Unexpected Occurrences, Jackie Chan, and More Best Bets for Aug. 11–17 WCP

Thursday: Unexpected Occurrences at the Kreeger Museum

Taking in the setting and the artworks at the Kreeger Museum’s somewhat out-of-the-way location always feels like stumbling upon hidden gems. That feeling is magnified in Unexpected Occurrences, an exhibition featuring the current cohort of Hamiltonian Artists fellows. The Kreeger’s permanent collection has always hosted a mix of modern art masters as well as exemplars of D.C.’s own art scene such as Sam Gilliam and William Christenberry, but for the past year their The Collaborative guest artist series has spotlighted local talent and D.C.-based arts organizations, and this exhibit is particularly thrilling. Rather than be cordoned off in their own gallery, the works of the Hamiltonian artists are interspersed throughout, creating interesting connections and commentary. Joey Enriquez has a clay monoprint, a form of printmaking that uses designs etched and painted onto clay slabs to transfer an image onto paper, hanging around the corner from a Wassily Kandinsky painting that has sand mixed into the pigment. Amber Eve Anderson has created a video of the turning pages of a book featuring photos of beds overlaid with wave sounds; fittingly enough it sits on a shelf in the library, surrounded by books. Some works were created specifically for this particular space or were selected to critique the collection in some way. Madeline Stratton has a selection of brightly colored and interestingly shaped paintings that take their forms from elements of the building’s architecture, and the colors are more vibrant, neon hues of colors drawn from the Claude Monet paintings that surround them. A sculpture by Lionel Frazier White III, titled “one for the dead,” is an assemblage of doors, candles, and bottles, recalling the tradition in Black communities of pouring one out for the dead. Sandwiched between a room of African sculptures and a room of some modern art stars, it shows a line for how museum’s can evolve their collections and make them more representational. Unexpected Occurrences runs through Aug. 27 at the Kreeger Museum, 2401 Foxhall Rd. NW. Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. Free, advance registration required. — Stephanie Rudig

Saturday: Candlelight: The Best Anime Soundtracks From Joe Hisaishi at Miracle Theatre

Courtesy of fever

What’s so special about Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki movies? Is it the gorgeous animation? The lovingly drawn food? The unique, otherworldly creatures and immersive locations? Or, could it be the music? Those iconic piano scores that, while unique unto themselves, practically scream Ghibli when you hear them? We often underestimate the importance of sound and music in film. (David Lynch, director of films like Fire Walk With Me and Mulholland Drive, believes movies are half visual and half auditory.) Films need to tell stories and explore themes, sure, but they also need to tap into elemental emotions. Music can transport us to a new setting. It can coax out our sympathy for a once-loathed antagonist (even a faceless wraith) and inspire us to take a fresh, fantastical look at what we thought was familiar. In the films of Miyazaki, a lot of that heavy lifting is done by a composer named Joe Hisaishi, who has been working with Miyazaki since the 1980s. Since then, he has become the sound of Ghibli’s most iconic films. Search “Ghibli Music” or “Miyazaki Music” on YouTube. You’ll pull up compilations with millions of views, consisting mostly of Hisaishi’s compositions. All over the world, people are listening to Hisaishi’s music throughout their workdays, microdosing themselves with just enough of that Miyazaki magic to get through another hour or two of spreadsheets and grinning through Zoom meetings. The Hisaishi Candlelight Experience is an opportunity to hear this music in a new way, performed live by the Listeso String Quartet, bathed in the amber glow of flameless candles. Candlelight Concerts has, in the past, presented performances focused on the likes of Vivaldi, Bach, and Queen. It’s only appropriate that Hisaishi and his contributions be honored alongside these names. The quartet will perform songs from Ghibli classics like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo. Candlelight FEVER: The Best of Joe Hisaishi plays at 6:30 and 9 p.m. on Aug. 13 at Miracle Theatre, 535 8th St. SE. $40–$50. Will Lennon

Sunday: Family Ties, Powerful Partnerships at the National Portrait Gallery

Jessie Benton Fremont; Attribution: Mathew Brady Studio; Modern albumen print from wet plate collodion negative, c. 1863 (printed 1982). National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Meserve Collection

Two newer, smaller exhibits at the National Portrait Gallery use mid-19th century photographs to illustrate the ties that bind. Powerful Partnerships: Civil War-Era Couples offers modest, sepia-toned portraits of Civil War generals and their spouses—one might call them power couples of the time. Intriguingly, except for Ulysses S. Grant, the featured military men—Nathaniel Banks, George McClellan, and, to an extent, John C. Frémont—had mixed (at best) records on the battlefield, leaving their wives to impress viewers a century and a half later by having found fulfilling supporting roles at a time when avenues for women’s advancement was sharply limited. Family Ties, meanwhile, collects family groupings captured in daguerreotypes, the dominant photographic method of the 1840s and 1850s. Despite their small size, the daguerreotypes, as always, impress with their reflective, jewel-like surfaces. The exhibit features some bold-faced names, including painter Thomas Eakins, former First Lady Dolley Madison (in 1848, just a year before her death), members of Hawaii’s Kamehameha dynasty, then-future President Zachary Taylor, and Peter Cooper, the founder of New York City’s Cooper Union. But the most stunning image is the 1856 daguerreotype of the extended family of Thomas Ustick Walter, a leading architect of the time and a key designer of the U.S. Capitol. Not only does the image include members of Walter’s blended family, but also a free Black woman who worked in Walter’s D.C. household—a definition of family that would have been decades ahead of its time. Family Ties runs through June 11; Powerful Partnerships runs through May 2025 at the National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G streets NW. Daily, 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free. Louis Jacobson

Sunday: The Young Master at the Freer Gallery

Jackie Chang in The Young Master; Courtesy of Janus Films

I’d like to tell you that Jackie Chan’s 1980 feature, his debut for the legendary Hong Kong production company Golden Harvest, used to show at the former Town Theatre on New York Avenue NW, once the place in town to see martial arts movies, now home to the National Museum of Women in the Arts. But The Young Man, Chan’s second feature as a director, has always been elusive in this area. Newspaper listings from the era only reveal a couple of midnight shows at Annandale’s long-shuttered NTI Jefferson in the early 1980s. But worldwide, this thriller grossed what in 2021 dollars would be a cool $200 million. Grossing $10 million Hong Kong dollars, The Young Master was one of the movies that made Chan a superstar. And, in one exquisitely choreographed fight scene after another, his charm and violent temper (and gluttony for punishment) bursts off the screen. Chan, at his peak, was like a dancer—as if Gene Kelly had taken up Kung Fu instead of tap shoes. With his Everyman looks and natural athleticism, Chan made it look effortless, though it was far from easy. In what would be one of many instances of major injury on set, Chan almost suffocated during filming due to a throat injury. Behind the scenes, in what sounds like a subplot out of one of his movies, Chan ran afoul of gangsters who wanted the rising star to make another movie for his old boss—or else. Fortunately, it all worked out; Chan established a winning formula that would sustain him for decades, and if more recent vehicles like 2017’s The Foreigner give him fairly tepid political thriller plots, he hasn’t lost his ability to win over an audience, albeit with less death-defying stunts. The National Museum of Asian Art closes out this year’s Made in Hong Kong film festival with a 35mm print of Chan’s genre classic. The Young Master screens at 2 p.m. on Aug. 14 at the Freer Gallery of Art, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free.Pat Padua

Daily: Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the Sackler Gallery

Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC: The Alice S. Kandell Collection

D.C. is blessed with several artistic sanctuaries where one can escape for a moment of zen: the Rothko Room at the Phillips Collection, the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, and the gardens at Hillwood Estate, just to name a few. But the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room at the National Museum of Asian Art is a retreat unlike anything else at any other museum. Hundreds of statues sit atop painted and carved tables, as well as candlesticks, bells, drums, and other ritual objects. The walls are lined with tapestries and paintings, lights flicker in the dimly lit space, and the sound of Tibetan monk chants fills the room. It’s an utterly engrossing experience, one that envelops the audience in an atmosphere of calm while presenting a dizzying array of things to look at. The room sucks visitors in, and they may have a hard time tearing themselves away. I’d personally come back for a hit of the shrine room every day if I could, but in lieu of that, it can be experienced virtually, chanting and all. Online, visitors can browse and dive further into the various items on display, clicking to reveal background information. Really though, in tense and troubled times like these, it’s worth traveling to this relaxing oasis and unwinding in person. The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room is ongoing and open daily 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the National Museum of Asian Art’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free. —Stephanie Rudig 

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