Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Sea Around Us

"Port of Rotterdam" by Maximilien Luce (1903). Nassau County Museum of Art Permanent Collection.

The Sea Around Us, an exhibition at the Nassau County Museum of Art (NCMA) in Roslyn Harbor, New York, presents works of art that focus on bodies of water. The exhibition “examines the romantic fascination artists have always had for expanses of water.”

The exhibition showcases works from American and European artists from the mid-19th century to the present and includes art by Jasper F. Crospey, Edward Hopper and Monet, among others. The works are on loan from other major public and private collections, such as the National Gallery of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.

Works in the exhibition depict bodies of water in various ways, from calm beaches to dangerous tsunamis. According to NCMA, The Sea Around Us “provides an examination of how artists have portrayed both the attractions and dangers of oceans and waters as well as their qualities of metaphor.”

The Sea Around Us is on view through September 12. Read this article from the New York Times reviewing the exhibition.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin at AthFest

Square Dance/Round Dance - Amelia Winger-Bearskin from Lynn Boland on Vimeo.

Last Friday, GMOA hosted a performance artist at Hotel Indigo’s Rialto Room as part of the “Club Crawl” portion of this year’s AthFest music and arts festival. Amelia Winger-Bearskin performed Square Dance/Round Dance, which she debuted at the Frist Center for Visual Arts in Nashville, TN in April. We promised “an audience-interactive performance that references Winger-Bearskin’s unique cultural heritage with elements of traditional American square dancing and American Indian round dancing, combined with mysterious celestial lights and a dance club atmosphere.” Winger-Bearskin delivered. She shared the bill with a full lineup of female singer-songwriters (Wilma, Caroline Aiken, and Lera Lynn) and thankfully, their fans were good sports. Despite a bit of hesitancy at the start, everyone joined in with full aplomb once things got going. A video is a poor substitute for a performance piece, especially when I’m behind the camera, but if you’d like a sense of the work, here it is (see above).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Romantic Gardens

John Martin (1789–1854). View of the Temple of Suryah & Fountain of Maha Dao, with a Distant View of North Side of Mansion House. Etching with aquatint added by Frederick Christain Lewis (1779–1856), in Martin's series of views of Sezincote, ca. 1818.

Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design is currently on view at the Morgan Library & Museum in New York City. The exhibition includes prints, drawings and texts showcasing the Romantic ideas that were implemented both in private estates and public parks during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

In addition to the original proposals for Central Park by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the exhibition also includes works by J. M. W. Turner, William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. These and other Romantic-era landscape designers “sought to express the inherent beauty of nature” and looked to nature as a “liberating force.”

Highlights of the exhibition include steel engravings from William Cullen Bryant’s Picturesque America (1872–74), lithographs from Prince Pückler-Muskau’s Hints on Landscape Gardening (1834) and two manuscript “Red Books” by Humphry Repton (1752–1818). The Morgan Library & Museum also has lectures, discussions, family programs and films to accompany the exhibition.

Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design is on view through August 29.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Construction Updates from Holder

Here are the construction updates from the week of June 25.

Current week - Activities/Issues:

New Gallery/Connector
  • Removable walls complete
  • Reworking doors
  • Install glass and stainless steel handrails
Existing Building Renovations
  • Installing first floor lobby ceiling
  • Re-finish gallery 251 wood floor
  • Install linoleum in catering kitchen
Storage Bar
  • Installing punch window opening on third floor
  • Completed MEP trim out
  • Start punch list
Site/Sculpture Garden
  • Finish grading of cistern
  • Working on installing sidewalks
  • Start trellis installation
Next week - Activities/Issues:

New Gallery/Connector
  • Complete grouting of floors
  • Complete stair handrails
Existing Building Renovations
  • Complete installation of catering kitchen millwork
  • Finishes in first floor lobby
Storage Bar
  • Final paint
Site/Sculpture Garden
  • Continue stainless steel fencing
  • Continue to install plants

Ceiling installation in parking garage

Sculpture garden water feature

Glass installation on stair railings

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Notes from the Midwest (pt. 2)

As promised last week, here is part two of “Notes from the Midwest:”

My last installment ended with Bill, Beau, and me in Milwaukee, having had an inspiring day at the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). We drove back to Chicago that evening just in time to pick up the indomitable Dr. Perri Lee Roberts from O’Hare. Perri Lee (most people call her “Perri,” but we like to be Southern about it) is Senior Associate Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences at University of Miami, and authored our most recent publication, and one of our grandest efforts to date: the three-volume Corpus of Early Italian Paintings in North American Public Collections: The South. Never one to rest on her laurels, Perri Lee is now embarking on an exhibition for us. To quote from the prospectus:

A prominent scholar, teach, curator, administrator, and collector, Ulrich Alexander Middeldorf (1901-1983) is a well-known figure in Renaissance art historical studies. Prompted by his belief that the so-called minor, decorative arts were essential to an understanding of the history of the material world, he assembled a unique collection of Italian medals, plaquettes, textiles, and wrapping paper.

Middeldorf was also a key researcher of the Kress Collection, part of which is now housed at GMOA. Middeldorf’s own collection of medals, plaquettes, and textiles resides at the Indiana University Art Museum. We were originally scheduled to meet up with Perri Lee in Bloomington to look at those objects, but fate was kind and gave us a couple extra days with her beforehand. More on the Middeldorf exhibition research and planning momentarily.

We started the next day with a trip to the Smart Museum at the University of Chicago. Although their space is limited—have I mentioned lately how lucky we are to be getting such a great building in only a few more months?—their collection is superb. I was especially interested in the way they organize their galleries thematically, rather than by period or region. This is a strategy I intend to use on a more limited scale in our Holder Gallery, in which we’ll display our European art from the 18th-20th centuries. I find that this approach encourages meaningful comparisons while allowing one to show a broad range of artistic styles in a relatively small space.

After our visit to the Smart, the three of us hit the road for Champaign/Urbana to visit Beau’s folks and their outstanding collection of American Post-War art. On the way, we made a stop at Governors State University in Middle-of-Nowhere, Illinois (Monee, IL, technically, but I never saw a town). In part one of this post, I said that we visited “one of the best, but least-known, outdoor contemporary sculpture collections in the country.” That may have been bordering on hyperbole, but for its renown—or lack thereof—it really is the best sculpture park I’ve seen. Twenty-six monumental public sculptures reside on a rugged 750 acres tract, where the only groundskeeping is a mown trail through the underbrush. It takes some hiking, but the interaction with the works this offers makes it well worth the sweat and bug-bites. Highlights for me included their sculptures by Mark di Suvero, For Lady Day, 1969 (54’ x 50’ x 35’), and Martin Puryear, Bodark Arc, 1982 (2.25 acres—I love the dimensions in acreage), as well as a temporary installation by Icelandic artist, Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir, Horizons, 2007-08, pictures of which are included in the slideshow above.

Continuing on the drive to Champaign, we brainstormed about possible titles for the Middeldorf exhibition. After some failed attempts at alliteration on my part and Perri Lee’s, Bill came up with the winner: “Materials of Culture.” Of course, this will be followed by the typical colon and more descriptive subtitle.

We made it to Champaign in time to see some of Randy and Shelia Ott’s collection and to freshen up before dinner. Meeting Beau’s parents, it was easy to see where he got both his unfailing charm and his impeccable taste. We had a thoroughly delightful evening at the Ott’s home, filled with conversations ranging from art (of course), to Portuguese Fado music (Bill and Randy are both fans), to cattle breeding (both Randy and my dad were large animal veterinarians), not to mention a meal that was as beautiful as it was delicious. They had us over for breakfast the next morning, and then we hit the road again, this time for Bloomington.

When we arrived in Bloomington, work on our project was already well underway. Christa Thurman, formerly Chair of Textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago, is helping us evaluate Middeldorf’s fabric samples to determine which we will use for the exhibition, and she and Nan Brewer, IU Art Museum’s curator of works on paper, had already examined most of the hundreds of textiles in their collection. After some more looking and talking, we narrowed our selection further, choosing pieces made in Italy during the Renaissance that offer a range of styles and techniques. I’m really excited about the “wall power” these will bring to the show; they’re gorgeous.

That evening, Heidi Gealt, director of the IU Art Museum, took us out to dinner, where we were joined by her husband, Barry Gealt, and Bill Itter, both accomplished artists and studio professors at IU. Bill Itter actually has a show up at the Lamar Dodd School of Art’s Gallery 307 right now, which I highly recommend. I’m a big fan of both Barry’s and Bill’s work, and had a wonderful time hearing about their pedagogical approaches at IU as well as their student days at Yale (both were in the MFA program there at the same time as artists like Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Nancy Graves, etc.). To top off the evening, we were treated to a double rainbow as we left the restaurant.

The next morning, Bill Eiland went to see Bill Itter’s collection of African pottery while Perri Lee and I returned to the IU Art Museum to look at Middledorf’s medals and plaquettes. Here again, we were choosing objects created during the Italian Renaissance. These will be a perfect complement to the textiles, I think. Although they’re not particularly exciting from a distance, for me, they sustain close study much longer, and offer a range of fascinating subjects, from portraits to mythological narratives.

Our last stop on the trip was Dayton, OH. We reluctantly dropped Perri Lee off at the airport and checked in at our hotel. After a couple hours catching up on emails, we went to Carol and Jim Nathanson’s home for hors d'oeuvres, giving me a chance to see their collection, which is especially strong in works on paper. Carol is a recently retired professor of art history at Wright State University, and is writing our forthcoming collection-catalogue of works on paper, Tracing Vision. Jan Driesbach, director of the Dayton Art Institute (DAI), joined us at the Nathanson’s, and we all went to a German restaurant for dinner, where we “closed the place down.”

The next morning, Bill was up at the crack of dawn for a 7:30 meeting with the Dayton Art Institute’s board of trustees. I met up with Jan and Bill a little later and we went to the DAI to speak with their staff. Since this post is getting pretty long and my time is running short, I’ll restrain myself from waxing too poetically about their galleries and collection, but suffice it to say I was deeply impressed with both. I do have to note that theirs is the only Carl Andre sculpture whose label acknowledges that one may walk on the work (I usually have to confirm with the security guards that to do so is OK). Before closing, I also have to give a shout-out to Will South, DAI chief curator, who joined us for lunch and whom I very much enjoyed meeting. By one o’clock we were back in the car, on the long road back to Athens, GA.

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Andy Warhol: The Last Decade"

Andy Warhol often evokes visions of colorful images, including soup cans, celebrities and other pop culture icons. People usually do not think about the last works done by the king of pop [art]. After 1968, a noticeable change in subject matter and methodology took place in his work. An assassination attempt would understandably leave one questioning beliefs, including one’s validity as an artist. These changes include a return to painting and darker imagery. An exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum focuses on his prolific later creations.

“Andy Warhol: The Last Decade” begins with a piece from 1978 and includes work up until his untimely death at age 58 in 1987. The work ranges from pop art mixed with abstracted splatters to Oxidation Paintings. He worked with admired artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Francesco Clemente, which lead him to use canvas, a material he had not used in years. Some of the pieces have darker connotations. According to a New York Times article, “the titles themselves speak volumes: The American Indian, Athletes, Torsos, Portraits of the Jews of the 20th Century, Dollar Signs, Knives, Guns, [and] Myths.” The constant fear of death was apparent in his piece “Self-Portrait (Strangulation).” A collection of 10 small canvases features him looking upward while being strangled by an unknown hand. This mirrors his previous self-portraits, with the photographic image over large color blocks, however contains a darker twist than his typical surprised expression.

His oxidation paintings are surprisingly beautiful, with golds and greens that radiate from the black linen. The Abstract Expressionist-like paintings are made with “ethereal loops of one pale color drifting across clouds of others, [and] suggest languid wrist action, even though it is hard to figure out exactly what is printed and what is painted.” His largest work, a collection of canvases totaling 32 feet, takes cues from da Vinci’s The Last Supper. It mixes motorcycles and religion into one erotic piece.

Joseph D. Ketner II, the show curator, wrote an essay explaining the show:

“It retraces the evolution of the paintings on view and the increasingly close collaborative methods of Warhol and his studio assistants. It also provides a vivid sense of Warhol’s relatively vulnerable frame of mind, his yearning for approbation and his encounters with old master painting, which helped revive his own interest in painting.” (

If you visit the New York/Brooklyn area before September 12, be sure to check out the exhibition, which contains the best of approximately 3,500 works from Warhol’s last ten years. For more information on museum location and hours, please go to

If you are interested in seeing Warhol’s work locally, GMOA owns a selection of screen prints from Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Portfolio I series as well as a number of the artist’s photographs. At least one of his works will be on view permanently when the museum reopens in January 2011.

Pointillism...with a Purpose

Artist David Ilan is creating a tribute portrait of Michael Jackson comprised entirely of dots. But this isn’t your average pointillism project— every one of these dots represents a real person, and Ilan is hoping 1,000,000 fans will help him finish the job.

David Ilan first made his mark on the art world over 10 years ago when he captured the attention of Jerry Seinfeld. After drawing the entire cast of the popular show “Seinfeld,” word spread quickly and he embarked on a career of drawing portraits for various celebrities.

But two years ago, Ilan felt it was time to add more meaning to his art. It was then that he invented the concept of “1 dot =1 person,” and found a way to connect his art with his charitable side.

Ilan’s first project was Points With Purpose, a project designed to give voice to victims of sexual assault. He was also commissioned to create a portrait for Special Olympics Southern California, a project that included dots from celebrities like Danny DeVito and David Beckham. And last year, his Presidential Portrait of Barack Obama captured the attention of the Smithsonian.

So how does this process work? Simple. Through his website, fans sign up (for free) to be part of the project, and David Ilan places a hand-drawn dot on the portrait.

“The dots are all the same size and each one is vital to the finished portrait,” Ilan says of his work. “In essence, people are working together to create a drawing. It gives people a certain kind of strength knowing that they are important and necessary in the drawing.”

So far, over 250,000 people from more than 180 countries have had a dot placed on Michael Jackson’s tribute portrait in their honor, including celebrities such as Diana Ross, Mickey Rooney and Maya Angelou. Ilan believes that it will take at least 1,000,000 fans to complete the project. To sign up for your free dot or read more about the portrait, click here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Secret Art on Apollo 12

Jade Dellinger

A small ceramic disc with original artwork by famous American artists snuck aboard the Apollo 12 rocket in 1969. The disc (above) contains works by such artists as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Robert Rauschenburg. Thanks to this secret operation, the moon has a “permanent miniature art museum.”

The disc is three-quarters of an inch by half an inch and holds six pieces of art. Only a few people knew about the disc until the PBS series “History Detectives” covered the story recently.

How did this happen? Each work was sent to Bell Laboratories, where scientist Fred Waldhauer reduced the size and imprinted the sketches onto ceramic wafers. Waldhauer made one disc for Apollo 12 and extra copies for participants and the artists. An engineer secretly attached the disc to the lunar module.

Gwendolyn Wright, historian and host of “History Detectives,” found out about the disc from a curator in Florida. Although the sketches are quite simple and do not compare to the artists’ best work, the secrecy and planning of the whole operation makes for an interesting story. According to Wright, the real story isn’t the quality of the art—it’s the bravery of the engineers who decided it was important that art, one of the things that separates mankind from the animals, should be represented on the moon.

Check out this article to read more about the disc and click here to watch a video. The "History Detectives" website also has its own page about the episode.

Atlanta Artist to be Featured at High

Radcliffe Bailey, Windward Coast (detail), 2009. Piano keys, plaster bust, glitter. Collection of the artist.

The High Museum of Art announced recently that it will be organizing the most comprehensive display of work by Atlanta-based artist Radcliffe Bailey. “Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine” will comprise 25 works, demonstrating the artist’s diverse use of media by showcasing sculptures, paintings, installations, works-on-paper, glass works and modified found objects. The exhibition is scheduled to premiere a year from now, on June 28, 2011, and feature works created specifically for the exhibition, as well as previous pieces never before seen on public display.

Bailey, born in New Jersey, was raised in Atlanta and graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991. He first gained acclaim in 1996 for his large-scale mural, “Saints,” which was commissioned during the 1996 Summer Olympics and remains on view in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He later taught at the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art for five years, from 2001 to 2006.

Bailey’s exhibition at the High will be divided up into the three main themes of “Water,” “Blues” and “Blood.” “Water” contains pieces referring to the Black Atlantic as a site of both historical trauma and artistic and spiritual growth; “Blues” refers to the importance of music in this spiritual journey; “Blood” focuses on ancestry, race, and sacrifice.

All pieces have significant ties to family, history and the South. One portion of the exhibition features seven sets of “medicine cabinet sculptures” composed of raw materials such as tobacco leaves and Georgia red clay.

“Radcliffe Bailey’s art is consistently informed by a strong social and historical consciousness, and solidly grounded in family and community. The exhibition combines a rich, narrative content with a high-level of abstraction and poetic resonance to explore questions of history and memory,” said Carol Thompson, the High’s Fred and Rita Richman Curator of African Art and curator of the exhibition. “Bailey’s art traces the complex network of his ‘aesthetic DNA’ to create an antidote to cultural and historical amnesia,” she continued.

The High will also juxtapose classic African sculptures from the museum’s permanent collection with the exhibition to emphasize the influence of African art on Bailey’s work. The exhibition is set to premiere on June 28, 2011, and run until September 11, 2011.

For more information on this exhibition, please click here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Renoir Revisited

“Time holds no nobler story, no more heroic, no more magnificent achievement than that of Renoir,” Henri Matisse once said of the later work of famous avant-gardist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

But if there’s one thing that defines avant-garde art, it’s mixed reviews— even among artists. Only a few years before Matisse’s praise, Mary Cassatt commented on the same body of work, calling it “the most awful imaginable.” Where Matisse saw “the loveliest nudes ever painted,” Cassatt saw “pictures of enormous red women with very small heads.”

This summer, visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art will get to decide for themselves. The exhibition “Late Renoir” will feature works from the last 30 years of his life, from 1890 to 1919.

Known for their unique depictions of human flesh, Renoir’s later works are significantly different from other works composed throughout his lifetime. When he entered art school in the early 1860s, he immediately associated himself with artists such as Frédéric Bazille, Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet— leaders of the movement that would eventually become known as Impressionism.

However, by 1870, Renoir was pulling back from Impressionism and returning to a more traditional style. He associated himself with 18th century Rococo masters like Watteau and Boucher. Seeking to escape his impoverished lifestyle, he focused on creating art that would sell, and would be more appealing to the Salon. “Young Girls at the Piano,” a famous example of Renoir’s work from this period, will open the Philadelphia show. The vast differences between this piece and the pieces that Mary Cassatt found so repulsive are obvious even to the untrained eye.

However, it is perhaps these later works, which enchanted Matisse and disgusted Cassatt, that best define Renoir’s career. Though many of his later paintings followed themes of family and landscape, the most distinguishing works are pieces such as “The Bathers,” the panoramic painting of female nudes that concludes the Philadelphia show.

A New York Times art review written by Holland Cotter comments on the treatment of skin tones in “The Bathers,” completed the year of Renoir’s death.

…In a sense these aren’t even really paintings of figures; they’re paintings of skin. Expanses of it fill the center of canvases, swelling and folding, minutely and specifically textured and tinted: creamy rose, poached-salmon pink, toasty brown…It’s hard to look at anything else.”

This change in Renoir’s style towards the end of his life could be attributed to a return to his art school interest in the Impressionistic style. Or it could be a result of the rheumatoid arthritis that almost cost him the use of his hands entirely— by the end of his career, Renoir was forced to paint with his brushes strapped to his wrists. Either way, one look at “The Bathers” was enough to make Matisse call it “one of the most beautiful pictures ever painted.”

This exhibition will remain on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art until September 6. For more information on the exhibit or the life of Renoir, please see the New York Times article.

Large replica of Monet painting

Fred Tanneau, AFP/Getty Images

1,250 people gathered in Rouen, France, on June 8 to kick off the 2010 Normandy Impressionist Festival by making a giant reproduction of one of Monet’s “Rouen Cathedral at the End of the Day (Sunlight Effect)” (1894).

The group assembled the 600-square-meter (that’s almost 6,500 square feet) replica by lifting panels over their heads. The large piece was named “Monet Vu du Ciel” (Monet Seen From the Sky). The image (above) was taken from 90 feet above Rouen’s city hall.

Watch the video below to see how the piece was not only a large re-creation, but also a performance.

Vivid Sydney

Laurie Anderson, Lighting the Sails, Sydney Opera House, May 27–June 20, 2010, from Vivid Sydney website

Vivid Sydney, an annual public festival of “light, music and ideas,” is the largest festival of its kind in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere. The festival includes large-scale light installations and projections, music performances and more.

Vivid Sydney transforms the city through its various installations and events. The festival features the illumination of the Sydney Opera House sails (above). Laurie Anderson used adaptations of previous artwork as graphics that to light the sails. Click here to see more pictures of the projections.

Anderson and her husband, Lou Reed, were co-curators of VividLIVE, a production of the Sydney Opera House. This two-week festival took place for the first two weeks of VividSydney and featured a program of music, film, theatre and visual arts. VividLIVE celebrated “fearless innovation and ambition.”

Click here for the VividSydney website and here for an article about Lighting the Sails.

Meet Dylan, GMOA's newest Young Dawg
My name is Dylan Whitlow. I am doing an internship at the Georgia Museum of Art through the Young Dawgs program. I am an upcoming senior at Athens Academy. I became interested in working in a museum last summer while I was in Switzerland, following a visit to Kunsthaus Zürich. The director of the summer program I was attending was an art history major and he was making us go, I think, so that he could charge the school for his visit instead of having to pay himself. So when we entered the museum I was less than enthusiastic. There were a few installations on the first floor that I liked, but not enough to think that there was nowhere in Zürich I would rather be. Then I walked up a staircase and saw a Mondrian painting that alone would have made the trip worthwhile because I finally saw the subtle grays that go unnoticed when seen in a book. At the Kunsthaus I also saw paintings by Kandinsky, Warhol, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Magritte, Picasso, Rembrandt, and artists I liked but whose names I had never heard. I was so amazed by that museum that I decided this summer I would try working in one myself to see what happens behind the scenes at an art museum and thanks to Young Dawgs I can. So I have been working at the Georgia Museum of Art for the past two weeks and I like it so far. I have been helping prepare things for publication, mostly by checking facts, which I liked because I was able to see the curatorial records kept on each painting. I have also helped by finding ways to improve the new museum website that is under construction. This is a great experience because I am able to see the goings-on behind a museum more each day and I am looking forward to the next few weeks here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Construction Updates from Holder

Here are the construction updates from the week of June 18.

Current week - Activities/Issues:

New Gallery/Connector
  • Building removable walls
  • Bondo monumental stairs
  • Started monumental stair treads
Existing Building Renovations
  • Installing first floor lobby ceiling
  • Refinish gallery 251 wood floor
  • MEP final trim out
  • Install linoleum in catering kitchen
Storage Bar
  • Installing punch window opening on third floor
  • Completed MEP trim out
Site/Sculpture Garden
  • Placed granite treads
  • Backfilling cistern tanks
  • Start trellis installation
Next week - Activities/Issues:

New Gallery/Connector
  • Complete removable walls
  • Complete stair handrails
Existing Building Renovations
  • Complete installation of catering kitchen millwork
  • Finishes in first floor lobby
Storage Bar
  • Final paint
Site/Sculpture Garden
  • Continue stainless steel fencing
  • Continue to install plants

Removable walls construction

Driveway asphalt progress

Catering kitchen millwork installation

KidsFest is this Saturday!

This Saturday, GMOA will be helping kids to personalize their very own cardboard cut-out guitars as a part of KidsFest celebrations. KidsFest, a portion of AthFest geared towards Athens' youngest music fans, will take place on June 26 and 27, from 12 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. GMOA's table will be set up on Hull Street all day Saturday, June 26, so drop by between noon and 5:30 p.m. to decorate your guitar with us!

For more information on KidsFest and other Athfest activities, please visit the AthFest website.

Vincent Van Gogh--The Letters

Since their first publication more than a century ago, Vincent Van Gogh’s letters have gained much acclaim. An invaluable source of information, the letters have also earned broad recognition for their intrinsic qualities: Van Gogh’s personal tone, evocative style and lively language.

The majority of the letters are addressed to Van Gogh’s brother Theo. The earliest dates from September 29, 1872, and the most recent from July 29, 1890, a few days before the artist’s death. After Theo’s death, only six months after his brother’s, his widow Jo van Gogh-Bonger and Vincent’s friend and fellow artist Emile Bernard took over the responsibility of organizing exhibitions of the artist’s work and publishing his correspondence to help foster his reputation.

The most substantial portion of the letters, those sent to Theo, were published in three volumes in the Netherlands as early as 1914. Over the next forty years, as Van Gogh’s reputation began to grow, more and more letters were published. In 1952, his nephew published the first of four volumes of a complete edition: Verzamelde brieven (Collected Letters). This was a milestone in the history of the publication of Van Gogh’s correspondence. The edition, published in Dutch, was translated in its entirety and published in English (1958), French (1960) and German (1965). These books became the essential point of reference for half a century of international Van Gogh research and are probably most important Van Gogh source of the twentieth century.

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam produced a new edition of Van Gogh’s complete correspondence in 1990 to mark the centenary of his death. Since then, new information about the chronology of the letters has amassed and 21 letters have been added to the collection.

In response to a challenge to make the collection more accurate and chronological by eminent Van Gogh scholar Jan Hulsker, the Van Gogh Museum launched the Van Gogh Letters Project with the Huygens Institute of the Royal Netherlands in 1994. The new publication, Vincent Van Gogh––The Letters: The Complete Illustrated and Annotated Edition, along with an integral scholarly web edition, boasts substantial improvements. With six volumes, it contains 902 letters, 819 written by Van Gogh and 83 that he received. In addition to the letters, there are 25 documents, or ‘related manuscripts,’ that consist of a number of loose pages and several unsent letters or drafts.

For the first time ever, every single piece of art referred to by Van Gogh in his correspondence is reproduced with the letters. The newly transcribed text has been retranslated and published in English, Dutch and French. Most importantly, many misreadings and omissions have been corrected. It also contains information about Van Gogh’s family and correspondents, a chronology of his life, an essay on the biographical and historical context of the letters, maps, a glossary of materials and techniques and extensive indexes to help the reader navigate through the whole edition.

Vincent Van Gogh––The Letters is probably one of the most important art historical publications of the decade.

For more information, visit: Vincent Van Gogh Museum--The Letters

Monday, June 21, 2010

A People of the Land: Low Country Portraits

Vennie Deas Moore’s exhibition A People of the Land merges history, culture and community with the art of portraiture. Moore was born and raised in the South Carolina Low Country, a coastal, picturesque region renowned for its historic cities and communities. Through photography, she creates portraits that document the powerful and impactful stories of low-country subjects following in the traditions of Zora Neale Hurston and Dorothea Lange.

A People of the Land: Low Country Portraits will be on view from June 1st to July 31st at the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History Conference Center in Augusta, Georgia.

For more information about this exhibition or the Museum please visit:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Performance Art at AthFest

One week from today, GMOA will sponsor a work by performance and new media artist, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, as part of the AthFest lineup at the Rialto Room at Hotel Indigo, Friday, June 25. I couldn’t be more excited!

She’s now an assistant professor of studio art at Vanderbilt, but I first met Amelia when we were both in Austin for grad school. It was during a studio visit for a show I was curating for UT’s Creative Research Laboratory in 2007, and I was immediately taken with both the sophistication and accessibility of her work. I chose to include her video installation, Backup, which you can read about on her website (the essay first appeared in the catalogue for my show, Interchange, An Exhibition in Three Parts, and then as an entry for Art in the Age of the Internet at the Chelsea Art Museum in New York).

For AthFest, a performance seemed most relevant, and we decided on a piece she recently debuted at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville. Square Dance/Round Dance is an audience-interactive performance that references Winger-Bearskin’s unique cultural heritage with elements of traditional American square dancing and American Indian round dancing, combined with mysterious celestial lights and a dance club atmosphere. Her work often seeks to reveal the hidden support systems of arts and entertainment industries by investigating the parts that usually go unnoticed. In other words, she makes us see our world anew. For this performance, flashlights will be given to half the audience, who will then be given instructions in a manner akin to a square dance. Those who shy away from participatory art should not fear; we’ll need spectators, too.

If you’ve got an AthFest wristband, it’s free. Wristbands are available online (click here) for only $15, or at any number of stores around town. If you don’t have a wristband, you can also pay a cover at the door ($8 or $5 for Friends of the Museum—just show your membership card). The lineup also includes Wilma (9 p.m.), Caroline Aiken (10:30), and Lera Lynn (11:15). Amelia is on after Wilma. Please note that the Rialto Room only allows people 21 years of age and up, but I hope to bring Amelia back sometime during the regular school year, when we’ll feature something for all ages. We've also got a table at KidsFest, so stop by downtown on Saturday to make your own toy guitar!

Notes from the Midwest (pt. 1)

Our fearless leader, Dr. William U. Eiland—hereafter referred to as Bill—and I have just returned from a marathon road trip around the Midwestern United States, visiting museums and private collections, and meeting with colleagues about various projects. On any trip with Bill, one can count on long hours made enjoyable with outstanding art and wonderful people. This trip was no exception.

Bill’s journey actually began in Indianapolis two weeks ago this Saturday. He was there for a meeting of the American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD), where, in his leadership role, he works to hold other institutions to the high ethical standards expected of accredited museums. I arrived four days later for a visit to the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA), to study their works by Pierre Daura. The museum is rich in Daura’s Spanish Civil War images, and we are currently organizing a traveling exhibition on this period of his work. A standout was Daura’s pastel, My Brothers in Arms, 1939, which you can see here. The works on view at the IMA are also well worth the trip. Visitors to their permanent collection are first met with a monumental mural by Sol LeWitt, whose deductive paintings, drawings, and sculptures I’ve always adored. They’ve got a good video about it here. The IMA also has a remarkable collection of Neo-Impressionists/Pointillists, as well as this country’s best collection of works from the Nabis (followers of Gauguin) working at Pont-Aven, France around the turn of the twentieth century. One other note about Indianapolis: if you are a state or federal employee and traveling there for business, use www.FedRooms.Com for a discount at The Conrad, to get a luxury hotel room for the price of a dive motel. It may have been the first room I’ve stayed in with real clothes hangers!

The next morning, I met up with Bill and we headed up to Chicago. The people of Chicago are remarkably welcoming; the whole city seemed to greet our arrival by donning red and black and holding a tickertape parade…although I guess it could’ve had something to do with the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. Our first order of business was to meet with the Terra Foundation. For those in the know, the name Terra is synonymous with the highest level of excellence in all projects. Working largely behind the scenes, they bring “American art to the world and the world to American art,” to quote their apt tagline. We had a pleasant and productive meeting, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to partner with them on future projects.

We followed our meeting with a trip to the venerable Art Institute of Chicago. When I was last there in February for the College Art Association’s annual meeting, I spent hours in their new modern wing, which was designed by Renzo Piano and houses almost a quarter of what I teach in my Modern European survey course. This time, we explored other areas of the museum -- a good thing since there’s always more to see than time allows. I had never visited the galleries housing the Thorne Miniature Rooms, and was thoroughly taken with the little windows into domestic settings of days past. Before we left, I insisted that we visit the Impressionism/Post-Impressionism galleries so that I could pay homage to Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1884, which I make a point of doing anytime I’m in Chicago. The first time I had the opportunity to see this painting was the summer after an elementary art teacher had explained Pointillism to my first grade class, and to this day I credit that enlivened, enlightening experience as a major factor in the development of my own desire to interpret art.

That evening we met up with Beau Ott, a private collector of mid-century American art who is helping us put together an exhibition of DeWain Valentine’s work, about which I’m particularly excited. I first heard about Beau when my advisor at the University of Texas at Austin, Linda Henderson, borrowed Ed Ruda’s Redball, 1965, from him for her exhibition Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York, so I was anxious to meet him. Aside from an incredible collection, Beau is as nice a person as one is ever likely to meet, and studies American art from the 1950s-70s with a passion that is infectious.

On Friday, Bill and I started our day at the Chicago History Museum to see their outstanding textile and fashion collection. We also met their curator of costumes, Timothy Long, whose fashion sense—he looks like a model—is only surpassed by his scholarly acumen. We hope to borrow from them for an exhibition we’ve got in the works. From there, we went to the Thomas McCormick Gallery to acquire a Picasso etching, The Dream and Lie of Franco, 1937, which I’ve had my eye on since February for my aforementioned Spanish Civil War exhibition. Now that it’s a “done deal,” I can say that it was a great deal for this work. After that, Beau got us into a phenomenal private collection of Chicago Imagists (comprising groups like The Hairy Who, The Monster Roster, and other important, representational artists of late 1960-70s Chicago, whose wildly wonderful work I like to think of as "Surrealism for the '70s"). After that we visited the Block Museum at Northwestern University, where we saw their MFA show and an exhibition of European prints, The Brilliant Line: Following the Early Modern Engraver, 1480-1650.

The next day, the three of us headed north. Our first stop was the Racine Art Museum (RAM). We had planned to just “pop in,” but as luck would have it, RAM curatorial assistant Dave Zaleski had also popped in, and treated us to a tour of the galleries, library, and administrative offices. Their current exhibitions are all about insects, and some of the work was unsettling, to say the least, but it was nonetheless exquisite in its execution and installation. Given RAM’s focus on design and crafts, it should have been no surprise that we all also left their shop with much lighter wallets.

Our main destination of the day was the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). I hadn’t heard much about MAM, which is surprising given the quality of their collection and their building, which was designed by Santiago Calatrava and features massive, cantilevered wings which open and close twice daily, serving as a sunscreen. Their collection of Minimalist sculpture located on their first floor is world class, but their real treasure is the Mrs. Harry L. Bradley Collection of twentieth-century European and American art, which occupies their fourth floor. I could go on about it for pages, but will instead direct you to their site. So entranced with the collection were we that we chose the quickest lunch we could find, a hot dog cart just outside the museum. There I committed the culinary sin of putting ketchup on my dog, and had to promise Beau that I would never do that back in Chicago, lest I get us all beaten up or run out of town (for the record, mustard, relish, and sauerkraut are all acceptable in any combination . . . just no ketchup). We wound down our day in Milwaukee with a stop at a lovely fin de siècle-themed bistro. Beau and I tried absinthe (sans wormwood) for the first time, which I considered art historical research, given the preponderance of early twentieth-century European artists featuring the beverage in their art (Degas and Picasso, most famously). At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it (but in case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t put in for reimbursement on that one).

The second half of our road trip was every bit as exciting, so tune in next week for the second installment of this post, where I’ll recount our visits to one of the best, but least-known, outdoor contemporary sculpture collections in the country, along with more museums and astounding private collections.