Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950


It starts with a destroyed piano, followed by a number of examples of artists who make use of war footage - there are lots of mushroom clouds. There are many examples of destruction that follow, but they don't seem to progress in any particular way. It would be nice if the curators had organised the chaos it a bit more, perhaps by theme or technique, something to make the exhibit a bit more edifying.

Overall, the Hirshhorn presents a surprisingly conservative approach to destruction in art. There are no examples of artists using their bodies destructively (although Warhol's electric chairs points timidly in this direction), and no examples glitch art or the deliberate destruction of digital information. It is basically a collection of rather messy artworks and lots of videos of artists having a great time breaking things. Perhaps the most pleasing pieces are those which are actually some of the tidiest in the exhibition: Arnold Odermatt's surprisingly placid photographs of automobile accidents and Dinos and Jake Chapman's Injury to Insult to Injury, in which monsters appear on top of engravings, both of which add some much needed levity to an otherwise buttoned-down exhibit.

Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950 runs through May 26th at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.

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