Posts Tagged ‘Claes Oldenburg’

The Ice Skating Rink at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

The Ice Skating Rink at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

The circular reflecting pool at the center of the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden is transformed during the cold winter months each year into an outdoor ice skating rink. It has become an extremely popular winter destination, particularly for skating enthusiasts. And although I am not an ice skater myself, it was also my destination, at least for this lunchtime bike ride.

Ice skating has been a popular activity on the National Mall for well over a hundred years, with unofficial skating sites located at the Tidal Basin and The Reflecting Pool in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, the actual ice skating rink did not open until 1974. And it did not open in its current form until 1999. Because the ice rink had been operating at the site since for more than twenty years, it was included in the National Gallery of Art’s plans for the Sculpture Garden when it was conceived in 1996.

In its current location as part of the Sculpture Garden, visitors have the opportunity to skate while surrounded not only by the grand architecture of national museums and monuments, but by large outdoor sculptures and exhibits displayed by the National Gallery of Art. These sculptures include works by world-renowned artists, such as “Four-Sided Pyramid” by Sol LeWitt and Claes Oldenburg’s “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X“, to name just a couple. In all, there are nineteen works of modern and contemporary sculpture on the richly landscaped grounds surrounding the ice rink.

The ice rink can accommodate more than two hundred skaters, with a music system that brings vibrant sound to visitors on and off the ice. And at night, lighting further contributes to the festive atmosphere. This year, the gallery’s guest services will offer both skating and ice hockey lessons, for which students can register individually or with a group. There is also a snack shop named the Pavilion Café, which offers a panoramic view of the Sculpture Garden and ice rink in addition to a variety of food and beverages.

Located just off the National Mall at 700 Constitution Avenue (MAP) in downtown, D.C., the ice rink opened in mid-November and will remain open through March 16, 2015, weather permitting. The rink is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Sunday, it’s open from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. The ice-skating rink will close at 5:00 p.m. Christmas Eve, and will be closed on December 25 and January 1. Admission for a two hour session costs $8 for adults. And if you don’t have your own skates, they can be rented for an additional $3. A season pass that covers unlimited access to the ice rink is also available for $195.

Whether you’re an avid skater or have never tried it before, I highly recommend visiting the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink at least once this winter. Who knows, you may enjoy it so much that, like many other people already have, you’ll want to make it an annual winter tradition.

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Claes Oldenburg's "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X"

Claes Oldenburg’s “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X”

Located in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art, at 6th Street and Constitution Avenue in Downtown D.C. (MAP), is a sculpture formally entitled “Typewriter Eraser, Scale X.”  Despite being something that people under the age of 50 may not even recognize, the sculpture is considered one of the more iconic pieces of late century U.S. sculpture.

In the mid-1960s Claes Oldenburg decided that he wanted to challenge the notion that public monuments must commemorate historical figures or events.  Considered within the context of our nation’s Capitol, which is replete with historic and commemorative monuments and memorials, this was a somewhat radical idea.  Using this idea as his only guidance, Oldenburf began creating drawings of monuments based on common objects, such as a clothespin or a pair of scissors.

He later went on to include discredited or obsolete objects, some of which were things he remembered from childhood.  He recalled that as a youngster he enjoyed playing in his father’s office with a typewriter eraser and the late 1960s and 1970s he focused on the typewriter eraser.  He used it as a source for drawings, prints, sculpture, and even a never-realized monument for New York City.

Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, was constructed in 1999, and is made of steel and fiberglass.  It measures over 19 feet tall, and weighs over 22 tons.  The sculpture presents a giant falling eraser that has just alighted, the bristles of the brush turned upward in a graceful, dynamic gesture.  There are two other versions of the Typewriter Eraser. One is the centerpiece of the MGM sculpture garden in front of the Mandarin Oriental in City Center in Las Vegas.  The other is located at the Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park. All three sculptures are the same size and identical in appearance.

Although it may not be your reason for taking a vacation in D.C., or even for visiting the National Gallery of Art, seeing Typewriter Eraser, Scale X is something you should consider. Its central location makes it easy to find, and it is always available for viewing 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Take a photo of yourself in front of it and show your friends that you stood in front of one of the weirdest sculptures you’ve ever seen.