The National Gallery of Art has been given seven superb works by five contemporary artists, two of whom are not currently represented in the collection. Donated by Heather Podesta, who has given numerous works over the years, this outstanding gift includes a work by Liza Lou (b. 1969), two works on paper by Amy Cutler (b. 1974), and four chromogenic prints: two by Sharon Core (b. 1965) from the Thiebaud series, one by Thomas Demand (b. 1964), and one by Frank Thiel (b. 1966).
Paintings and Works on Paper:
Best known for her iconic beaded sculptures and paintings, Liza Lou centers her artistic practice on issues of materiality and social consciousness. In 2005, she set up a studio in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where she works alongside local Zulu women who are skilled in the craft of traditional beadwork. Woven in collaboration with her studio assistants, Blue (2016) is a monochromatic red square made from strips of sewn glass beads that were handcrafted in Japan. Originally titled Crimson, it was retitled Blue in 2016 when the artist donated the work to a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Blue is the first work by Lou to enter the National Gallery's collection.
Amy Cutler's imaginative scenarios explore the complexities of human relationships and conventional gender roles. She often juxtaposes traditional costumes, patterned textiles, and other aspects of material culture with references to history, folklore, fairytales, popular culture, and personal experience to address misperceptions of women and underscore female resilience. Her intricate and enigmatic narrative drawings Gorge (2009) and Export (2007) are the first works by this contemporary figurative artist to enter the National Gallery's collection.
Trained as both a painter and a baker, Sharon Core made the candies and cakes depicted in her Thiebaud series to precisely mimic those in Wayne Thiebaud's iconic 1960s paintings. Using reproductions of his paintings as guides, she carefully replicated not only the objects he painted, but also his compositions, lighting, shadows, textures, and perspectives. Candy Counter 1963 (2004) and Pie Counter (2003) are excellent examples of Core's exploration of the boundary between artifice and reality.
Thomas Demand is celebrated for appropriating already existing photographs—often from newspapers and the media but also from cell phones—and making life-sized sculptural reconstructions of them out of colored paper and cardboard. After carefully lighting and photographing the model, he destroys it. In Wand/Mural (1999), Demand photographed a world map on a wall, including part of the floor, ceiling, and an electrical outlet. He suggests the vulnerability of the world by leaving only the photographic record.
Frank Thiel is best known for his large-scale photographs of Berlin that address the massive changes in the city in the years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Often photographing large buildings under construction, he creates pictures that point to the shifting social and cultural landscape of the city, new modes of living, and the temporality of urban existence. In Stadt 2/75 (Berlin) (2003), Thiel focuses on tightly interlocking structural forms to suggest the endless replicability of the new architecture.