Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s new Suprasensorial exhibit is all about “light, color, and space.” The installations that comprise this exhibit indeed fit this theme: for example, an optical illusion sculpture, and an abstract light fixture that greets visitors ascending the escalator. Experiencing the exhibit awakened my inner preschool teacher, as “light, color, and space” are themes and tools in many preschool lesson plans.

You can walk through this art at the Hirshhorn

You can walk through this art at the Hirshhorn

The most fun piece for me was Blue Penetrable BBL by Jesus Rafael Soto, a passageway of blue synthetic vines that visitors can not only touch but also walk through. It felt like a Discovery Zone activity for grown-ups; my friend remarked, “This is what I imagined the jungle would feel like!” Why is it so much fun to walk through a bunch of fake blue vines? I could easily picture the three-year-olds I used to teach just loving this multisensory experience, the sensation of being surrounded by, and moving through, color and texture.


Friends inside Chromosaturation at the Hirshhorn

Another piece, Chromosaturation by Carlos Cruz-Diez, would also appeal to three-year-olds, as well as being useful to any educators teaching young children about color. The bright lights shine in four different colors, red, yellow, green, and blue. To fully experience the piece, it is worthwhile both to walk inside and outside the structure. Visitors can be inside the small rooms, as well as stand outside and look through the windows at how the colors transform their friends inside.

Toward the end of the exhibit is Cosmococa by Helio Oiticica and Neville D’Almeida, a space where the floor is covered with sleeping pads (much like a preschool classroom at naptime), allowing visitors to lie down. The novelty of this experience in a museum would appeal to little ones; however, the drug-themed wall and ceiling projections make this installation less than ideal for young children. It was comfy for adults wanting to lie down and take a rest, though.

While visiting the Hirshhorn museum as well as its website, I did not see any educational activities accompanying Suprasensorial, but I hope educators will take advantage of the bright colors and participatory, sensory experiences offered by the exhibit.


About Laura

Paralegal with Master of Arts in Teaching in Museum Education, frequent museum visitor, based in Washington, DC. I care about what museums can do, both in terms of public offerings and internal practices, to make the world a better place. I blog about museum education ("informed"), the social work of museums ("humane"), and visitor experience ("citizenry").
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