Thursday, July 27, 2017

New Acquisitions: Sculpture by Horace Farlowe

Horace Farlowe, "Tennessee Cut."

In 2013, the Georgia Museum of Art acquired “Tennessee Cut,” a pink marble sculpture measuring 28 by 23 by 20 inches carved by artist and former University of Georgia professor Horace Farlowe (1933–2006). Previously tucked into a hidden garden at the UGA Hotel and Conference Center, where Scott Simpson of the Office of University Architects noticed it, the sculpture has found new life at the museum thanks to Robert Jarrell (b. 1963), an artist and former student of Farlowe’s; deputy director Annelies Mondi; preparators Todd Rivers and Elizabeth Howe; and Rebecca Salem, an undergraduate preparatory intern.

Simpson emailed Mondi to suggest that the Conference Center might be willing to transfer ownership of the sculpture to the museum, which it did. Mondi, who also took one course with Farlowe, and remembers him as a “patient and mild-mannered human being,” then consulted with Jarrell to restore and display the sculpture in a way that captured Farlowe’s intention for the piece and celebrated his legacy at the university. Located in a small garden to the right of the side entrance of the museum, the sculpture now faces the Lamar Dodd School of Art, connecting Farlowe’s professional and artistic careers and echoing his conviction that “Life and Art are the same thing.”

“Tennessee Cut” is part of Farlowe’s window series, so it was important that the piece be placed at a height to allow both adult and young visitors to look through to the other side, as well as that it frame a good view from either side. The sculpture now rests on a smooth, square concrete plinth poured carefully by Dave Lawson of the Facilities Management Division. Farlowe worked mostly in stone, and his sculptures, towering up to 17 feet tall, can be seen in Spain, Germany, Italy, Scotland and all over the United States. According to Jack Kehoe, one of his colleagues in the art department, the prominence of the marble-carving program at the university can be attributed to Farlowe’s skill and passion as an artist and teacher.

Horace Farlowe, untitled.

Farlowe’s work appeared in several exhibitions at the museum during his lifetime, including “City on a Hill: 20 Years of Art at Cortona” (1989). The museum also owns a small untitled example of his work, also in marble, that was a gift of Margaret Leary (GMOA 2016.250). Farlowe gave Leary the sculpture after they worked together on a site-memorial entry to commemorate the World Trade Center towers.

Martha Wilde
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Art Adventures Inspires Future Designers

Sage Kincaid, assistant curator of education, works with a YWCO group on a gallery tour during Art Adventures.

Every Wednesday and Thursday this summer, at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., children came to the Georgia Museum of Art to get inspired by the work of designer Giò Ponti on a 90-minute journey to Italy. They were participating in Art Adventures, the museum’s annual free summer program. Art Adventures runs every June and July, encouraging focused engagement with works of art and a studio art activity that builds on children’s experiences in the galleries. Day camps, day cares and community centers take advantage of it, bringing about 600 elementary-school-aged children to the museum in the summer months.

Art Adventures has a different theme every year. This summer, informed by the exhibition “Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design,” it focused on modern design and how we use design in our everyday lives. Children took an interactive tour of the exhibition, led by museum education staff and interns. Examples of gallery activities included looking for elements of art in Ponti’s designs, imagining how furniture functions in different settings and thinking about their own style by listening to examples of Italian music while learning about the work.

Art Adventurers design and create their tiles.
After the tour, kids created their own works of art, using their new knowledge of art and design. Thinking about the patterns and colors they saw in the exhibition for inspiration, they tried out different colors and shapes. and practiced using new art materials. Once they felt ready, they created colorful patterns on a ceramic tile using tissue paper and a clear glaze. Students cut and tore tissue paper and layered it to explore patterns, transparency and colors on the tile. When they finished, they each had a beautiful tile with a unique design.

An Art Adventurer with her finished tile.
“I’m always so inspired by kids’ creativity and their imagination.” said Sage Kincaid, the museum’s assistant curator of education. “Our goal for this program is to engage children with the exhibition and help them feel connected and interested in not just the works of art and the museum, but also their own and classmates’ reactions and thoughts about what they are seeing.”

Jinsui Li
Intern, Department of Communications

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Spotlight on Studio Workshops: Q&A with Instructor Brian Hitselberger

This September, Athens-based artist and educator Brian Hitselberger will be leading "Studio Workshop: Drawing," a four-part studio-based course that introduces participants to contour, value, simplification and detail, drawing on-the-fly and more focused, detailed methods of mark-making. In advance of the course, Brian answered a few of our questions related to the workshop, art and artistic inspiration.

Artist and educator Brian Hitselberger.
1. What are some of your favorite works at the Georgia Museum of Art?

It's hard to choose. I have my old standbys – I always visit the Alice Neel portrait, the huge Joan Mitchell painting, and of course Radcliffe Bailey's exquisite assemblage, but the works-on-paper galleries generally have something exciting going on. On one of my most recent visits, I was totally mesmerized by the Michael Ellison show Urban Impressions. The density of his prints, the abstraction of every aspect of his complex compositions, and his incredible color sensibilities blew the top of my head off! I became an instant fan.

2. How does a visit to the museum inspire you as an artist?

Something that is so often glazed over in discussions about art or interviews with artists is the fact that a studio practice can be very isolating. I'm fortunate enough to live in a town full of committed makers and to work as a professor at a college teaching young artists. And yet, and yet....

… a visit to the Georgia Museum, or any museum for that matter, always reminds me that I am part of a lineage. That making things, thinking through ideas with material, or expressing oneself without words is a human endeavor: one that transcends not only identity, but time itself. It can help me return to my own studio with a greatly renewed sense of purpose. 

3. What are some of the pieces from the museum's collection that you have selected to use in the studio workshop "Abstraction", and why did you choose these?

Part of our workshop will focus on the series of studies that Elaine de Kooning made in her sketchbook of Greek and Roman statuary, which are held in the museum's archives. These small drawings lead up to the execution of her painting “Bacchus #81,” a painting which (in a sense) draws strength from these initial explorations in order to “play” on a larger scale. It's illuminating to see the drawings on which this painting was based, in that we are able to plot the workings of the artist’s mind directly. Additionally, I think seeing this series opens students to the notion that abstraction is a process, a way of thinking through a visual idea: it can be a tool. 

4. Is there something you are currently working on or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?

I'm working on show that will open this coming August at {Poem88} gallery in Atlanta. The show, titled “Counterspell,” brings together a group of my paintings with a large-format installation on one of the gallery's walls. The paintings are based off of textiles – quilts, specifically – and use collage as a way to “patch” other elements and meanings into their compositions. The wall piece will bring together drawings, found objects and ceramic sculpture with the work of seven other artists whose work I greatly admire. I'm using their small-scale pieces as elements in a large work of my own making. In this way, it's a kind of collaboration. The underlying theme of the show is a desire for safety and the various means we have available to us as artists to protect ourselves from fear. If you're interested in learning more, I actually put together a website for the project that can be seen here:

5. What do you read, listen to, or look at to fuel your work?

This is always a challenging question to answer because the list could be so long and all over the place. I have a few "house gods," as I refer to them – artists whose work will always get my gears turning. Pierre Bonnard, James Whistler, Sheila Hicks and Felix Gonzales-Torres are some of my all-time favorites. But I also have rotating interests that become very important to me, depending on what kinds of projects I'm engaged in at the time. Right now I'm looking quite a bit at Gee's Bend quilts, Japanese Boro textiles, and a lot of found object sculpture. Later this summer, I hope to travel to Pasaquan, St. EOM's enormous outdoor installation in south Georgia, for some color inspiration. I also think I've played the new Slowdive and Perfume Genius records about ten thousand times in the studio this summer. 

6. What advice or words of wisdom have influenced you as an artist?

I think inspiration for new work comes most often out of the process of making itself. The last few years for me have been about allowing the unexpected events that happen in my studio to become the seedbeds for new projects. I also reflect a lot on the words of the great Patti Smith. To paraphrase: Don't worry about making things that are new. Focus on making things that are good.

"Studio Workshop: Drawing" will run Thursdays, September 7 through 28, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Artists from all backgrounds are encouraged to attend, as these museum sessions are designed to be equally engaging for enthusiastic beginners and seasoned practitioners alike. All sessions will use the museum’s collection as source material, including works not regularly on display. Participants will be introduced to brush and ink washes, ink pen, colored pencil and hard and soft graphite. The cost of the course is a $15 materials fee, which will cover all necessary supplies for the four sessions. Space is limited; call 706.542.8863 or email to register.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Giò Ponti's Functional Designs Anticipated the Tiny House Movement

Giò Ponti, hotel bedroom for the Ninth Triennale, Milan, 1951. Image: Giò Ponti Archives

If you’ve ever flipped through late night television, you might have come across the show “Tiny House, Big Living” on HGTV. In one episode, Trevor and Mary, a young couple from Dayton, Ohio, explores the multifaceted features of their new tiny home. The legs of a table double up as scratching posts for their cats, and a rope bridge made with their furry companions in mind runs from the couple’s shelving unit to the stairs. Lofted beds are placed towards the top of the home, barely an arms length away from the ceiling. Every part of the architecturally inventive house serves more than one purpose, the floorboards included. At the end of the episode, Trevor gets down on one knee as he procures a diamond ring from inside one of the stairs (which, of course, doubles as a storage unit) and proposes to his girlfriend Mary.

The Tiny House movement is, according to some, a social one. People are seriously downsizing for many different reasons: a desire to live simply, to go on more adventures, to make environmentally conscious decisions, and to cut down living costs. The average tiny house is 100 to 400 square feet — that is about 2,200 square feet smaller than the average American home. People like Mary and Trevor are getting on board with this trend and making drastic changes in the way they approach their living space. 

It could be argued that Giò Ponti’s interior designs are precursors to the Tiny House innovations of the 21st century. On view here at the Georgia Museum of Art until September 17, “Modern Living: Giò Ponti and the 20th-Century Aesthetics of Design” exhibits Ponti’s knack for creating sleek, functional designs that seem to expand space and transcend time. 

Ponti, like tiny house builders, understood the concept of less is more. His minimalistic designs are nonetheless as visually appealing as ornate antique furniture; in fact, his minimalism is what appeals to most people. The modern aesthetic of smooth lines, clean design and functionality resonates with homebuyers today. This might explain why the tiny house trend has flourished in the last few years. The appeal of Ponti’s work and tiny houses is like that of a multipurpose tool: countless functions in one object. 

Tiny house sensibilities manifest in pieces such as a coffee table he designed in 1937, made of burr-walnut-veneered wood, walnut, and glass. Perri Lee Roberts, author of the comprehensive essay found in the exhibition catalogue, writes of the piece that the “glass top serves an aesthetic purpose, creating a sense of relative weightlessness and helping blend the piece into its surrounding while providing a proper surface for the functional requirements of the table.” Not only does Ponti’s design of the table, with its smooth, transitional quality that could expand a space (potentially a very small space, such as in a tiny house), compare to the design tactics implemented by tiny house designers, Ponti also proved his resourcefulness by employing only Italian materials on this piece. 

Giò Ponti, coffee table, ca. 1937. Made by Giordano Cheese. Image: Wright

Another innovation that stands out as particularly apt — and this is a trend that carries into the design of many tiny houses — is Ponti’s “organized wall.” Exhibited in instances such as the hotel bedroom Ponti designed for the Ninth Triennale in 1951, this feature makes storage space integrated as well as aesthetic. For Ponti, shelves offered a way to merge interior and exterior spaces when placed flush against windows — a tactic that makes outside foliage or decor accessible and also creates fascinating shadows that transform depending on the time of day. Organized walls, and the pleasure they bring aesthetically as well as the additional storage space they offer, fit seamlessly into both Ponti’s designs and tiny house developments. 

Tile and chair designed by Giò Ponti.
Image: Daici Ano
Ponti’s affinity for striking elements is not limited to just furniture; in fact, some may argue that his most vibrant work is that of his ceramic tiles. These tiles, patterned with intricate motifs, create the illusion of space in an area that lacks just that. The blue and white tile shown right employs optical elements that shift the eye around the room, creating the sense of an enlarged area, while the colors echo the serenity of Santorini. Ponti was a master at making the most out of the space he was given, and were he alive today, he surely would be enthralled by the challenge of crafting a tiny house.

Roberts writes that Ponti wished to bring order to a chaotic world ravaged by WWI and that “the key to this sacred mission was the home, which Ponti saw as the epicenter of family life… His concept of the home encompassed more than its physical structure, extending to include interior design, furniture, furnishings, decorative objects, and art. Ponti regarded the design of furniture and decorative art as equivalent artistic undertakings to architectural design; whenever possible, he planned domestic and public spaces as integrated ensembles.” Ponti’s approach to design transcends both time and location, and his lasting impact on architecture and interior design becomes manifest especially when considering living arrangements such as the tiny house. The next time insomnia strikes, make HGTV your first stop on the train of late-night shows — see if you notice pieces reminiscent of Ponti and his innovations as the tiny house builders and owners look to make the most of their new small spaces. 

Sarah Dotson and Stephanie Motter
Communications Interns