Angel Rodríguez-Díaz, “The Protagonist of an Endless Story” (1993), oil on canvas (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

Congress might be dysfunctional after the historic outsing of its speaker, but museums and art galleries in Washington, DC, are working just fine. Here are some highlights to look forward to this fall season, including Simone Leigh, Maremi Andreozzi, photos from the Library of Congress archive, a large Native art show curated by Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and more.

Installation view of Lyrics to Go at VisArts (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

Lyrics to Go and Joana Stillwell: all the windows in my mother’s house

VisArts is a nonprofit art space, only a 30-minute metro ride from downtown, that has become a local cultural hub. This fall, they’re hosting five exhibitions that are sure to make your visit worthwhile. Among them, Lyrics to Go, curated by Fahamu Pecou, featuring Ebon Heath and Tahir Hemphill, stands out as an unusual show that celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop by delving into the relationship between text, poetry, photography, and sculpture. In a minimalist style, Lyrics to Go transforms this musical genre that has consistently challenged and reshaped conventional musical aesthetics into art objects. Equally interesting is Joana Stillwell’s “all the windows of my mother’s house” (2023). Stilwell’s site-specific autobiographical installation aims to preserve memories of her childhood home in the Philippines. It invites the viewer to take an archival journey through souvenirs, found objects, adopted images, home videos, and other ephemera, all imbued with the colors of a long-lost childhood.

VisArts (
155 Gibbs Street, Rockville, Maryland
Through October 29 and October 22

Jacob Kainen, “Artic Figure” (1970), oil on canvas (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

Jacob Kainen

The last retrospective of Jacob Kainen’s work took place in 1993, during which he was interviewed by the Washington Post and referred to himself as a “fatalist.” He expressed indifference towards the prospect of dying as a relatively unknown painter, despite leaving behind a substantial body of work that many knew of. In that same interview, he predicted that his work would be discovered in the 2020s. Hemphill Artworks, which represents Kainen’s estate, periodically showcases his work in solo exhibitions, contributing to the realization of that prediction. Having spent most of his life in the city, Kainen is considered a DC native and this fall might be a fitting time to pay tribute to his work. Kainen was renowned as a figurative painter and printmaker who developed a distinct spatial and gestural style. The exhibition primarily features his large abstract paintings from the 1970s and 1980s, in addition to a few smaller pieces from the 1950s.

Hemphill Artworks (
434 K Street NW, Washington, DC
Through October 28

Maremi Andreozzi, “Shirtwaists (Last Season Series)” (2023) (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

Maremi Andreozzi: A Life Well Lived

If you are willing to explore the suburbs of DC, I recommend checking out the Kensington Antique Row and the beloved Adah Rose Gallery. The current exhibition, A Life Well-Lived, is the result of more than three years of research by Maremi Andreozzi on the relationship between her female subjects and their historical context. The original series included smaller portraits depicting often-overlooked women from history, including doctors, natural healers, aristocrats, activists, artists, and writers — all of which are also on display here. Newer works mark a development of Andreozzi’s style that recalls Renaissance paintings. These silhouettes, almost imprisoned within their authentic landscapes, are adorned with brooches, lace, earrings, hats, and dresses, and serve as profound statements about the connection between the erased or overlooked subject and her symbolic representations.

Adah Rose Gallery (
3766 Howard Avenue, Unit 101, Kensington, Maryland
Through October 28 [WEBSITE SAYS OCTOBER 22]

Michael Brophy, “Beaver Trade” (2002), oil on canvas (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea

This show features a selection of works created over the past three decades by 48 contemporary artists who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian American, Latinx, and LGBTQ+. The exhibition asserts the claim that the American West, both as a geographical region and a cultural ideology, is nothing like Hollywood’s sanitized tales of the region. Divided into three sections — Caretakers, Memory Makers, and Boundary Breakers — this presentation highlights the diversity and resilience of the marginalized communities that truly make up the American West.

Smithsonian American Art Museum (
8th and G Streets, NW, Washington, DC 
Through January 14, 2024

Cauleen Smith, “Sojourner” (2018), digital video, color, sound, 22:41 minutes (© 2020, Cauleen Smith; image courtesy the Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies

If you’ve ever thought there was a hidden connection between your musical tastes and your artistic preferences, then the Musical Thinking exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum is for you. The show might not appear extensive at first, but the tucked-away exhibition is a little hidden gem. The presentation features well-known artists like Arthur Jafa and Liz Magic Laser, bringing together works that explore the fusion between audio and visual aesthetics. It also invites the audience to engage with the artworks directly and be watched and even listened to.

Smithsonian American Art Museum (
8th and G Streets, NW, Washington, DC
Through January 29, 2024

Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma/European descent) “Ute’s Homelands” (2022), oil on panel in two parts, 30 x 60 x 2 inches (photo by JSP Art Photography, courtesy the artist and Hales London and New York)

The Land Carries Our Ancestors: Contemporary Art by Native Americans

This landmark exhibition, curated by the artist Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, presents work by 50 Native American artists from across the country. Comprised of weaving, beadwork, painting, photography, performance, and more, The Land Carries Our Ancestors is a testimony to the richness of Native artistic experiment and expression. Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma/European descent), Natalie Ball (Modoc/Klamath), Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Rose B. Simpson (Pueblo of Santa Clara, New Mexico), Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke), Raven Chacon (Diné), Raven Halfmoon (Caddo Nation), Nicholas Galanin (Tlingít/Unangax̂), and Merritt Johnson are among the many excellent artists in the show.

National Gallery of Art (
4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC
Through January 15, 2024

Peter Henry Emerson, “A Winter’s Morning” (1887), photogravure, image: 6 15/16 x 11 5/16 inches (image courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Etched By Light, Photogravures from the Collection, 1840–1940

A photogravure occupies a unique space between etching and photography, both in terms of aesthetics and historical context. The technique harks back to a time when intricate etchings in newsprint were rapidly giving way to the rise of photography. While the human eye was becoming increasingly adept at perceiving hand-drawn images within the realm of photography, photogravure became a popular choice during this era, especially among the advocates of photography as a new art form. Etched by Light transports viewers to that distinctive era by presenting a collection of 40 photogravures and four illustrated volumes, providing a historical journey through the art form and highlighting the enduring appeal of a technology that spanned over a century. Among the featured artists are early proponents of photographic imagery such as James Craig Annan, Peter Henry Emerson, and Alfred Stieglitz. Others include Man Ray and Laure Albin Guillot, who innovatively utilized this medium to produce larger prints for mass consumption.

National Gallery of Art (
4th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC
October 15–February 4, 2024

Winslow Homer, “Searchlight on Harbor Entrance, Santiago de Cuba” (1902), oil on canvas (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions

DC consistently prioritizes historical research where art is used to facilitate education. A good example is the 1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, which delves deep into late-19th-century US foreign policy and overseas expansionism. This period was marked by the United States asserting influence over Cuba, Guam, Hawai′i, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines, and the exhibition features about 90 objects, primarily centered around the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Congressional Joint Resolution to annex Hawai′i (July 1898), and the Philippine-American War (1899–1913). The gallery space is organized by each country involved and includes thematic sections like “Sea Power,” which examines US overseas expansion and historical agency from multiple perspectives. There are rich insights here about how colonialism was also developed through alternative mediums like board games, playing cards, and medical assistance, eventually causing a cultural paradigm shift that glorified the US both at home and overseas. 

National Portrait Gallery (
8th and G Streets NW, Washington, DC
Through February 25, 2024

Simone Leigh, “Herm” (2023), bronze, 98 x 30 x 28 inches (© Simone Leigh; photo by Timothy Schenck, courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery)

Simone Leigh

Simone Leigh’s upcoming retrospective at the Hirshhorn is one of this season’s major highlights in DC. It spans 20 years of the artist’s career, who represented the US with her exhibition Sovereignty at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022. In her report on Leigh’s Venice exhibition, Julie Baumgardner noted that “Leigh’s transformation of the US National Pavilion is no immersive installation, but rather a proposal in sculpture, and by sculpture.” Visitors should anticipate nothing less from this fall’s show.

Hirshhorn Museum (
Independence Avenue and 7th Street, Washington, DC
November 3–March 3, 2024 

A.B. Phelan, “Reclining man looming over New York City subway station” (c. 1910) (image courtesy the Library of Congress)

Not An Ostrich: & Other Images From America’s Library

This exhibition owes its existence to the immense resources of the Library of Congress, a monumental archival institution that holds over 14 million photographs. In this show, the acclaimed archival photography curator Anne Wilkes Tucker takes a deep dive into that vast collection; her meticulous curation of 428 photographs authentically represents the breadth and depth of the library’s collection. In the gallery, a generous assortment of original photographs are on display. Remarkably, around 300 of these images are in the public domain, available for noncommercial use, which means you can download your own copies to decorate your home.

Southwest Gallery, Thomas Jefferson Library of Congress Building (
10 First Street SE, Washington, DC

Suffrage poster depicting Milholland Boissevain dressed for the March 3, 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, DC. (photo Murat Cem Mengüç/Hyperallergic)

The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, which has been undergoing repairs for over a year, is once again open to the public. This 200-year-old house, though relatively small in terms of its collection, is a historical treasure. If you’ve been considering checking it off your list of national monuments to visit, now is the perfect time to do so. Historically, it served as the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, which was founded by Alice Paul, a prominent figure in the 20th-century women’s suffrage movement. Its permanent exhibition focuses on the strategies employed by early feminist activists who played a vital role in shaping public opinion on gender equality. 

Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument (
1100 Ohio Drive SW, Washington, DC

Murat Cem Mengüç is a freelance writer, artist and a historian who holds a PhD in history of MENA. He is the founder of Studio Teleocene, and currently based outside of Washington, DC.

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