Artists Sarah Cain, Avish Khebrehzadeh, and Kay Rosen take advantage of spaces outside and inside the East Building to transform temporary construction walls and empty spaces into sites for their distinctive works. Their site-responsive installations, commissioned by the National Gallery, enliven the East Building while it undergoes a skylight replacement and other renovations. Through their involvement in Artist Projects, these three artists introduce intriguing new ways to see and experience this familiar space. Rosen’s SORRY, outside the main entrance of the East Building, is on view mid-April into the summer. Cain’s My favorite season is the fall of the patriarchy and Khebrehzadeh’s Tree of Life in Blue and Seven Silent Songs are on view when the East Building reopens into December 2021.
Avish Khebrehzadeh made thousands of drawings to create her animated video Seven Silent Songs. She digitized, edited, and set the drawings in motion in six linked animations that loop to make a seventh overall work. Together, the serene scenes raise questions about migration, climate change, and human nature. The processions start and end with animals. Humans are interspersed to denote balance, cause, and effect. A long line of galloping white horses, symbolizing wisdom, power, and freedom as well as the artist’s native Iran, sets the tone. In other scenes, a man drags a whale, jellyfish and a manatee swim through a fluid environment, rhinos and birds meander through a field, and military figures on stilts drag cans and chairs behind them. A peaceful flight of herons ends the poetic series. In addition, Khebrehzadeh made A Tree of Life in Blue, a twelve-by-eight-foot drawing, directly on a wall adjacent to the video installation. Her massive tree grows from its earth-bound central trunk and extends through its vast network of branches to reach across the picture plane and toward the sky. The ancient symbol of the tree of life represents vitality and continuity, which Khebrehzadeh connotes through her choice of a blue tone to evoke sky and water. Part of the artist’s series of tree drawings, this work connects to the living creatures shown in Seven Silent Songs.