Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950

Mixed Media

Editorial Review

By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, May 23, 2014

The impulse to break things ---- or at least the impulse to unmake our assumptions about art--making ---- lies at the heart of “Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950.” The exhibition, whose iconic work might be the series of three photographs purporting to show artist Ai Weiwei deliberately shattering a 2,000--year--old Han Dynasty urn, closes this weekend at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.

If you haven’t seen the show because you’re afraid it’s all nose--thumbing vandalism, you might be in for a surprise. “Damage Control” is at its best when it demonstrates, sometimes beautifully, that some things ---- especially old ways of looking at art ---- are worth demolishing.

By Michael O’Sullivan
Friday, October 25, 2013


Those with appetite for artistic destruction will want to head to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where the thematic survey “Damage Control” has just opened. Featuring 90 works by more than 40 contemporary artists, the show explores a theme that might sound oxymoronic: creative destruction.

It includes not only straightforward images of ruin (e.g., Shomei Tomatsu’s photos of the aftermath of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic blasts), but also work that uses annihilation as its primary means of creation (e.g., John Baldessari’s “Cremation Project,” in which the artist baked cookies using the burnt ashes of several torched paintings).

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the museum will host a free daylong symposium on the theme, featuring Yoko Ono, Ori Gersht and other artists whose work has utilized destruction.