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NASA | ART 50 Years of Exploration - SpacePod 2011.06.20

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Bert: Hi, I'm Bert Ulrich. I'm a curator for the NASA art program and I'm very happy to have you here today to sort of view the works from the NASA art collection. The exhibit's been traveling around the country for the last two years, and what it does is, its purpose is to chronicle the history of the agency through art. NASA's actually had an art program since the early 1960s, and artists have been given a different perspective into how NASA works and they've been able to document the agency and the different chapters of NASA's history through the media of art. So, welcome! The exhibit starts off with two pieces. One is by Robert Rauschenberg and the other one's by Norman Rockwell. We often say that the exhibit covers Rockwell to Rauschenberg. And in a way it does because it runs the gamut of styles and different art forms that are incorporated in the collection. Another wonderful piece is this piece by Paul Calle called "Power [to Go]" and it really reflects its name actually. It captures the power of a launch. Currently, when you see a Space Shuttle launch, you feel the rumbling in your chest, but in the Apollo era it was supposedly incredibly intense to watch a launch. And it wasn't only a rumbling in your chest, but it was this really multi-sensory experience. And you just would see this thing live and breathe and go up and I think that Calle captured this, especially in the wild orange colors that you see in the painting. Another one which is extremely fun is this William Wegman piece. William Wegman is very famous for his photographing of ... among other things, he does a lot of different work, but these are his Weimaraner dogs. And we loaned Wegman a space suit. Not a real one, but one we use in public relations, and he actually incorporated the dog in the piece. So we have a Weimaraner in a space suit and then he also created an International Space Station from stereo cartons. And it looks kind of fun. And there's a little dog inside of that as well that's superimposed in there. And so that's a really really fun piece that takes a different aspect of it. And what's nice about the artwork, I probably should say, is that it reaches people in different ways. It's wonderful to have a piece like this that will reach people of all ages, but people get grabbed by different things, and that's what is the beauty of this collection. Because it really has different styles and there's a little something for everyone or maybe there isn't. But there are so many different styles that one could get sort of taken in by the pieces. Around the millennium, around 1999-2000, at the end of the millennium, we had Stephen Sprouse did a piece which documented the Mars Pathfinder mission. And he incorporated imagery from the Pathfinder Mission. You see sort of pieces of the rover here, as well as there you see tracks. You see wheels right there from the rover. And these are actually in 3D, so you technically could take a pair of 3D glasses, put them on, and see this piece and see the imagery pop out. He did a series of clothing for fashion week in New York and this was one of the pieces that was donated to the collection. So we were very very happy to have that in the collection as well. And Stephen Sprouse, just so that you know, he worked a lot with Andy Warhol in the past and he became quite a well-known fashion designer, especially in the 80s and 90s. So, we're very happy to have that piece. Tim: Is that the only piece of three-dimensional or 3D art clothing that you have in the collection? Bert: Yes, 3D art clothing for sure. When the Columbia accident happened, we have two pieces as well. One is by Chakaia Booker up there, which is also a very very strong piece. And she actually incorporated a Columbia tire from an earlier mission. And she was able to sort of work with the tire. It was extremely heavy and hard to deal with, so there is only pieces of the Columbia tire in that. It's actually a tire that was flown in space. And she incorporated it within the piece. And I think this piece on many levels is just so symbolic. It looks like a black star actually, sort of in mourning. It's sort of mourning the loss of the crew. But on the other hand, and this was brought up by a Washington Post critic, and I thought was really really sort of a brilliant observation, is that also on a visceral level you see sort of almost like a tire blowout. Which is kind of strong and very very sad and tragic and awful. But, at the same time, it's a really really interesting observation that you see this torn apart rubber and tire. Which is also indicative in a very visceral way of the accident itself. So, it's a very very introspective interesting piece. A piece, a multimedia piece we did with the Kronos Quartet back in 2001. And for the 25th anniversary of the Voyager mission, they worked with composer Terry Riley to do a piece of music dedicated to Voyager. And the piece incorporates not only visuals, but of course music obviously. But also poetry as well. Alice Walker - one of her poems was in the piece as well as imagery from the golden record which was flown along with the Voyager Mission. It's a very strong piece. So if it ever shows in your town or city, I would highly recommend seeing it. It has traveled around the world, so it's wonderful the ways this has reached people through music, visuals, and poetry as well. That's about it.

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 29 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: None
Views: 74
Posted by: spacevidcast on Jun 20, 2011

A traveling art exhibition featuring 73 works by some of America's leading artists has been organized by the Smithsonian Institution to honor NASA's 50th birthday.
"NASA | ART" opened Oct. 25 at the Art League of Bonita Springs in Bonita Springs, Fla. The exhibition remained there until Jan. 19, 2009, then travel to 10 other museums through 2011. The show was put together by NASA and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, in cooperation with the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.
Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at:

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