Tag: Newark Museum
Quite often a temporary exhibition will see two peaks of attendance: one at the opening and one near the close. A few excellent exhibitions in New York region will close in one or two weeks, thus this cold New York weekend, will be the last chance to see them.
1. Met: American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life, 1765 – 1915. Last day: Jan 24, 2010
Geo commented that the exhibition was the best he had seen in years, and I agreed. Too often visitors are stunned by things, whose individuality strikes and trap them in objects alone. This show is as close to idea-oriented sociological exploration as it can ever possibly get. There are still iconic pictures, of important figures or reverend places; but the majority of the pictures, like typical genre paintings, are of representatives of different ranks, profession, age and sex, of particular stratum of a society at some historical point. On the second layer, the sentimental, bucolic or satirical tones of the pictures betrays the political, economic or cultural standpoint of painters themselves. Thus the sensual joys from astonishing pictures of this special exhibition should not suppress the intellectual curiosity about the complexity of curatorial efforts, both in sociological/historical contents and artistic production. The show will travel to Los Angeles, but not all the big canvases, so treasure the rare opportunities to see the “American stories” told in multi-fold threads.
2. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Rembrandt’s People. Last day: Jan 24, 2010
Only two hours away from NYC, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s permanent collection would rival those largest museum in the country. Rembrandt’s People is the debut of a series of small-scale shows inspired by works in Wadsworth’s permanent collection. These works come from public and private collections, including the famous self-portrait owned by the National Gallery of Art. Those who have not tried a self-portrait should at least experiment once regardless of drawing skills. Man does not take up a neutral or objective attitude towards his own appearance; his participation is coloured more by his ‘will” than by his ‘idea’. (Max Friedländer) The power and tension from Rembrandt’s pictures justify that a small-scaled show would just satisfy or perplex any visitor, at least me, who have perpetually bewildered that how a self-contained inner truth is wholly exhorted under the light that barely brighten the tip of the nose.
3. Newark Museum, 100 Masterpieces of Art Pottery, 1880 – 1930. Last day: Jan 10, 2010
Another great museum whose decorative art collection is showcased in this exhibition. American art pottery has been doing better than other types of decorative art in recent years. The time period include gilded age till the end of the roaring 20′s. The antithesis of anti-industrial attitude and mass material culture can be hardly more evident in these art potteries: factory production lines were checked by individuality that inserted the fine-art characteristics. That particularity from each makers or artists engenders art pottery with varied forms and techniques that one could easily get lost in the jungle of shapes, colors and textures. Luckily the show has divided art pottery in this period into different groups ranging from Victorian roots, China painters to sculptural art pots and only a handful of 100 masterpieces are presented.
4. Bard Graduate Center, Dutch New York Between East and West: The World of Margrieta van Varick. Last day: Jan 24, 2010
If Geo voted American Stories at Met as his favorite exhibition of the year, then the World of Margrieta van Varick, a faintly fabricated personification of Dutch New York from a piece of inventory list, gets my vote. Again, there are stunning objects, yet all centered around certain aspects of Dutch New York. For a woman whose looking we could only guess from her prominent descendants, her inventory list induced the most fascinated curatorial efforts that celebrates the Dutch root of New York city.
5. Brooklyn Museum, James Tissot: “The Life of Christ”. Last day: Jan 17, 2010
Tissot’s watercolor illustration of the life of Christ was acquired by the Brooklyn Museum at the turn of the century through public subscription. From then on (except the first two decades), the treasure is brought out to the public every 20 years or so. 124 of a total 350 pictures are shown in the current exhibition. It would be interested to look back the review and public reception of past exhibitions to explore how Americans of different generations perceive and interpret pictures of Christ. They are NOT typical biblical pictures. The bold perspectives and strong narratives make it clear that Tissot was not a preacher, but an artist to awaken general impulses of the soul, to address our senses and emotions. They are the most daring and individualized pictures of Christ, the question is: Can we see them without connecting to that symbolic halo?
6. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorkey: A Retrospective and Arshile Gorky in Context. Last Day: Jan 10, 2010.
The highlight of the exhibition is a series of “creation chambers,” based on the artist’s description of his studio in Union Square, New York, in which some of Gorky’s most powerful and best-known paintings are being shown alongside their related studies and preparatory drawings. And perhaps inspired by the previous blockbuster show of the museum “Cézanne and Beyond“, a smaller-scaled exhibition Arshile Gorky in Context bring in comparison works from those who influenced him, were influenced by him and those who worked with him. This comprehensive retrospective is the first full-scale survey of Gorky’s work in nearly thirty years.
All of this came together, in the United States at least, at the national Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. That moment was a cultural watershed for America, a moment that unleashed something of an aesthetic awakening. It was in the aftermath of the Centennial that Americans began to see the potential for transforming ceramics from merely ornaments into art objects. In shape, in glaze, in surface treatment, pots could be more than just pots.
There are many styles included among the objects in this exhibition and a wide range of production techniques, each of them reflecting what was considered artistic at the time they were made. Some of these pots are Victorian in their aesthetic, others Art Nouveau, and some could be called Modern. Our goal has been to embrace an idea, not a particular taste, to corral a diverse group of ceramic objects and to shed light on what connects them.
This exhibition is the “prequel” to the 2003 exhibition Great Pots: Contemporary Ceramics from Function to Fantasy, which focused on the Museum’s striking collection of studio pottery.
A 120-page full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition, and can be purchased along with the previous catalogue Great Pots. The exhibition runs from Sept 23, 2009 to Jan 10, 2010.
From the press release of Newark Museum
The Newark Museum art pottery collection began with an exhibition in 1910, just one year after the institution was founded by John Cotton Dana, and since has grown to be one of the country’s premier holdings. Exhibited as a collection only twice in the past 25 years, in 1984 and 1994, the Museum honors its Centennial with a remarkable exhibition, 100 Masterpieces of Art Pottery, 1880-1930, opening September 23 and running through January 10, 2010.
The Newark Museum’s art pottery collection began with Dana’s pioneering recognition of ceramics as an art form 100 years ago and continued with acquisitions of modern ceramics throughout the 20th century. According to Director Mary Sue Sweeney Price, “Newark was one of the first museums, if not the first, to see ceramics as art in the way painting and sculpture were seen by other museums.”
According to Ulysses Grant Dietz, Senior Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts, “John Cotton Dana also envisioned art pottery as a way to involve ordinary people with art; a way to draw them into his fledgling museum and into his library. He was very interested in the potential mass market that could be reached by art pottery in a way they could not be reached by paintings.”
“Informing and involving ordinary people in the wonders of the world of art continues to this day – 100 years later – to be his legacy and the central theme of the Newark Museum’s mission,” Dietz said.
“One hundred years ago, pots were art,” said Dietz. “The vase was the ideal art object because, while still ‘functional,’ it could be set aside and admired purely for its beauty and the skill with which it was created. Artistic pots were also more accessible to the general public than paintings and sculpture, and thus were the perfect kind of art for the newly-founded Newark Museum in 1909,” he explained.
100 Masterpieces will track the notion of ceramics as art from the Gilded Age of the 1880s to its evolution into studio pottery by the outset of the Great Depression. The Newark Museum’s collection of modern ceramics was begun in 1910 with an exhibition entitled simply Modern American Pottery. The centennial project will feature more than 100 pieces of pottery and porcelain, including American and Native American as well as European and Asian ceramics. The exhibition will be entirely drawn from the Museum’s own collection, with the exception of two loans from the American Decorative Arts 1900 Foundation, according to Dietz.
The “birth” of art pottery was part of the larger arts and crafts movement born in England in the 1860s. In the United States art pottery was hugely influenced by the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, and the ensuing American embrace of such diverse aesthetic notions as Japanism and the Colonial Revival. William DeMorgan (1839-1917) in London and John Bennett in New York City were among the best known figures to explore pottery as art in the 1870s and 1880s, with painterly designs that romantically evoked the Middle Ages and the exotic East. Maria Longworth Nichols, a society lady from Cincinnati, brought art pottery into the American mainstream in the wake of the national Centennial, imbuing her Rookwood Pottery’s output with romanticized Japanism combined with French slip-decorating techniques.
As the nineteenth century came to a close, art pottery split into two distinct camps—the china painters and art potters. Decorated porcelains continued to play a major role in the world of artistic ceramics during the later Gilded Age, continuing a factory-based tradition with roots in the eighteenth century. Royal Worcester in England and Trenton’s Ceramic Art Company were key players in this camp. Art potteries, conceived as small scale cooperative business ventures with a distinct division of labor, capitalized on arts and crafts ideals of handcraft and design. Ceramic decorating, which was a genteel hobby for well-to-do women, was at the same time a viable career path for both men and women in this period.
“Within the realm of art pottery, a further three-way subdivision produced artwares that were either focused on minimalist forms with remarkable, beautiful glazes; or on the sculptural aspects of pottery as a three-dimensional form; or on the notion of the vessel as a canvas to be filled by an artist, emphasizing painterly effects,” Dietz said. These approaches would continue to inform the art pottery world even as it moved from the Art Nouveau to Modernism in the 1920s and began to evolve into the studio pottery movement of the post-Depression years.
“100 Masterpieces of Art Pottery, 1880-1930” will be exhibited at Newark Museum from September 23, 2009 through January 10, 2010.
The Newark Museum will celebrate its 100-hour Centennial Celebration Marathon, a multi-cultural extravaganza offered, round-the-clock, from 10:30 a.m. on April 22 to 6:00 p.m. on April 26.
The imaginative programs planned for the Centennial Celebration include demonstrations and workshops in art forms from quilting and pottery; armchair talks with members of the Museum’s distinguished curatorial staff and other scholars; dance lessons and then the opportunity to use what you’ve learned at Motown, Salsa and Swing dance parties; a 100 Amazing Object treasure hunt through the Museum’s 80 galleries from the permanent collection; exciting planetarium experiences, and multicultural, multi-ethnic performing arts presentations by professional musicians and dancers.
A community birthday party will conclude the 100-hour marathon on Sunday, April 26, complete with a birthday cake, special musical performances by Dr. K’s Motown Revue, and dancing in the garden. The Newark Museum was founded in April, 1909, by John Cotton Dana, Director of the Newark Library. A national revolutionizing influence on both librarianship and museums, Dana’s intense interest in contemporary American art, at a time when other museums were concentrating on European masters, resulted in an important core collection of 19th and early 20th century works. That interest is reflected today in the Museum’s Collection of American art, considered one of the finest in the country.
The initial art exhibition for the Centennial, Unbounded: New Art for a New Century, opened in February and will run through August 16. The exhibition highlights the Newark Museum’s expansive and global approach to contemporary art by creating unexpected connections or groupings that transcend traditional divisions based on geography, genre or media. All the works are from the Museum’s permanent collection.
The first of a series of site-specific, single-artist Centennial commissions, InsectaFantasia has been installed in the historic Ballantine House and has received critical praise. The installation will remain on view through June 14.
For a complete calendar of marathon activities and centennial celebration exhibitions, visit newarkmuseum.org or call 973-596-6550.
Mai Du Huan Zhu is a famous story in China. A man of the State of Chu went to the State of Zheng to sell his pearl. He had made a case for the pearl with fine grained magnolia wood, fumigated it with incense, mounted it with white jade, adorned it with rose-colored stone and sewed green jadeite onto its fringes. The craftsmanship was so exquisite that a Zheng buyer took the case but returned the pearl to the seller.The saying “buy the case, return the pearl” is used to instruct not to be misguided by how objects are represented. But who could blame the buyer if the case itself is a work of art?
Two years ago, when I was in the Butler Museum of American Art at Youngstown, OH, I was surprised by a special exhibition, not dedicated to any painting but to the frames. In the exhibition “The Secret Lives of Frames”, I read the saying of Thomas Cole: The frame is the soul of the painting. Geo and I laughed at the idea because if so MoMA would be a high-end storage place of paintings without a soul.
But soon I began to realize the importance of the frame through the experience of framing my own works. An inappropriate frame can kill a painting. Gilding can be warm or cold, smooth or rusty, all have an effect on the light and color of the painting perceived by the viewers. Brice Brown, in an article on New York Sun, commented that “the Hudson River School artists intentionally mounted their work in gilt frames with a type of fluting capable of capturing light in a way complementary to the glowing pink light emanating from their own canvases.”
Last year, at the exhibition “Road to Impressionism” at the Newark Museum, though Hermann Dudley Murphy‘s own works were not shown, frames from his workshop decorated a few tonalism paintings by his fellow painters such as Dwight William Tryon and Bruce Crane. It was an enlightening experience. Tonalism, which began to take the stage slightly before impressionism in America, is more retrospective than inventive, thus I had been used to associate such paintings with a more traditional Barbizon looking frames which tend to be gilded in dark or antique gold color with highly decorative ornament motif at the corners and the center.
Arts and Crafts movement found its voice and cast its influence in tonalism paintings because both were truly American. The tonalism’s vague, indistinct and suggestive mood was the response of American artists to the superiority, nativity and innocence of Antebellum artworks exemplified in Hudson River School. For painters like Bruce Crane or Dwight William Tryon, American nature was not innocent nor divine. But the finer quality of the nature can only be understood through the sympathetic eyes. Thus the beauty is not given, but can be obtained through an intimate experience. The emphasis on personal feelings, genteel yet nuanced, makes the marriage between old-fashioned French Barbizon frames and American tonalism painting spiritually incongruent. The frames made by Hermann Dudley Murphy, more rustic and burnished, demonstrated the right balance between the societal sophistication necessary for the high art in elite circles and the yearning toward a simpler and modern form in the Gilded Age. They also carry both a distinguished American straight-forwardness and a unique personal style; thus adding another humane touch to the appreciation of those paintings.
The “case” was seen again last week in the current exhibition “The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989″ at the Guggenheim Museum of New York, although this time the pearl is also extraordinary. “Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the Six Marks” by James Abbott McNeill Whistler is shown as one of the exemplary works of Whistler’s Asian pastiche period. The ceramics and the robe worn by the women are typical late Qing dynasty objects. Lange Leizen, a Dutch phrase that Whistler translates as “Long Elizas,” refers to such porcelain ware decorated with elongated figures. But what amazed me the most is the frame, into which he
n anarchronisic mistake:
Among all the paintings representing American Barbizon and Tonalism paintings in the ongoing “Path to Impressionism” exhibition at Newark Art Museum, Bruce Crane‘s “A November Scene” is the one which speaks to me the most.
Everything in the picture is subdued: color, form and subject. The scene is not beautiful itself, but evocative, with a smell of decaying leaves over the chilled water. It is a scene of the last days of New England autumn, which although I have never experienced, I feel associated with the spare air in the Western Pennsylvania where I had been living for the past 6 years.
It was not barbaric as some depicted by Enneking, since there are human traces such as wood piles, deserted and almost ineligible, in the middle ground or a stone wall, which visually and possibly physically blend into the brownish yellowish surrounding. Nature, once gain, took over where once habituated by early New England settlers.
The hushed scenery is less idyllic than what it looks like on the surface. The painting was painted in 1895, at the height of the Gilded Age. Between 1865 to 1905, while the population in rural area increased little, the population in metro areas increased 20 times. In particular, New England was proved to be too rugged to be farmed and thus became uninhabited in its rural area. In fact, New England, for a while, became the factory for clothing and shoes manufacturing. Gone with the rural habitation was the simple and self-reliant Protestant life style and moral virtues.
Ironically, if Bruce Crane intended to use the solitude of the nature itself to prove it was the industrialization that deprived human to get embraced by the natural beauty, the robber Barons, who praised and advocated his works, didn’t think so. Among them, George Hearn made a fortune from dry good retails. William Evans was the president for the Mills & Gibb firm. while Henry Chapman was the prominent banker and stockbroker from Brooklyn. For them, the economic brushwork by Crane recalls repose and tranquility that they would associated before industrialization. The suggestive mood and ethereal atmosphere were perfect for recollection and recount of the past.
A close examination shows that Crane used impasto and glazing to great extent. Crane first placed a thin layer of paint for the background (the remote trees are almost formless). Then he built up the painting by brushed or dotted thick layers of paints within limited range and hues. The surface of the canvas at the foreground is as rugged as the landscape itself. The brown glazing, seemingly randomly disposed, gives a harmonious yet subtle veil to the scenery. It is true that not painting from the plein-air but from the memory gave Crane freedom to manipulate the painting based on his will, but it is his determination and imaginative power that gave a could-be-depressive scene romantic and poetic rendering.
I stood there long and felt I was dissolved in the field. The soil is infertile, the field rocky, the weather freezing. Yet the sentimental pastoral beauty arouse strong heartbeats for those who had lived it and lost it. Almost, I think, everyone has it in his heart: somber yet bitter-sweet, a spiritual New England forgone.
The current exhibition: The Small but Sublime: Intimate Views by Durand, Bierdstadt and Inness features a two-room of small or medium sized American landscape paintings. Grouping paintings by their sizes is not a common curatorial perspective for exhibitions.
American landscape paintings were not born with intimate scale. Like the new nation’s ambition and its abundant wildness, six or eight feet canvases are a trademark of Hudson River School paintings. From the past auction observation, Bierdstadt or Cropsey quite often used small canvases for sketches. (One example can be seen from Shuptrine Fine Art.)
In the Brooklyn Museum, A Storm in the Rocky Mountain by Bierdstadt is the center piece in the landscape room. It does have the jaw-dropping “wow” effect, but as Barbara Novak has written in her book “Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-1875”, it creates the simultaneous intimacy and distancing at the same time. My experience tends to be more on the distancing side. The grand panorama with balance, beauty and vibrancy are taken from a God point of view. The painters behind the canvases, thus become the messengers of the God or to some extent God himself, that remove the possible immediacy of communication with humble visitors.
But when Hudson River School painters came to sketches, they were looser and more painterly-minded. In Bierdstadt’s medium sized forest painting in the exhibition, the brush strokes and the application of paints are visible. (One would seldom notice execution-wise techniques when in front of a six-foot painting because there are so much excitement to explore!) Bierdstadt’s forest scene is humanized with a couple (barely entering the scene) and an almost unrecognizable deer. The trees are painted with such extraordinary efficiency that they are shown both suggestively in the sense of volume and minute green-scale and in needed detail to differentiate the front layer from the back.
After the Civil War, canvases scaled down, partly because paintings had become integrated with home decoration and partly because the taste began to favor a more intimate and romantic style. George Inness’ sunset painting reminds me of Fuji Velva film, a special color pallet with muted orange, green and red, which is more a nostalgia recalling of rare gold moments of nature in one’s mind than a candid capture of strong colors subdued by northeast mist.
My surprise came from two paintings in the exhibition. One is from DeWitt Clinton Boutelle. His meticulous rendering of a water fall is filled with mystery and wonder, probably nothing is more appropriately descriptive than J. R. R. Tolkein’s poems about Lothlórien, a dream elfland from Lord of the Rings. Though it is only a little bit bigger than a regular 8×11 paper, it is so inviting that my eyes were drawn into the water that owns both wetness and coolness in such a retreat.
The other surprise came from the only female painter presented in this exhibition – Mary Moran. The small painting on board does not capture natural New Jersey; instead it focuses on the urbanization. The city skyline, with the bright white building under the sun and black soot and smoke from the chimneys is placed in the center of the plein air painting. The foreground is still marshy and untainted by human nature except probably serving Mary as her stand point. But the light effect was very much like her husband Thomas Moran, a dramatic sky mixed with cloud phenomenon, sharp edges of definite light gradually transitions into soft fading that unifies different colors. The remote city, though brightly lit, loses its detail in the misty white.
Was that what Mary saw or what she romanticized? Different viewers may have different opinions about what it meant for a landscape painting that speaks about the city. But I found it intriguing. Along the NJ transit railroad, the marsh wetland of New Jersey is still like what was depicted in the painting, except now the iconic mid and lower Manhattan skylines cast a strong contrast in between sky and lowland. The charms of city living approach the greatest when the mystery around it has not fully resolved; but the completeness of such a living depends on the experienced contrast that would not be fulfilled without living on modestly quiet countryside.
If you follow my id “newcolonist” on twitter.com, you’ll know I headed out to the Newark Museum today. I can honestly say I haven’t come upon such an unexpected delight since visiting the Toledo Museum in 2007.
It’s also the second mansion built by beer I’ve been to, the first being the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee.
Walking through the Ballantine House, it wasn’t Pabst that was most recalled, rather the Pittsburgh Mansion, “Clayton,” redesigned for the Frick family in the 1890s. I think it was the layout, the general vivid distinction between male and female rooms and the general lingering presence of the figures who once roamed the halls.
The spring of 1891, nearly six years after the Ballantines moved in, is the time to which the period rooms are restored. This is the same year Frick rebuilt Clayton. By 1891, the family and the Fricks’ social stature both had outgrown the home as it was, and architect Frederick J. Osterling was hired to transform Clayton into the 23-room chateau-style mansion seen today.
Like the Frick house, and unlike the Pabst house, many of the objects therein were owned by the family.
I had recently read the book Conquering Gotham in which it was mentioned that Pennsylvania Railroad President Alexander Cassatt had a townhouse on Rittenhouse Square which contained much antique furniture and modern paintings. I took special note that the Ballantine house was filled with what would then have been contemporary American Barbizon paintings.
The current situation of the Ballantine house is somewhat unique among American Museums. Instead of a collection of period rooms, an entire house is connected to a museum. It’s a wonderful experience, and one that as far as I know is only repeated by a townhouse connected to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, which is used as a decorative arts showcase, not to house period rooms.
The collection at the Newark Museum extends far beyond the Ballantine house. So many people come to New York and visit the Met and MOMA, yet there’s so much to see at Newark and at the Brooklyn Museum, I’d venture that at least for persons with interests similar to my own, Moma, the Guggenheim and the Cloisters aren’t worth a gander until you’ve been to Brooklyn and Newark.