Second Nature | Smithsonian American Art Museum

Three visitors viewing the Echelman artwork in the Renwick's Grand Salon

Visitors to the Renwick’s Rubenstein Grand Salon view the recently re-intalled 1.8 Renwick by Janet Echelman. Photo by Albert Ting.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, nature in all its unpredictable splendor, takes center stage. Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020 brings together the extraordinary talents of four artists for the biennial celebration of mid- career makers who speak to our times but whose messages are timeless.

Each of the artists in the Invitational—Lauren Fensterstock, Timothy Horn, Debora Moore, and Rowland Ricketts—takes us on a journey of exquisite materiality that begins in the natural world and ends with us each taking a good look at ourselves and the world around us.

The exhibition asks us to slow down, reflect, and observe the natural world through the lens of American contemporary craft at a time when we crave the unique solace of Mother Nature. The Invitational’s message of renewal and resilience is a welcome one for us today as our daily lives have been upended by climate change whose ravages we see in our communities and on the news.

Our close look at the natural world continues in the Rubenstein Grand Salon where Janet Echelman’s 1.8 Renwick—a visitor favorite during the museum’s blockbuster exhibition, WONDER, in 2015—is back on view. Named for the microseconds the earth shifted during the earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan in 2011 and literally shortened the day, Echelman’s site-specific knotted and netted installation once again turns the Grand Salon into a theater for the imagination and an exploration of natural phenomena. Come discover or revisit this work which invites reflection, looking up at the aerial sculpture and down at the landscape carpet created by the artist.

So, whether you can visit in person we have some new safety measures in place that can help you plan a visit, or virtually online, we hope you make time to explore Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020 and 1.8 Renwick. Let’s be good stewards of the environment and we’ll be richly rewarded by all nature has to offer. Let’s also listen to the artists responding to the times we live in: they speak of nature to our souls through art.

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