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.”

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