograph the art. Taking pictures at the Renwick Gallery I say gives you a better experience than simply looking around. I did not take any selfies during my time at the Renwick because in my opinion, selfies do take away from the experience. When people take selfies, they are more worried about getting yourself in the picture in just the right way rather than meaningfully capturing the art behind or above you.

At the Renwick, excessive photography makes sense because there is no wrong way to capture the art and the wonder of the experience hits you whether you like it or not.

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One thought on ““Wonder” at the Wonderful Renwick”

  1. Your discussion of the beauty of incorporating real life insects into a beautiful piece of art is fascinating. Before walking through the exhibit, I had seen images of the room, but was unaware that each bug utilized in the creation was real. It goes to show that the simple, organic things in life can be used to create something with such beauty and grace. Even though bugs are a seemingly grotesque subject, the manner in which they were used was truly incredible and unique.

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