Seeing Double? So Do Great Artists.

At the beginning of “The Double: Identity and Difference in Art since 1900,” a spectacular new show at the National Gallery features an eight-foot-tall plywood pillar. Standing alone, it would come across as merely architectural. Identical pillars lie on the ground sideways, and the combination inevitably comes to be understood as standing and reclining figures, and comes to represent the basic sociability of all human beings. The twin figures in Robert Morris’s 1961 work “Two Columns” could represent all of humanity.

The 101 modern and contemporary artists featured in “The Double” attest to the important social impact of two individuals.

Or how about another way to this show?

An unadorned cracked pane of glass lies at the end of the stunning new exhibition, The Double: Identity and Difference in Art since 1900, at the National Gallery. Lying in itself speaks to the fragility that is fundamental to the world we live in. One was smashed with a hammer. The other crack was cut in perfect imitation of the first. This combination of his 1998 work Parallel Lives by Jorge his Macchi explores the fundamental need to impose meaning and order on the world by copying parts of it.

The 101 modern and contemporary artists featured in “The Double” attest to the profound spiritual impact of two beings.

Seeing more than 120 works from different angles on either side of this exhibition in Washington, D.C., doubles the tension as well as the similarities. You can be sure that is a basic feature. The art of our time and also one of its most fascinating subjects he. James Meyer, curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery, shows us that two similar things placed side by side mean something different than one grand statement. They often make more sense.

Meyer’s curation reflects the twinning of the works on display. Rather than finding a single, powerful and enlightening look at the subject, “The Double” shows how replication as a single concept unfolds across multiple dimensions.

Tounes, which seems very stable and basic, can speak to instability. In his 1912 Picasso collage of faces in this show, the duplicated nose and ears seem to call into question the whole project of orderly representation. Can you really say that any image can tell you what our chaotic world is about? Wouldn’t an image with a stutter work better?

Yet, in that same era, Picasso’s jitter is nowhere to be seen in the icons of abstractions also based on 2. It is difficult to come up with a better image of order by Kazimir Malevich than his pair of quadrangular paintings in 1923. Rather than questioning art, it seems to represent the most stable essence of what art can be. After all, two points define the line at the root of the drawing, and two parts are what create the most minimal composition for painting.

The absolute order exhibited by replication can also come across as a half-mad impulse.

Ten years ago, artists Vija Sermins I picked up an old scratched, worn, chalk-stained chalkboard and copied it down to the cracks and smudges. We don’t know which chalkboard first appeared in “The Double,” but who can resist the temptation to try it? It makes the signal stand out from the noise), we found that perfect replications can also be very noticeable.

Roni Horn’s work reveals the preciousness, even the fragility, of absolute identity. Her “Things That Happen Again” is her 1986 production, her two identical cones, each about the size of a basset hound, machined to perfection from solid copper. The industrial perfection of their reproductions is part of their appeal, as one visitor noticed when he left a large, greasy handprint in one shining copper, destroying the match between a pair of twins. A National Gallery staff member was distraught, but the damage was quickly removed, only to emphasize how important a perfect identity is to the work’s effectiveness.

A matter of sameness — or a matter of difference? — At the center of the most fascinating double work I know are two canvases of Robert Rauschenberg’s Factom I and Factom II. and both are included in “double”. Sometime in 1957, near the height of the American frenzy for his one-off eruption of Abstract Expressionism, Rauschenberg set out to show us one eruption—twice. Each “personal” mark he made with a brush on one canvas was repeated as much as possible on the other. If he transferred his two identical press images of President Eisenhower to the surface of one work, he placed them on the other, doubling the doubling that the age of mass reproduction made possible. rice field.

Rauschenberg recently began his life as a gay man when he created two Factums. (His partner at the time, Jasper Johns, carries a pair of his signature flags at the show.

Another strong piece of “The Double” is from a gay artist who addresses same-sex more directly.

Photo and video by Gilbert Prousch and George Passmore, the duo known as Gilbert & George, have lived and worked together in London since 1967. have turned their gender identity into a proud mark of their identity. Even if we do, the gray flannel camouflage suggests that this comes with a loss of individual presence. It attacks the idea that it has a lot to do with being.

‘The Double’ presents artists of color facing relationships as troubling as the ‘identity and difference’ referred to in the exhibition’s subtitle. In his 2012 work by Glenn Ligon, the word “America” ​​is written in neon, once in white glowing letters in the upper right corner, and then below it, upside down in black letters glowing only from behind. Lygon captures that the blackness of this country has always been seen as the dark flip side of white, but he introduces wrinkles. In black, country names are readable normally. In his white text, the letters are reversed in the middle of words. White people come across as a source of our confusion, but black people in America seem to know where it is.

When Tounes unfolds across so many artistic dimensions—racial, sexual, aesthetic, cognitive—it could be more fundamental to art than even this show allows. I have. Even most single photographs turned out to be twins, and an older National Gallery piece may have revealed the importance of James He Meyer’s theme.Joseph Wright’s “Corinthian Maiden” Painted in the 1780s, this painting depicts an old story explained by doubling the origins of art. Once, when a young woman’s lover was about to leave town, she traced the outline of his shadow on the wall. Even though he’s gone, he’s still by her side. All the photos have continued from that moment, the story says, because it worked to “make the non-existent exist.”

Ever since we put bison on cave walls, doubling what is important to us has been central to art.

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