Artist Kelly Towles and his dogs in his studio. All photos courtesy The Phillips Collection
Last week, DC-based artist and long-time Phillips fan Kelly Towles brought some of the masterworks from Made in the USA into the 21st century—and gave them some attitude. Best known for his vibrant murals all around DC (think Toki Underground, DC Brau, U Street Music Hall) often featuring fantastical masked figures, Towles used spray paint and ink to add his signature street art style to reproductions of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Miss Lillian Woakes (between 1890 and 1891) and Edward Hopper’s Approaching a City (1946). A limited number of t-shirts and totes with these images will be available in the museum shop in the coming weeks—stay tuned for more information.
We visited Towles’s studio to catch the artist at work:
Towles adding to Edward Hopper’s Approaching a City
Towles working on Whistler’s Miss Lillian Woakes
The final product by Kelly Towles
Installation view of Made in the USA. Photo courtesy The Phillips Collection
With the heat and patriotic spirit of early July upon us, now is a great time to check out Made in the USA before it comes down on August 31. As a new intern, I’ve enjoyed spending some time with this exhibition; especially a few works by some of my favorite artists, among them Alexander Calder, whose works Hollow Egg, Red Polygons, and Untitled are currently on view. The first time I wandered the galleries I was immediately drawn to the three sculptures for their distinct presence amidst the two-dimensional works that make up most of the show. In fact, the way Calder’s work is displayed makes it visible from three of the galleries; a curatorial decision I can’t help but think of as a strategy to emphasize the universal relationships these sculptures have with painting, and image-making in general. Next to Stuart Davis’s Egg Beater No. 4, it’s easy to recognize the parallels between Calder’s use of wire and strokes on a canvas.
Another hallmark of Calder’s work (seen in two of the three pieces on display) is his exploration of movement. The suspended metal shapes act like sails that catch the quiet breezes created by the motion of viewers in the gallery space, allowing the mobiles to rotate with currents of air. This delicate movement is to me what makes viewing the works a powerful experience; they depend on their audience in order to become mobile at all.
Elaine Budzinski, Marketing Intern
Theodore Robinson, Giverny, ca. 1889, Oil on canvas 16 x 22 in.; 40.64 x 55.88 cm.. Acquired 1920.
Painted during his third summer in the village, Giverny (ca. 1889) is a prototypical example of the technique that earned Theodore Robinson his reputation in America. Using a vantage from a hillside overlooking the Seine valley, he adjusted his easel to paint several views of the rural landscape. The strong composition and strict delineation of architectural elements in Giverny hark back to Robinson’s academic training, while the bright violet-and-green palette and deft, summary treatment of the light-dappled foliage betray his exposure to impressionism. In Giverny, Robinson emphasized parallel diagonal lines that radiate to the left of the picture plane and terminate at the horizon line near the top of the canvas. Robinson executed this painting en plein-air—out of doors—capturing the immediate brilliance of the sunlight and warm colors of the country, a technique he no doubt learned from Monet.