Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., December 30, 2008
Last night I went back to the Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden, across the street from the museum itself, to get a closer look at Dan Graham’s outdoor sculpture “For Gordon Bunshaft,” a pyramidal enclosure about eight feet tall made of glass and aluminum and mirrors. A short stone walkway leads from the path to its open sliding door. Yesterday afternoon I’d watched people enter and see themselves in the mirrors inside, and forget that everyone outside could see them as they preened and patted their hair and adjusted their clothing in a very private way. I decided to come back at sunset, after the museums were closed, and get a closer look.
After examining it closely, inside and out, I sat down on a bench across the reflecting pool and admired it as a structure, as a shape, as an arrangement of material, as a silhouette against the purple sky sparkling with the first stars, and heard the voices of a couple and their young daughter walking down the path behind me. When the girl saw the sculpture, she let go of her mother’s hand and ran toward it. “No, Lindy,” the mother yelled after her. “You look at it from the sidewalk, you don’t go near it. “No,” the father said, “Look, it says right here that if the door is open, you can go inside.” “Oh, well, then, great! Let’s go!” And the three of them grabbed each other’s hands and walked through the door. The parents were instantly hypnotized by their reflections, but Lindy let go of her mother’s hand and spun around, trying to slide the door shut from the inside. But the door was too heavy and she could barely move it. When her mother saw what Lindy was doing in the mirror, she lunged for the door and I began to laugh and immediately heard a woman’s laugh behind me and I stood up and turned around and saw an elderly Japanese woman on the trail behind me and we looked at each other and laughed at our wonderful surprise.