A mythical horse walks on the beach in a seamlessly looped eight-minute video projected into the former Dining Room in the Phillips Collection’s Phillips House.
The temporary multimedia installation by Jonathan Monaghan also features vivid beachscape scenes littered with high-tech gadgetry projected onto every wall — a stark contrast with the modern art on display and Georgian architectural details in the physical space.
The Phillips Collection’s Vesela Sretenović describes Monaghan’s installation as one in which the “past and present merge into a surrealist dreamscape filled with opulent architectural décor and familiar mass-produced items of today. At once fanciful and bleak, it portrays our consumerist culture in which technology takes over ecology.”
Titled Move The Way You Want, the work is the latest in the museum’s commissioned series of contemporary art projects that, in multiple and varying ways, explore “Intersections” between the old and the new, or modern and contemporary, in terms of artistic tradition, practice, presentation, or display.
Monaghan’s digitally created imagery, projected from adhesive canvas, is displayed alongside paintings from the permanent collection of the Phillips, including Giorgio de Chirico’s Horse (1928) and Théodore Géricault’s Two Horses (1808–09).
In this way the immersive, site-specific installation presents a double “intersection,” putting Monaghan’s new computer-generated animation in conversation with 19th-century genre painting in addition to interacting with the Phillips’ historic space.
“When I was asked to participate in ‘Intersections’ and create a new work in dialogue with work(s) from the permanent collection, I was immediately drawn to de Chirico and Géricault’s paintings of horses on the beach,” says Monaghan in a statement also noting that the now D.C.-based artist grew up in Rockaway Beach in the New York City borough of Queens. “Coastal imagery is important to me personally but also because in my view the beach acts as an ideal backdrop for addressing environmental issues and our fraught relationship with the natural world.”
Monaghan turned to a wide range of sources, from historical artworks and ancient mythology, where horses are symbols of majesty, freedom, and beauty, to videogames, virtual reality, and high-tech devices, to create a work offering a critical reflection on today’s anxiety-inducing digital age and technological landscape, and a “contemporary culture where consumerism and technology co-depend, and utopia and dystopia co-exist,” to quote an official description.
On display through Dec. 31 at The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. NW. Tickets are $10 to $16. Visit www.phillipscollection.org or call 202-387-2151.
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