Thursday, May 31, 2007

Donald Keyes (1940-2007)

Donald D. Keyes
(December 24, 1940 – May 19, 2007)
former curator of paintings, Georgia Museum of Art

Original Athens Banner-Herald article about Dr. Keyes's death [here].
Arizona Daily Star article [here].
Flagpole article [here].
Athens Banner-Herald brief article on the museum's memorial effort [here].
Link to Dr. Keyes's ABH obituary [here].

“We are all distraught around here at the museum. It’s a piece of our history that’s gone with Donald’s death. He was very important to the museum and to the Athens art scene.” – William U. Eiland, director, Georgia Museum of Art.

“He was a very creative curator. He came up with wonderful ideas and had connections with curators throughout the country to allow us to secure excellent shows. He was also great at keeping in touch with artists in Georgia.” – Bonnie Ramsey, director of communications, Georgia Museum of Art.

The Georgia Museum of Art and the arts community of Athens mourn the loss of Dr. Donald Keyes, curator of paintings at the museum from 1984 to 2001. Dr. Keyes died Saturday, May 19, after suffering a heart attack while hiking in the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Born on Christmas Eve in 1940 in New York City, Keyes graduated from Yale University, and earned his doctorate in art history from New York University. Besides his time at the museum, he taught at Ohio State University and Smith College and was director of the Marietta Cobb Museum. Keyes was very active in the cultural life of the state as one of the founding members of Atlanta Photography Gallery and Five Art in Athens which houses Athens Institute for Contemporary Art (ATHICA) and artists’ studios. He also coordinated the artists’ market for AthFest, the annual music and art extravaganza, and was the auctioneer for the annual Mental Health Benefit Auction. As curator at the Georgia Museum of Art, Keyes organized numerous exhibitions and published articles, books, and exhibition catalogues. These included studies about American Impressionism, art and artists in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Stuart Davis, the nineteenth-century Southern itinerant painter George Cooke, the Woodstock painter Andrée Ruellan, Impressionism in California, and European and American photography.

One of Dr. Keyes’s many personal and professional interests was photography. He collected contemporary photography for more than three decades, and was responsible for numerous acquisitions and gifts to the museum’s collection of photographs. In memory of Dr. Keyes, the museum is presenting a temporary display of three photographs that entered the American collections here through his dedication, diligence, and knowledge. Also, through funds from M. Smith Griffith, the staff of the museum, and the museum’s American art department, the Georgia Museum of Art has purchased a photograph, Church, Havana, Alabama (1964) by renowned American photographer, William Christenberry (b. 1936), to be added to the collection in memory of Dr. Keyes.

In an essay he wrote for the exhibition To See a World in 1997, Donald Keyes described the power of photography: “Photography, more than any other medium, reminds the viewer of its subject while simultaneously removing him/her from that subject. …Most modern photography utilizes this tension between what is represented and what the viewer knows or believes to have been the original subject. Thus, most art photography exists as a nexus between reality and fantasy.”

Images: Tom Zetterstrom (American, born 1945), Coast Oak, n.d. From the Portrait of Trees series. Gelatin silver print. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; museum purchase through funds provided by the Friends of the Museum GMOA 1996.18

William Christenberry (American, born 1936), Church, Havana, Alabama, 1964. Vintage color Brownie print mounted to board. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; museum purchase, in memory of Donald D. Keyes, through funds provided by M. Smith Griffith, the staff of the Georgia Museum of Art, and the American art department at the Georgia Museum of Art, Accession pending 2007

Friday, May 18, 2007

Suitcase Paintings

This art set auction records: $72.8 million for Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) [from a Rockefeller , via Sotheby's, to a mysterious bearded collector!]; $52.6 million for a Francis Bacon; even $5.8 million for a Tom Wesselman.

This week here in art is on display. Blog posts already exist about the Jay Bolotin exhibition [here] and [here]. Tonight, we open to the public Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Work by Abstract Expressionists. The show will remain open until July 22, and then will travel to five other museum venues.

From the Georgia Museum of Art's website:

"Big. That is how most of us think about Abstract Expressionism of the mid-20th century. The artists worked with big ideas, big emotions, big action and on big scale. This group of ground-breaking artists, sometimes referred to as the New York School, pushed the limits of scale, using the canvas as a field to act upon. However, most also created small-scale works of intense beauty and intimate size, while losing none of the bravura and energy.

Suitcase Paintings, organized by Art Enterprises, Ltd., Chicago, is designed to show this other side of the movement. The exhibition will also introduce to many viewers some artists who, while important at the height of Abstract Expressionism, may be less known today. Suitcase Paintings include[s] work by Franz Kline and Elaine de Kooning, among several others."

The primacy of the paint itself, and the role of Surrealism and the the free expression of the unconscious mind are themes throughout. Emphasis is on New York in the show, but Chicago and San Francisco Abstract Expressionists get a gallery. The exhibition is intense, made more concentrated by the small size of the objects.

“It’s possible to paint a monumental picture that’s only 10 inches wide, if one has a sense of scale, which is very different from a sense of size.” -- Robert Motherwell

“I don’t feel that it’s necessary to get a painting that large to have impact. I think that, with the control of whatever the medium is, you can get it, I always say, in a postage stamp size.” -- Perle Fine

Images: (l) View of the opening section of the exhibition, including paintings by William Baziotes, Buffie Johnson, and Alfonso Ossorio. (c) Franz Kline (1910-1962), Untitled, 1958, oil and collage on paper laid down on canvas, 17 3/8 x 14 7/8 inches, Collection of Art Enterprises, Ltd., Chicago. (r) View of the "Tenth Street Style" section of the show.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

More Jackleg

This week's Athens Flagpole has lots of coverage of the Georgia Museum of Art's Jay Bolotin exhibition The Jackleg Testament. One of Bolotin's woodcuts became the cover:

The relevant section of Beth Sale's article which includes a mention of our permanent collection woodcuts:

Every now and then, someone comes along and changes the way things are done. Dreaming and then making that dream a reality are what makes an artist. Sometimes the dream takes years to come to fruition. Sometimes it requires inventing new ways of creating. Sometimes it requires new ways of displaying.

The Woodcut Bible: Jay Bolotin’s woodcut film titled The Jackleg Testament, Part One: Jack and Eve is currently on view at the Georgia Museum of Art (GMOA). The film is Bolotin’s variation of the Book of Genesis, reinterpreted as an imaginative, dark tale of theatre and adventure, involving Eve, Jack (a Jack-in-the-box freed from his box), and a godlike figure called Nobodaddy (a reference to the poetry of William Blake). Bolotin created the film by making woodcuts of the characters, landscape elements and props, and scanning them into a computer for manipulation. The woodcuts used in the production of the film are displayed in the exhibit as a supplement, offering “behind-the-scenes” access, which works on two levels. Images used to make the film are on view, as well as the plates used to create the woodcuts. Examples of large circular woodcut plates help the viewer identify the process required to make the finished product. These plates, along with the large wooden sculpture of Daniel Boone, were not originally part of the traveling exhibit; they were selected by Curator of Exhibitions Dennis Harper for inclusion in the GMOA show. The sculpture of Daniel Boone is included in the film, although the inclusion is in reference only, and serves as an example of the solidity of the world Bolotin has created. Bolotin created a woodcut of the sculpture and included it in the plot of the film. “A portfolio of prints that outlines the narrative” is also included in the exhibit. While “claymation” (stop motion animation using clay as the image-making medium) has been used for decades, this is likely the first film created using woodcuts. Bolotin, who first used the term “Woodcut Motion Picture,” is credited as having forged a new path. He wrote the script and the musical score, and performed music and the voice of Nobodaddy. The film also features the vocal talents of Karin Bergquist, and opera singers Monte Jaffe and Nigel Robson. Layers upon layers of literary and biblical references are woven into the script and imagery.

References were taken from William Blake, Shakespeare and the Bible; and literary puns and allusions are scattered throughout the film. Bolotin quotes Nietzsche in the prologue: “We were fashioned to live in paradise and paradise was destined to serve us. Our destiny has been altered; this has also happened with the destiny of paradise not stated.” Watching the film is “like reading James Joyce,” says Harper.

For example, Bolotin titles one section of the film where Eve catches the apple “the Beginnings of Irony,” alluding to both the irony of the biblical story and the first example of irony used in the film. (See this week's cover.) The imagery is dark and morose. The sound track is operatic. The characters’ movements are peculiarly like paper dolls, with only the heads and upper limbs moving. The film alternates between color and black and white, adding to the unique quality. The Georgia Museum became involved in the preparation for this traveling exhibit when the film was still in its early stages, through the introduction of a mutual friend. The hour-long film will run continuously throughout the duration of the exhibit, starting on the hour. Just in time for the summer, sit and watch the film in the cool, dark, air-conditioned museum. The exhibit will be on display through July 8. There will be an opening reception for the summer exhibitions on Friday, May 18, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Keep your eyes open for a local musical performance by Jay Bolotin. See or call 706-542-GMOA.

Carved in Wood: Also on view in the Georgia Museum of Art is an exhibit of woodcuts dating from the late-15th century to the 20th century, from the museum’s permanent collection. These prints were chosen by Dennis Harper to illustrate the history and process of the woodcut. Included in the exhibit are Japanese Ukiyo-e prints, such as Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” from the “36 Views of Mt. Fuji.” The iconic look of woodcuts is seen in Emile Bernard’s “Christ, or Crucifixion” from 1894. A page from Wassily Kandinsky’s collection of poems and woodcuts called “Klånge” (translates as “sounds”) is in the exhibit. Leonard Baskin’s “Florentine” from 1952 shows a dark angel with wings. The variety of woodcut images in the exhibit provides an overview of the technique. Visit to see more.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Jackleg Testament, Part One

Georgia Museum of Art's exhibition page [here]. Official (pdf) press release [here]. More, including multimedia, from [here]. Direct link to .mov [here] and [here].

The Athens Banner-Herald has video and music links for the exhibition. Sections from Julie Phillips's article -- "Storyteller has new twist on Genesis" -- in the ABH:

It took Jay Bolotin five years to rewrite Genesis. ...But really, in the ancient tradition of storytelling, that's not a terribly long time - especially given Bolotin's version went from sketches to woodcuts to music to an animated musical film that tells his version of the story. ...

Eve is lured from the Garden of Eden, in Bolotin's version, by a jack-in-the-box named, appropriately, Jack, and takes up with a Vaudeville-style review that's run by a god figure named Nobodaddy. Every few epochs, Nobodaddy produces a play called "The Theater of the Western Regions."...

Bolotin, who lives on a farm outside of Cincinnati, created the film from extensive digital photographs of his woodcuts and prints, manipulating them into a fascinating moving world by way of motion picture software.

A gifted musician and songwriter who's worked with Dan Fogelberg and whose praises have been sung by the likes of Kris Kristofferson and famed opera director Jonathan Eaton, Bolotin also created the musical score for the film and enlisted the vocal talents of opera singers Nigel Robson and Monte Jaffe, along with vocalist Karin Bergquist (of the band Over the Rhine).

The film, titled "The Jackleg Testament, Part One" along with an exhibition featuring all of the source work that went into the process of making the film, is on display at the Georgia Museum of Art. The exhibit has been on an extensive tour across the country, making its debut in May 2005 at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

It follows Bolotin's previous theatrical works, which have included an opera featuring large mechanical sculptures based on his woodcut-inspired creations. That project in particular took about 10 years. ...

Images: (left) Jay Bolotin, A Prehistory to that which is, by mistake, called The Fall of Man: Jack and Eve (The Beginning of Irony), 1999. Printed by Michelle Red Elk. 12 color woodcut prints, Edition of 20. Courtesy of the artist. (right) Jay Bolotin, Elements of a Woodcut Motion Picture Titled "The Jackleg Testament: part one - Jack & Eve" (Serpent Print), 2004-2005. Printed by Krista Gregory. Portfolio of 37 black and white woodcut prints with notations, Edition of 35. Courtesy of the artist.