A Scientist’s Perspective on Kirkeby

At last night’s Phillips after 5, Michael Garstang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Virginia’s Department of Environmental Sciences provided his perspective on the Kirkeby exhibition. He began his talk by making connections between art and science saying, “Both fields draw upon creativity as the prime motive. . . both are products of infinite, incremental steps, and both must be founded upon a preconceived framework.”

Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 2006. Tempera on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2 in. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Berlin

Per Kirkeby, Untitled, 2006. Tempera on canvas, 78 3/4 x 98 1/2 in. Courtesy Michael Werner Gallery, New York, London, and Berlin

Garstang talked about the infinite process of sedimentation, laying down grain by grain to form layers, strata, and structures in his discussion of this untitled work, which Kirkeby painted in 2006. He interpreted the parallel bands at the center of the canvas as possible “fossilized tree trunks,” citing Kirkeby’s writings on trees in which the artist explains, “I don’t think I have ever drawn a whole tree.” Despite the painting’s framework, Garstang noted that Kirkeby “interrupted the form with discordant shapes juxtaposed with a sphere.” He wondered “Is it detritus? Glacial till? Blue ice?” Like Kirkeby, Garstang was reluctant to interpret the end result saying, “I’ll let you sort this one yourselves.”

Play Well

Instagramed images of lego sculptures paired with the Per Kirkeby paintings that inspired them

Left to right: Lego man amidst the trees by Margaret Collerd, inspired by Per Kirkeby’s Untitled (2009); Climbing Shadows by Amy Wike, inspired by Per Kirkeby’s New Shadows V (1996); Fire Engine #5 by Michelle Herman, inspired by Per Kirkeby’s Inferno V (1992)

Phillips staff with bins of legos, creating sculptures

Phillips staff use images from Per Kirkeby’s exhibition to inspire Lego sculptures.

Did you know that LEGO is an abbreviation of two Danish words–“leg godt”–meaning “play well”? Neither did I! But I took this inspiring etymology to heart when developing a Lego challenge for the upcoming January 3 Arctic Expedition Phillips after 5. Inspired by Danish artist Per Kirkeby’s layered colorful abstractions, Phillips staff built our own Lego sculptures. Like kids on Christmas morning, we spread out on my office floor with focused attention to come up with our own Lego creations and Instagram them.

On January 3, you have a chance to “play well,” and win a host of prizes! Visit the museum during Phillips after 5 (5–8:30 pm; be sure to make a reservation) and peruse the Per Kirkeby: Paintings and Sculpture exhibition for inspiration. Then stop by the Lego tables, build your own sculpture, and share it on Instagram with the title of your choice and #PhillipsPlaysWell. You’ll be entered to win great prizes, including a Phillips Contemporaries membership, tickets to The Kennedy Center’s Nordic Cool festival opening concert, a one-year Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) membership, and more. Follow us on Instagram (@phillipscollection) for some pre-event inspiration.

Margaret Collerd,  Public Programs and In-gallery Interpretation Coordinator

Winter Cheer, Danish-Style

Photos: Joshua Navarro

Last week’s Phillips after 5 –a Winter Fairy Tale inspired by Per Kirkeby‘s native Denmark–truly had what the Danes call “HYGGE.” Guests sipped aquavit, listened to jazz piano by Søren Møller and saxophone by Dick Oatts, and most of all enjoyed time with each other and with art. Ambassador Peter Taksøe-Jensen even came by with his spouse Gitte Wallin Pedersen to soak up the atmosphere. Next month, the Embassy of Denmark will be back for another Kirkeby-inspired evening, this time an “Arctic Expedition.”