Saturday, September 22, 2012

Happy Birthday, Lamar Dodd!

Today we celebrate the birth of Lamar Dodd, one of the most important driving forces behind the Georgia Museum of Art, second only to Alfred Herber Holbrook. Born in 1909 in Fairburn, Ga., Dodd was immersed in his artistic training starting at the age of 12, when he enrolled in classes at LaGrange College. He continued his education, studying during a brief stint at Georgia Tech and teaching art in rural Alabama, until he realized he wasn’t going to evolve as artist if he remained in the South. Dodd made the move to New York City, where he took classes at the Art Students League and learned his craft from artists such as Boardman Robinson, a well-known illustrator and political cartoonist. It was also during his time in New York that Dodd was exposed to the nativist art of the 1920s and 1930s, greatly influencing his style.

Lamar Dodd
Self Portrait

Dodd returned to Alabama in 1933 to work in an art supply store while continuing to paint, emphasizing the techniques and styles of local, southern art in his works. Four years later, he was involved in a national movement to incorporate working artists into universities, and he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Georgia, where, within another three years, he merged all teaching of the visual arts into one department, now name the Lamar Dodd School of Art.
It was during the 1940s when Dodd met Holbrook and collaborated with him on the embryonic stages of GMOA. During one of his trips to Athens, Holbrook became acquainted with Dodd and eventually took classes under him, creating some of his own works both in and out of the classroom. While helping establish the museum during the later 1940s and 1950s, Dodd began travelling farther and farther out of Georgia, eventually making it up to Monhegan Island, Maine, where he briefly painted the landscapes that had inspired artists such as Abraham Bogdanove and Robert Henri. Dodd also travelled to Europe to improve upon his work by studying examples from the Old Masters. Furthermore, he served as a cultural emissary for the State Department and journeyed to Asia and the former Soviet Union. The styles he observed during his travels to these places influenced his techniques, evident in his brighter palette from that period.
Dodd was also invited by NASA in 1963 to document parts of the space race in art. This commission began his more scientifically themed phase of painting, which lasted through the late 1970s. He used monochromatic tones in blacks and whites to symbolize the voids of space or lunar glares, occasionally embellishing elements with metallic silvers and golds. Space wasn’t enough for Dodd, and he turned his attention to the human body, painting representations of X-rays and tissue studies to create the Heart series, an artistic manifestation of how he viewed the human heart.
He reverted to painting scenes of the natural world in the 1980s and 1990s, the later years of his life. Dodd died in 1996, months after the Lamar Dodd School of Art had was dedicated to him. His legacy continues in the art school as well as in GMOA, where many of his paintings reside in our permanent collection as his gifts to Holbrook and all who wish to see them. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering

9 Evenings poster (1966)

Tonight at 7 p.m., we're screening the three available DVDs featuring footage from the 9 Evenings performances by Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, and David Tudor, along with documentary interviews with people involved in the landmark 1966 performance art event. I'll introduce the DVDs with a brief talk, but for those of you wanting more information, I'd like to suggest this website, which is a fantastic resource for information on 9 Evenings and lots more:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Closer Look: De Wain Valentine and Human Scale

One of the Georgia Museum of Art’s latest exhibitions, “De Wain Valentine: Human Scale,” opened on Sept. 8, and will be on display until Jan. 27, 2013. In addition to bringing the necessary pieces together in a cohesive manner, a considerable amount of research was required for the exhibition—knowing how, when, and in what context Valentine created his work provides a greater understanding of the different artistic movements during the 1960s and 1970s. A large portion of that research was provided by Beau Ott, a collector of Valentine’s work, who also graciously provided three iconic sculptures for the exhibition: “Lavender Column” (1968), “Rose Circle” (1970) and “Gray Ring” (1974).
“As I enjoy researching the art and artists whose work I collect, I had amassed quite a bit of information about this body of Valentine’s work,” Ott said. “I have been collecting art, from mainly the 1960’s, for nearly 10 years. I became a fan of Valentine’s works, especially from this period, several years ago. I was very excited when the initial opportunity arose for me to acquire one of Valentine’s polyester resin works.”
Ott, as it turns out, became friends with Valentine through the process of obtaining his sculptures. This friendship is especially highlighted in the documentary on loan from the Getty Museum, “From Start to Finish: The Story of De Wain Valentine’s ‘Gray Column’,” which is featured alongside the exhibition.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for the vision that De Wain had during a very special time in art history and that he had the tenacity to work with a very difficult medium in order to realize his artistic vision,” said Ott. “I said to him in a recent conversation, ‘De Wain, has anyone in your entire life ever, accused you of thinking small?’”
Indeed, the idea of the small does not seem to apply to Valentine’s work. These sculptures stand six to eight feet high and weigh hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, according to Ott.
“Valentine’s work in this exhibit offers a unique art-viewing experience,” he said. “The large, clear-colored, plastic lens-like sculptures affect the viewer’s perception and offer a unique sculpture-viewing experience as one can simultaneously observe all facets, curves and edges. This was never before possible until Valentine developed the special polyester resin material that could be used [for his work].”

Beau Ott and
De Wain Valentine's
"Lavender Column"

Ott and our docents

“Human Scale” is the first time Valentine’s work has been featured on the East Coast outside of New York, and it seems a stroke of luck that it managed to happen, according to Ott.
“Collectors are hesitant to allow their human scale polyester resin sculptures to travel,” he said. “While Valentine created approximately 50 human scale polyester resin sculptures, fewer…are extant due to the fragility of the pieces.”
There isn’t much room for error, but overall, Ott is happy with the way GMOA has presented Valentine’s work and encourages all to come have a closer look at the immense sculptures.
“The GMOA exhibition was brilliantly curated to allow each of these eight works to be seen to present the fullest effect to the exhibitions’ viewers,” he said. “[It] offers the never-before opportunity to see eight of these sculptures on display within the same exhibition.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Come See The New York Collection for Stockholm

The New York Collection for Stockholm is an aggregate collection of works of art that was created in the early 1970s. The elements that generated the collection began to come together during the revolutionary artistic developments in the 1960s. After World War II, the United States went through a great deal of change, due to the influence of mass media, the dissemination of information and new technologies, the rise of consumerism, the Vietnam War and, artistically, the emergence in the late 1940s and 1950s of Abstract Expressionism, a form of art characterized best by its emotional influence and subconscious, spontaneous creation. The group Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T.) was part of this zeitgeist and wanted to foster collaboration between artists and engineers and further both communities’ self-interests.
Initially, E.A.T. was inspired by 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, an event produced by artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman and Bell Lab engineers Willhelm Klüver and Fred Waldhauer in 1966. The 10 performance ran for nine evenings, starting on October 13, and was held at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York City. The nine multimedia evenings included work by seven other collaborations between an artist and engineers, and it was through the idea of these unions that E.A.T. was officially born immediately after the event. Two years later, the number of group members had expanded to roughly 2,000 artists and 2,000 engineers who participated in projects around the world.
As one of the co-founders of E.A.T., Klüver’s connection to the Moderna Museet in his homeland, Sweden, was instrumental in the genesis of the New York Collection for Stockholm. The director of the Moderna, Pontus Hulten, had Klüver to thank for the museum’s acquisition of some of the best American art at that time—ranging from Andy Warhol to Donald Judd. In 1964, one of Rauschenberg’s sculptures joined the ranks of the Moderna’s permanent collection, five years after he had met Klüver.
            Klüver had already become an influential part of the New York art community before 9 Evenings, working with artists to help them utilize technology in their works. Klüver also helped organize exhibitions and film series in Stockholm. One of the events he helped organize at the Moderna hat gained considerable notice in 1964 was 5 New York Evenings, a performance art series. In the early 1970s, the E.A.T. looked to put together a collection of some of the most important American art of the 1960s, with the aim of donating it to a public museum. They chose 30 works in a variety of media and selected the Moderna Museet in Stockholm as the recipient because of its strong history of support for American contemporary art.
Roy Lichtenstein
Finger Pointing
The galleries representing the artists slated for the collection agreed to waive their commissions, cutting the price of the acquisition in half. Princess Christina of Sweden agreed to be the “Patroness of the Collection” so the Swedish government was willing to donate a fifth of the funds necessary for the purchases. However, E.A.T. needed more money in order to purchase the collection, and it was through E.A.T. and Klüver’s work that the enough funding was raised in the form of a limited edition portfolio. The portfolio includes 30 prints by each of the artists—including Kenneth Noland, Dan Flavin, and Nam June Paik—whose work E.A.T. intended to purchase and gift to the Moderna for its collection. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 300, and began selling in the spring of 1973. By the summer of that year, E.A.T. had acquired enough funding to purchase its contemporary American art collection and donate it to Stockholm.
Robert Rauschenberg

The Georgia Museum of Art has recently purchased one of the original portfolios Klüver and Hulten compiled. Lynn Boland, Pierre Daura Curator of European Art, organized the exhibition, and the prints from the portfolio will be on display in the Lamar Dodd Gallery at the GMOA from August 18 until October 28. If seeing one of the great turning points of American art sounds like a great way to spend the day, then we highly suggest you come for a visitDon’t miss an extra special treat when Julie Martin (Billy Klüver’s widow and co-founder of E.A.T.) and Robert Whitman (artist and co-founder of E.A.T.) come to GMOA. Boland will lead a conversation with both of them in the gallery on October 24 at 7 p.m.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Happy Birthday, Ralston Crawford!

Well known for his Precisionist and geometrically abstract style, Crawford was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1906. He moved with his family at the age of 10 to Buffalo, N.Y., and spent time sailing with his father on the Great Lakes. Following his high school graduation, Crawford worked on cargo ships for six months, traveling to the Caribbean and the Pacific. In 1927, Crawford began his artistic education at Otis Art Institute, working at the Walt Disney Studio as an animator for a side job. He returned to the East Coast to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at the Barnes Foundation. It was during his later round of studies that he was influenced in his work by the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. In 1934, along with being a member of the Independents, a collective of modernist painters, Crawford had his first one-man art show at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Crawford went through multiple artistic phases in his life, the most notable being his Precisionist and geometrically abstract phases. His Precisionist work focused on realistic, sharp renderings of industrial areas, such as factories, bridges, and shipyards, all of which incorporated straight edges and clear borders between separate elements. Crawford’s early work in this vein placed him among other Precisionist artists such as Charles Sheeler, whose noteworthy accomplishments include being one of the founders of American modernism and one of the master photographers of the 20th century. The use of straight lines in the majority of Crawford’s work evolved into his geometrically abstract period, in which he would utilize the shape as the focus of his paintings, taking events such as bullfighting in Spain or spaces such as cemeteries in New Orleans and re-forming them into how he envisioned them in a geometric spectrum.
One of the highlights of Crawford’s career was an assignment from Fortune Magazine. He traveled to the Bikini Atoll in 1946 to record a portion of the events during Operation Crossroads, a series of nuclear weapons tests that provided information on atmospheric and underwater detonations of atomic bombs. The test was incredibly high-profile due to the fact that it was the first detonation of any nuclear device since the bombing of Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945. Additionally, Crawford worked with photography and experimented with film and printmaking. Crawford died on April 17, 1978, in Houston, Tex., succumbing to cancer. 
The Georgia Museum of Art’s permanent collection includes Crawford’s depiction of the blast generated by the atmospheric bomb, nicknamed Able, from Operation Crossroads. For anyone interested in the artistic aspects of such an almost literally “volatile” period in American history, GMOA invites you to come in and experience the reverberations of what Crawford witnessed years ago.

Ralston Crawford
Test Able