At the Ren­wick, ar­chi­tec­ture’s fab­ric.

A Ren­wick Gallery in­stal­la­tion turns lay­ers of fab­ric into de­pic­tions of nine or­nate ceil­ings from land­mark U.S. build­ings

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY PEGGY MCGLONE peggy.mcglone@wash­post.com

Rib­bons of gray, coral and pink swirl over­head in the se­cond-floor gallery at the Ren­wick Gallery be­fore form­ing an in­tri­cate vaulted ceil­ing. Il­lu­sions of domes and boxes ap­pear and then fall away as view­ers move through the room. Real­ism turns ab­stract.

The over­head magic is cre­ated by “Par­al­lax Gap,” a new in­stal­la­tion that plays with per­spec­tive and il­lu­sion as it trans­forms the mu­seum’s stately Grand Sa­lon.

Com­mis­sioned by the mu­seum for the large room where Janet Echel­man’s wo­ven sculp­ture, “1.8 Ren­wick,” was dis­played, the work de­picts nine ceil­ings from 19th- and 20th-cen­tury build­ings, in­clud­ing de­signs from Philadel­phia City Hall, the Palace of Fine Arts in San Fran­cisco and the In­dian Treaty Room in the Eisen­hower Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice Build­ing across Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue in Wash­ing­ton.

Lay­ers of fab­ric stretched on frames are hung in lay­ers from above. The work spans 67 by 38 feet and takes up 10,000 square feet, but it still al­lows parts of the gallery’s own or­nate ceil­ing and sky­lights to peek through. The in­di­vid­ual ceil­ings over­lap and col­lide with one another, de­pend­ing on a vis­i­tor’s point of view. Its name plays on its jumpy per­spec­tive, as a kind of op­ti­cal in­ter­ac­tion.

Bren­nan Buck and David Freed­land, part­ners at the ar­chi­tec­ture prac­tice Free­landBuck, cre­ated the piece, which was se­lected by the mu­seum in its “ABOVE the Ren­wick” com­pe­ti­tion in 2015. It will re­main on view through Feb. 11.

“Par­al­lax Gap,” which is the first ar­chi­tec­turally fo­cused work com­mis­sioned by the Ren­wick, pushes the def­i­ni­tion of craft in the same way the nine site-spe­cific works in “Won­der” did, says Abra­ham Thomas, cu­ra­tor-in-charge of the Smith­so­nian Amer­i­can Art Mu­seum’s satel­lite space for con­tem­po­rary craft and dec­o­ra­tive arts. “Won­der” was the block­buster ex­hi­bi­tion that cel­e­brated the Ren­wick’s re­open­ing in 2015 af­ter a two-year, $30 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion.

Thomas said he wants to build on the ex­per­i­men­tal na­ture of that show, which pushed the bound­aries of Amer­i­can craft to in­clude large-scale works of con­tem­po­rary art. This in­stal­la­tion’s fo­cus on ar­chi­tec­tural is the next step in defin­ing craft as a process, he said.

“Craft is a verb, not just an ob­ject. It is an at­ti­tude,” he said.

PHO­TOS BY KATHER­INE FREY/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

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