This season at the Smithsonian, the theme is aviary extinction. An exhibition at the Museum of Natural History marks the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon, a species that once clouded the North American sky. Outside the Smithsonian Castle, four sculptures of extinct birds by Todd McGrain are on display in the formal Enid A. Haupt Garden. And now, at the American Art Museum, there’s another exhibition that focuses on birds — mostly those that have disappeared. Like bird counters, let’s investigate “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art.”
Number of artists in the exhibition: David Beck, Rachel Berwick, Lorna Bieber, Barbara Bosworth, Joann Brennan, Petah Coyne, Walton Ford, Laurel Roth Hope, Paula McCartney, James Prosek, Fred Tomaselli and Tom Uttech.
Number of works in the show, on the museum’s third floor.
The year British poet Harold Monro published his poem “The Bird at Dawn,” from which the exhibition title was drawn.
Length, in inches, of Prosek’s black-and-white mural that begins the exhibition, titled “What once was is no more: Passing like a thought, flight into memory” (2014).
Mixed-media elements used in two of the sculptures by Hope: fake fingernails, nail polish, barrettes, false eyelashes, jewelry, Swarovski crystal and walnut base.
Fake birds placed in the wild and photographed in the five images by McCartney.
Large, blue crystal spheres on display by sculptor Berwick, representing day and night and inspired by the light-refracting plumage of the migratory songbird the indigo bunting.
Taxidermy birds used in Coyne’s hanging sculpture “Untitled #1375 (No Reason Except Love)” (2011-12).
Taxidermy squirrel among the birds in Coyne’s “Untitled #1375.”
Extinct species depicted in the large, Audubon-like color etchings from Ford — the great elephant bird, the Cuban red macaw and the passenger pigeon in huge flocks.
Number of years between the discovery of the dodo in 1598 and its extinction in 1662. The bird is the subject of works by Beck, including seven bronze sculptures.
Images found from stock photographs that make up Bieber’s 104-by-230-inch montage “Birds & Flowers” (2008).
Catlin is a freelance writer.
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art Through Feb. 22 at the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets NW. 202-633-1000. americanart.si.edu.