02/12/2011 3:18 AM AEDT | Updated 02/12/2011 3:19 AM AEDT

Corcoran Exhibition 'Are We There Yet?' Explores Space Travel With Beer Cans, Legos (PHOTOS)

WASHINGTON -- The Corcoran Gallery of Art's newest exhibition is out of this world, literally. "Are We There Yet?," the first U.S. exhibition by Australian artists Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro, features Lego murals depicting the 1986 Challenger space shuttle disaster, an astronaut's space suit donated by NASA and futuristic decor inspired by Stanley Kubrick's science fiction epic, "2001: A Space Odyssey."

The works, commissioned by and created especially for the Corcoran, explore the "symbolism of space exploration and the gulf between aspiration and reality," according to a statement. It's the third exhibition in the museum's NOW at the Corcoran series, a program that highlights the works of emerging and mid-career artists.

The exhibition is split on two levels: Downstairs are the bright Lego wall works, which despite their whimsical medium recall a grim period in American space travel. The murals are based on photographs of the Challenger space shuttle, which broke apart 73 seconds into its flight and resulted in the deaths of its seven crew members. The series provides "a disquieting reminder of human loss in the pursuit of knowledge."

Upstairs, a sparsely-decorated room with a gold-colored, reflective floor is reminiscent of a sequence in "2001." In the center lays an "everyman" astronaut in full costume, surrounded by piles of methodically-placed grocery goods like Velveeta cheese, cheese balls, Bud Light and even Marlboro cigarettes. Empty cans and used cigarettes sit on a nightstand. The products represent the amount of food necessary for a journey to Mars and back: 3,800 calories per day, which at 520 days of travel accounts for a total of 1,976,000 calories.

Barry Keldoulis, who provides gallery representation for Healy and Cordeiro, describe the couple as global citizens interested in raising questions.

The exhibition, he said at a media preview Tuesday night, looks at both the "enormity of mankind's aspirations," and at the same time the "very small steps we have to take to maintain ourselves."

"Are We There Yet?" opens Dec. 3 and runs through March 11 at the Corcoran. General admission is $10. The artists will also give a lecture on Thursday discussing their work, approach to art making, and the genesis of their Corcoran exhibition with Beatrice Gralton, the museum's Evelyn S. Nef Associate Curator of Contemporary Art. A reception will follow. Tickets (available here) are $10 general admission.

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