At the Gallery: Must-See Art Exhibitions in D.C.

From performance art at Hirshhorn to a giant blue rooster at National Gallery of Art, don’t miss these shows.

George Washington envisioned the capital as a landscape of stirring vistas and classic temples beside a river. His Federal-era map allowed for the evolution of urban culture beyond politics, for public sites that honor invention and nourish the spirit. Now Washington treasure houses add to their permanent delights these fleeting wonders.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Icelandic performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson intrigues with tableaux of repetitive sound and movement—live happenings like a five-month floating concert at the 2013 Venice Biennale or multi-screen films like “The Visitors” that seduces with romantic music and palatial settings. His videos, some never seen in the U.S. yet inspiring international cult worship, document the artist, (in his words) a “poseur” with “fake emotions.” What seems at first a test of viewer endurance soon becomes touching comedy laced with melancholy. For the run of the exhibition, a rotating cast performs “Woman in E,” with each musician wearing sequins and playing an E-minor chord. Oct. 14-Jan. 8, 2017

Also here: digitally generated videos titled “Suspended Animation” (through March 12, 2017) and Ron Mueck’s “Big Man,” an angry, naked giant skulking in a corner (through Aug. 6, 2017).

Get there: 7th St. and Independence Ave. SW, 202.633.1000, Metro: L’Enfant Plaza

Ragnar Kjartansson's "Woman in E", Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

National Gallery of Art/East Building

The reopening and reconfiguration of the I.M. Pei-designed East Wing help to mark the West Wing’s 75th anniversary. Installations focus on two women—Barbara Kruger, who fills the Tower with her confrontational lithographs (through Jan. 22, 2017) and L.A. gallerist/patron Virginia Dwan, who gave early attention to avant-garde artists shown in 100 works here, among them Martial Raysse’s “Made in Japan” (see top of story) (through Jan. 29, 2017). On the Roof Terrace: a 14.5-foot-tall neon blue rooster by Katharina Fritsch (ongoing).

Get there: Constitution Ave. NW between 4th & 7th sts., 202.737.4215, Metro: Archives-Navy Memorial

National Gallery of Art East Building Roof Terrace with sculptures

National Museum of African Art

“Senses of Time: Video and Film-based Works of Africa” reminds that diaspora impacts the globe. Prized artists based in Egypt, England, the Congo and South Africa show short videos: Moataz Nasr’s Arab Spring shadow portraits in water, Theo Eshetu’s kaleidoscopic vibrations that evoke intricate textiles, Sammy Baloji’s sinuous dancer moving amidst ruined copper mines to the voices of failed politicos, Bernie Searle’s Sisyphean cycle of a precipitous walk across olive oil, Sue Williamson’s multi-screen narrative by six women who fought apartheid and Yinka Shonibare’s anti-war “costume drama” with guests in African-pattern court dress at a masked ball. Through March 26, 2017

Get there: 950 Independence Ave. SW, 202.633.1000, Metro: Smithsonian

Theo Eshetu's "Brave New World I", National Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.

National Portrait Gallery

This Smithsonian museum pays homage to influential personalities; their faces captured over centuries in paintings, sculpture and photographs. “Frozen moment” images range from daguerreotypes and Civil War-era Mathew Brady prints (through June 4, 2017) to portraits of legendary jazz musicians (through Feb. 20, 2017) and Babe Ruth (through May 21, 2017). Always here; paintings of the presidents from Washington to Barack Obama. Special: Three winners and 47 finalists for the 2016 Outwin portrait competition (through Jan. 8, 2017) and mesmerizing, slo-mo videos of illuminated figures by Bill Viola (Nov. 18-May 7, 2017).

Get there: 8th and F sts. NW, 202.633.1000, Metro: Gallery Pl.-Chinatown

Smithsonian American Art Museum

“Hot Beat” revisits the 1960s with stripe paintings by the late Gene Davis, a D.C. native son who played that single geometric shape into a dazzling variety of artworks. Opening November 18 and going through April 2, 2017, the show of 15 signature paintings anticipates his lifelong experiments with color and scale, from one-inch “micro” canvases to a 414-foot span atop a Philadelphia street.

Get there: 8th and F sts. NW, 202.633.1000, Metro: Gallery Pl.-Chinatown

"Hot Beat" painting by Gene Davis, Smithsonian Art Museum, Washington, D.C.