From the outside, the Hirshhorn Museum’s cylindrical form appears simple and regular. But inside the concrete doughnut hole, the building’s orbits slip ever so slightly out of alignment: The fountain sits off-center, and the inner perimeter deviates by as much as four feet from the outer one. It’s within this barely perceptible eccentricity that Linn Meyers has performed a minimalist yet sweeping riff on the circle.
The local artist’s “Our View from Here” is a wall drawing that undulates all the way around the museum’s second-floor inner loop, running more than 400 linear feet. Executed over 11 weeks with felt-tip pens and black acrylic ink, the epic drawing arrays thousands of complementary lines. The freehand strokes curve in near-congruence, almost touching at the densest points but moving apart and ultimately evaporating at the edges of each portion.
The circular space, often used to exhibit sculpture, has been cleared of all objects, giving it an unprecedented sense of continuity. The drawing is divided across eight panels and interrupted by entrances into the galleries that flank it. But the episodes are linked by a band of pale yellow pigment across the top, as well as Meyers’s repeated gestures.
“It’s definitely one drawing, not eight drawings,” she says.
Each segment begins with a circle or partial circle, rendered initially with a giant compass. Sometimes the shape is partly outlined, but Meyers defines it primarily with the lines that flow past and around it. The circle seems to generate the drawing, yet exists chiefly as an absence.
With one eye on the fountain visible through the window, it’s easy to see Meyers’s drawing as representing, or at least inspired by, water. The lines suggest waves or ripples, and the circular gaps could be boulders or some other obstacles that divert them. The drawing also suggests woodcuts or engravings, or a different sort of printed matter just one step removed from nature: a topographical map.
Meyers, however, calls the places where the lines shift or pool not ripples, but “slippages.” Nature references are not intended.
The artist emphasizes the process of her work. Each line is essentially generated by the previous one. These are not like Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings, which are conceptual and Euclidean, and needn’t be realized by the artist himself. Meyer’s hand is everywhere visible — in the width and texture of line, the looseness within the rigorous format and what Meyers calls “the intentional loss of control” as the composition strays from its circular origins.
This is the first Meyers drawing that can’t be seen in its entirety from one point. Viewers must follow the piece around the museum’s inner loop, a trek that mimics the lines’ (and the artist’s) roundabout progress. The circle, of course, is a symbol for infinity.
Yet infinite “Our View from Here” is not. Next May, the drawing will be plastered over. Meyers’s most monumental work will not be a permanent landmark, and the drawing’s final slippage will be into memory. But the circle, the line and the process endure, ready to transform another blank space.
On Sept. 10 at 4 p.m., Meyers will discuss chance and impermanence in art and life with George Washington University philosophy professor Tadeusz Zawidzki.
Linn Meyers: Our View from Here On view through May 14, 2017, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Independence Avenue at Seventh St. SW. 202-633-2822. www.hirshhorn.si.edu.
Most of the time, viewing the current show at Hamiltonian Gallery is about as exciting as watching grass grow. Because that, in fact, is what’s happening. “Permacounterculture,” which Japan-bred local artist Naoko Wowsugi is credited with “orchestrating,” consists of a large shed in which trays of wheatgrass germinate under strings of red and blue LED lights. Also, there’s projected video of local punk bands in performance inside this very enclosure.
What’s the connection? Well, the grass is “perma” and the punk is “counter.” Wheatgrass juice is allegedly a source of energy, sort of like loud, fast rock-and-roll. And pulsations from the music, along with the carbon dioxide exhaled by energetic performers and listeners, are supposed to boost the grass’s growth. The links are both natural and contrived.
On the evening of Aug. 25, wheatgrass juice shots were served, and three noisy acts played. There was a brief outburst of slam dancing, but — unlike at one of D.C.’s vaunted 1980s punk shows — more people were taking photos than moving to the music. It was impossible to ascertain whether the grass was being energized.
The last chance to see this life cycle in action is Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., when three more bands will play, more wheatgrass juice will be drunk and more cellphones will be switched to camera mode.
Permacounterculture On view through Sept. 10 at Hamiltonian Gallery, 1353 U St. NW. 202-332-1116. hamiltoniangallery.com.
If murders had physical as well as emotional weight, the maps in “City of Ghosts” would slump to the right. Billy Friebele and Mike Iacovone’s Flashpoint Gallery show includes shadow-box diagrams of the locations of D.C. homicides in 2013, 2014 and 2015, as well as a projected video piece that overlays 2016’s slayings with other statistics such as neighborhood unemployment rates. These correlate ominously, if not surprisingly, on the city’s eastern side.
The show is the result of a year-long residency at the D.C. Public Library, and includes works made with devices from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library’s Fab Lab. (“Fab” is short for fabrication, not fabulous.) A model of a facetiously proposed Chinatown monument stacks pieces produced via a 3-D printer, while a sound-activated automatic drawing machine sketches atop projected historical pictures of Chinatown and nearby blocks.
Many of the buildings shown in these images are also now ghosts, although their destruction is different from the loss of lives memorialized in the show’s murder maps. Constructing charts may seem an inadequate answer to the local upsurge in killings, but then, so are nearly all the other responses.
Billy Friebele & Mike Iacovone: City of Ghosts On view through Sept. 10 at Flashpoint Gallery, 916 G St. NW. 202-315-1305. www.culturaldc.org/visual-arts/flashpoint-gallery.