Monday, June 23, 2014

Curatorial Conversations: Landscape/Mindscape

Stuart Horodner, the Museum's new director and Janie Welker, Museum curator recently discussed the motivations behind our Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection exhibition.

Stuart: Landscape is a subject for art that has inspired artists for centuries. What prompted you to curate a show on this theme from the Wells Fargo Collection? And what about the title: Landscape/Mindscape?

Janie: I think landscape art has always been a mindscape, especially in this country. Nineteenth-century artists traveled the vastness of America and painted awe-inspiring vistas from the Hudson River Valley in upstate New York to the Yosemite Valley in California. They found a spiritual quality in the untamed wilderness, yes, but they also reflected the national imperative to occupy and tame this vast land. I thought it would be really interesting to move forward a century and see how the same artistic dialogue played out as society, culture, the arts—everything—changed. Plus, the Wells Fargo Collection had such great twentieth-century pieces—I couldn’t resist!

Stuart: The exhibition brings together acclaimed artists including Jennifer Bartlett, Helen Frankenthaler, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol, as well as less familiar names, like Aline Feldman and Peter Cuong Nguyen. How did you decide who to include?

Janie: I wanted to take advantage of some of their very large and bold works on paper, given the scale of our gallery walls, but I was also just bowled over by some of the lesser-known artists. I never get tired of looking at Aline Feldman’s aerial landscape, with its view of mountains and fields, the clouds and the shadows they cast. Some of my favorite works in this show are by artists I’ve never seen before. Suzanne Caporael made these very elegant, simple geometric abstractions that are etchings at their base, but then she hand-colored them with gouache to make these luscious surfaces. On top of that, the forms she used are based on blocks of poetry, which creates another level of meaning. There are so many incredible, but relatively unknown artists out there, and the people who assembled the Wells Fargo Collection did a wonderful job in their selections.

What are the pieces that you particularly respond to?

Stuart: I particularly like the range of techniques and mediums represented, and like you, appreciate the lesser-known artists. The fact that Aline Feldman surveyed the landscape from a small plane in order to get information for her woodcut print is terrific. I am a fan of Howard Hodgkin and his particular way of fusing the representational and the abstract, with bold colors and gestures. And Helen Frankenthaler uses printmaking to great effect.

Landscape /Mindscape includes paintings, drawings, silkscreens, etchings, and woodblocks; and of course, works that are realistic and abstract. Why was that range important to you?

Janie: I thought it was important to reflect the diversity of era—I mean, we have artists using advertising techniques to make and mass produce fine art, and artists very skillfully using historic techniques. Michael Berkhemer says he was influenced by the “purity and soberness” of seventeenth-century Dutch art—but he makes hard-edge geometric abstractions.

You started your career as an artist working in a very conceptual way—how do you see the conceptual content of the show?

Stuart: I was a very earnest and committed painter/ printmaker as a young man, interested in composition, mark making, and modes of representation. The various pictorial strategies in the exhibition makes sense to me. You are correct, I am deeply influenced by conceptual art, and so I have a soft spot for Christo and Jean-Claude, whose site-specific projects are challenging on every level. I appreciate the conceptual aspect of the show, and the question of how landscapes are understandable as such, or when they become something else. That to me, is the pleasurable tension of the works you’ve gathered.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Joan Mitchell

To complement our current exhibition, Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection, the Museum has installed several landscapes from our permanent collection.
Among them is this eloquent abstract by Joan Mitchell who was one of the few female artists to succeed in the male-dominated field of the New York School. In 1951, she was included in the famed Ninth Street Show—an exhibition featuring the rising stars of the Abstract Expressionist movement. She continued to explore gestural abstraction for more than sixty years.

Mitchell established close and lasting friendships in New York with writers and poets, who greatly influenced her work, along with leading painters of the era. She continued to show work in New York for much of her life, but in 1955 began painting primarily in France. She moved there fulltime in 1968 when she purchased a home near V├ętheuil, a little town north of Paris. The property had once belonged to the Impressionist Claude Monet.

Unlike most Abstract Expressionists, Mitchell resisted the notion that painting is a matter of instinct.  Instead, she viewed painting as a willed act, not the result of chance effect.  Her works of the 1950s are tense and feverish, characterized by a busy network of disconnected, vividly colored strokes that are densest in the center of the image and juxtaposed against a vague sea of flat patches.  She is said to have been inspired by an “inner landscape,” the distilled sensations from a remembered scene. 

Image credits:  (Top left) JOAN MITCHELL, Untitled, circa 1956, oil on canvas.Purchase: The National Endowment for the Arts, Patrons of the John Jacob Niles Benefit Concert, and Friends of the Art Museum 
(bottom right) Joan Mitchell in 1956. Photograph by Rudolf Burkhardt.

Friday, May 30, 2014

New Conservation

Art Museum registrar Bebe Lovejoy recently returned from Chicago with six newly conserved paintings and two conserved frames. The paintings were conserved by Barry Bauman, who, after retiring from the Art Institute of Chicago, began offering free conservation to nonprofits. (The only expense required from the nonprofit is for materials.)

Ms. Caroline Taplin Ruschell, in loving memory of her father, gave a gift of two oil paintings that were among the six conserved by Bauman. Ms. Ruschell gave an additional gift to help pay for the restoration materials and for the frame restoration.  One of those paintings, Roadside Meeting by Alvan Fisher, along with its newly conserved frame, is now on view in the Museum gallery.

ALVAN FISHER, Roadside Meeting, oil on canvas

Roadside Meeting, (detail) before conservation

Roadside Meeting, (detail) after conservation


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roy Lichtenstein

ROY LICHTENSTEIN, Titled, 1996, serigraph.
Courtesy of Wells Fargo Art Collection, St. Louis, Missouri
©Estate of Roy Lichtenstein

Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection opened this weekend to an appreciative audience. many visitors were particularly interested in seeing a serigraph by Roy Lichtenstein.

Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997)   best known for his paintings that adapted the subject matter and style of comic books, as well as the dot patterning used to print them, was one of the pioneers of Pop Art.

During his early career he worked as a department store, window-display designer, an industrial designer, and a commercial art-instructor. By the late 1940s he began exhibiting his work in galleries throughout the U.S, continually exploring popular imagery and printmaking as a vehicle to reach wider audiences.

In the 1990s, he began to parody and reinterpret the styles and traditional subjects of noted artists, including Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne. He once remarked that he wanted to recreate these famous styles and subjects entirely in dots in order to make them look “machine made.”

Lichtenstein making benday dots

Roy Lichtenstein by Dennis Hopper

Monday, May 12, 2014

Andy Warhol

ANDY WARHOL, Sunset, 1972, screenprint on white paper. Courtesy of Wells Fargo Art Collection, St. Louis, MO

LANDSCAPE/MINDSCAPE: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection opens this Sunday, May 18 at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. This is a big, bold, beautiful exhibition featuring some of the twentieth century's most prominent artists including Christo, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol.

Landscape has long been an important subject in American art. In the nineteenth century, the American spirit was often identified with the wild, untamed wilderness of the West or breathtaking views of the Hudson River Valley in the East. But in the twentieth century, artist overturned conventions and saw the landscape as a vehicle for both artistic and personal exploration.

By mid-century, Abstract Expressionists used glowing color and expressive line and gesture to capture the metaphysical qualities of the landscape rather than depict it literally. In the 1960s and 1970s Pop artists began to use the techniques and visual language of advertising and mass media.

One of the most influential Pop artists was Andy Warhol, who after a successful career as a commercial illustrator became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. Warhol worked in a variety of media, including drawing, painting, printmaking, silk screening, photography, sculpture, film, and music. He was also a pioneer in computer-generated art. His large, colorful screenprints, pictured above are an exciting example of the works you will find in Landscape/Mindscape.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Installation Landscape

Museum preparator Alan Rideout is working with other staff members; registrar Bebe Lovejoy, assistant registrar Lisa Blackadar, curator Janie Welker, and assistant curator Erin Lochmann to install a new exhibition. Landscape/Mindscape: Selections from the Wells Fargo Collection, an exhibition of Modern and Contemporary landscapes opens May 18.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Eugene Richards Held Over

Notes from the the Museum's curator, Janie Welker

 The Eugene Richards photography exhibition has been held over until May 18.

EUGENE RICHARDS, Wounded Veteran at Home with His Daughter,
from the War is Personal series, 2006/2010. On loan from the artist.

EUGENE RICHARDS, Tomas After an Accidental Overdose
from the War is Personal series, 2006/2010. On loan from the artist.
Intensely personal and deeply felt, the photography of Eugene Richards reflects both a profound compassion for humanity and a lifelong commitment to social activism, whether his subject is the ravages of cocaine addiction, his first wife’s struggle with breast cancer, or the emotional aftermath of 9/11.

A conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, Richards joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) in 1968 and found himself working in a community service organization in eastern Arkansas. Running afoul of the Ku Klux Klan earned him a serious beating and numerous threats, but he left Arkansas with a series of haunting photographs of rural poverty that launched his career. For seventeen years, he traveled the world as a photojournalist for the agency Magnum Photo and now focuses on his own projects.

This exhibition features selections from two recent series: War is Personal, which examines the ongoing effects of the Iraq war on soldiers and their families, and The Blue Room, elegiac photographs of abandoned houses and farms he found in the center of the country, from New Mexico to North Dakota.

In War is Personal, Richards examines the human cost of the Iraq war, “what it means to go to war, to fight, to wait, to mourn, to remember, to live on when those you love are gone.” He quietly enters the lives of fifteen families who are dealing with loss, either through death or because those who returned are irrevocably changed. His book of the series contains not only photographs but essays in which he largely lets his subjects speak for themselves.

In The Blue Room, Richards examines the human experience in a very different way. Traveling through the country over a period of more than three years, he sifted through the relics of the lives once lived within now-deserted homes, finding traces of once happy families or of those who had to decamp quickly, possibly fleeing the law. “I'm not a religious person, but I find abandoned houses more spiritual than churches,” he says. “Maybe it's because they're very quiet. When you're inside, all you can hear is the wind blowing.”
Among numerous honors, Richards has won a Guggenheim Fellowship, three National Endowment for the Arts grants, the W. Eugene Smith Memorial Award, the National Geographic Magazine Grant for Photography, the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography, the Amnesty International Media Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Journalism Award for coverage of the disadvantaged. His film But, the day came, which chronicles the passage of an elderly Nebraska farmer to a nursing home, received the Best Short Film award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. His photography books have won numerous awards, and the books Dorchester Days and Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue were chosen for inclusion in the catalogue and international traveling exhibition The Open Book: A History of the Photographic Book from 1878 to the Present.