Today is Alice Neel’s Birthday!

In our collections you can find:

Neel, Alice (1900-84)
Mother and Child (Nancy and Olivia), 1985
Lithograph, 79 x 71 cm
Gallery purchase, The Clarence A. Davis ’48 Endowed Fund for the Visual Arts

Alice Neel was one of the great American painters of the twentieth century. She was also a pioneer among women artists. A painter of people, landscape and still life, Neel was never fashionable or in step with avant-garde movements. Sympathetic to the expressionist spirit of northern Europe and Scandinavia and to the darker arts of Spanish painting, she painted in a style and with an approach distinctively her own.

Neel was born near Philadelphia in 1900 and trained at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. She became a painter with a strong social conscience and equally strong left-wing beliefs. In the 1930s she lived in Greenwich Village, New York and enrolled as a member of the Works Progress Administration for which she painted urban scenes. Her portraits of the 1930s embraced left wing writers, artists and trade unionists.

Neel left Greenwich Village for Spanish Harlem in 1938 to get away from the rarefied atmosphere of an art colony. There she painted the Puerto Rican community, casual acquaintances, neighbors and people she encountered on the street. In the 1960s she moved to the Upper West Side and made a determined effort to reintegrate with the art world. This led to a series of dynamic portraits of artists, curators and gallery owners, among them Frank O’Hara, Andy Warhol and the young Robert Smithson. She also maintained her practice of painting political personalities, including black activists and supporters of the women’s movement.

Neel’s daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Nancy is a beautiful young woman in a green mini-dress; Olivia is a delightfully chubby baby. But Nancy, eyes wide, twists sideways on a chair that seems too small for her, anxiously clutching three-month-old Olivia—who has the potato head, crossed eyes, drool mouth, and spastic limbs of a very young baby. “Nancy looks afraid,” Neel said, “because this was her first child.”

Collections Storage as Study Gallery

A storage area for the art collection out on the visual arts campus would serve two purposes. It could house many of the artworks for which there is no room on campus or in the gallery; and it could serve as an open storage area designed so students could examine many examples of artworks in the collection.

Art objects would be arranged by subject area or artist for display and rotated yearly. The rotation of objects on view would be coordinated with the schedule of courses offered each year. This arrangement would complement the Davis Gallery and provide a learning laboratory with fieldwork experiences, internship involvement and opportunities in curatorial and exhibition studies as well as access for research and study.

Locating the art storage area on the visual arts campus would relieve stresses on the collections caused by moving pieces to and from the Warren Hunting Smith Library to arts classes and the gallery. It would also encourage spontaneous use of the collections in classes by increasing faculty and student familiarity with the extent of the collections. And, finally, the storage/study area would become a named space the Colleges could be proud to display to donors and sponsors.

Today is Edouard Manet’s Birthday

In our collections you can find a print by Manet:
Édouard Manet (1832-83)
Baudelaire en Face, 1865
Etching, 30 x 8 cm

Edouard Manet was born in Paris on January 23, 1832, to an affluent and well connected family. His mother, Eugenie-Desiree Fournier, was the goddaughter of the Swedish crown prince, Charles Bernadotte, from whom the current Swedish monarchs are descended. His father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge who expected Edouard to pursue a career in law. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting and often took young Manet to the Louvre. In 1845, following the advice of his uncle, Manet enrolled in a special course of drawing where he met Antonin Proust, future Minister of Fine Arts, and a subsequent life-long friend. At his father’s suggestion, in 1848 he sailed on a training vessel to Rio de Janeiro. After twice failing the examination to join the navy, the elder Manet relented to his son’s wishes to pursue an art education. From 1850 to 1856, Manet studied under the academic painter Thomas Couture, a painter of large historical paintings. In his spare time he copied the old masters in the Louvre. From 1853 to 1856 he visited Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands, during which time he absorbed the influences of the Dutch painter Frans Hals, and the Spanish artists Diego Velazquez and Francisco Jose de Goya. In 1856, he opened his own studio. His style in this period was characterized by loose brush strokes, simplification of details, and the suppression of transitional tones. Adopting the current style of realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, he painted The Absinthe Drinker (1858-59) and other contemporary subjects such as beggars, singers, Gypsies, people in cafes, and bullfights.

Charles Baudelaire, de Face owes its beginnings to a rather tentative portrait etching it is believed Edouard Manet created in 1865. In 1869, two years after Baudelaire’s death, Charles Asselineau’s completed book, Charles Baudelaire, sa vie et son oeuvre, was published. Before publication Manet wrote the author, “My dear Asselineau,
You are busy just now, aren’t you, on an edition of the works of Baudelaire? If you are inserting a portrait of him as a frontispiece … I have a portrait of Baudelaire in outdoor clothes, wearing a hat, which perhaps wouldn’t look bad at the beginning of this book. I have yet another and more important one of him, bareheaded, which would look well in a book of poetry. I’m very keen to be given this job.” * The first named portrait is now known as Profile Portrait of Charles Baudelaire. The “more important” and “bareheaded” portrait is, of course, Charles Baudelaire, de Face (Harris #61). Both portraits were published in Asselineau’s book. Charles Baudelaire, de Face underwent four distinct states (including the removal of a scroll by cutting the lower margin of the plate) before Edouard Manet was satisfied with the work. Fifty proofs of the etching were issued at the time of publication. Later impressions were published by Lemerre, who acquired the plates of both portraits. In Edouard Manet: Graphic Works, Jean C. Harris writes that the first fifty proofs were published on “thin paper”. Yet impressions of Charles Baudelaire, de Face exist on both ‘thin’ China paper and ‘thin’ laid paper. Charles Baudelaire, de Face is a most important etching from the hand of one of France’s greatest nineteenth century masters.

Kate Gridley Passing Through: Portraits of Emerging Adults

Kate Gridley sees a world in which emerging adults are recognized, honored and supported. Through painted canvasses and sound portraits, Passing Through marks moments in which 17 emerging adults transition to realize their selves and claim their voices. Different religious and cultural beliefs, a range of sexual identities and orientations, socioeconomic status, work and travel experiences, failures and successes, family structures and health issues are represented across the 17 subjects.

The exhibition has several goals. It aims to heighten awareness and understanding of the value of this age group to their communities and to society. It is hoped it will inspire teens and emerging adults to connect through the paintings and words. While accomplishing these goals, these paintings also contribute to oil portraiture’s relevance to mainstream culture and display its ability to illuminate individual and universal values, beauty and character.

Kate Gridley is known for her insights into human character, the quality
of light in her work, and her painting technique. She maintains a studio in Middlebury, Vermont, where she has lived and painted full time since 1991. Awarded a Hutchinson Memorial Fellowship from Williams College in 1978, she pursued her studies in New York City before moving to Florence, Italy for a year and a half of study of Renaissance painting techniques in the Atelier of Ben Long, former student of Pietro Annigoni. After a short stint
in Boston, Massachusetts on her return, she began exhibiting regularly in New York City and throughout New England. Her portraits hang in public and private collections; her landscape and still life paintings hang in private collections here and abroad. She recently completed the official state portrait of Governor Jim Douglas of Vermont, which hangs in the Vermont Statehouse, and the official portrait of the Honorable William K. Sessions III, which hangs in the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building, Washington D.C.

Two new gifts

We are fortunate to be adding two new prints to our collection as a result of a gift from the artist Katja Oxman negotiated by Professor Ted Aub.

A Meditative Spot, 2009 and Upon the Windowpane, 2006

Katja Oxman was born in Munich in 1942 and has childhood memories of the horrors of World War II. Her father Mischa Protassowsky, a White Russian, fled his homeland after fighting against the Bolsheviks in the revolution. Katja’s mother Gretl was German, and her marriage to a Russian resulted in the loss of her citizenship, which placed the family in a dangerous position in Nazi Germany. The Protassowskys immigrated to the United States in 1952 and settled in Rose Valley, an old suburb of Philadelphia.

Oxman began her education in art at the venerable Pennsylvania Academy of Fine  Arts, which assured her a solid formal foundation. She was attracted to printmaking very early and began making large woodcuts while at the Academy. After completing her studies she returned to Munich and studied for a year at Die Akademie der bildenden Kunst. From there she applied to the Royal College in London and was one of fifteen students accepted in the School of Graphics graduate program.  It was at the Royal College that she took up etching, a medium that has proven to be extremely compatible with both her formal inclinations and esthetic sensibility.

Katja Oxman’s still lifes allude to a tranquil, interior world. Their unidentifiable space serves as miniature rooms where seemingly nothing occurs beyond their perimeters. The prints are structured like tableaus and appear to be settings for parables with unknown or half-remembered connotations and pay homage to the artist’s private history and cultural past.  Each composition is filled with an elegant and a deeply personal array of objects. To quote Noël Arnaud, “I am the space where I am.”

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston, Beacon Press, 1969) p. 6.

New Acquisition

Patrick Ryoichi Nagatani (1945-)

Akshobhya, 2010

Light jet chromogenic print, masking tape, mixed media, archival enhancing medium, 124 x 79 cm.

Gallery purchase, The Clarence A. Davis ’48 Endowed Fund for the Visual Arts

Akshobhya was a monk who vowed never to feel anger or disgust at another being. He was immovable in keeping this vow, and after long striving he became a Buddha.

Akshobhya is a heavenly Buddha who reigns over the eastern paradise, Abhirati. (Note that the eastern paradise is understood to be a state of mind, not a physical place.) Those who fulfill Akshobhya’s vow are reborn in Abhirati and cannot fall back into lower states of consciousness. In Buddhist iconography, Akshobhya usually is blue, sometimes gold. He is most often pictured touching the earth with his right hand. This is the earth-touching mudra, which is the gesture used by the historical Buddha when he asked the earth to bear witness to his enlightenment.

In the three-decade period beginning in 1978, Nagatani, like his works, has defied convention and labels. As an artist, he uses staged photography with carefully crafted props to become “a storyteller with images.” He has utilized masking tape as a form of tactile painting for a series Nagatani calls “Tape-estries.” “My approach today dwells in an ironic state of middle ground,” Nagatani explains. “Possibly one negative in our culture today is the attitude that things must be fact or fiction, good or bad, truth or lies, black or white, right or wrong, all or nothing, big or small, expensive or cheap, violent or docile, and so on. This kind of thinking leaves no room for magic and possibilities in creative endeavor that might be in the gray area or middle earth.” Influenced by his teacher and mentor from UCLA, Robert Heinecken, Nagatani in the mid-1970s chose to disregard “photographic truth” and to seek what he calls “the façade of representation.” Once a model maker for a company that made sets for movies and television, Nagatani applied those skills to his staged photography in the manner of a film director. Every object within the image was chosen to help tell a story and induce questions from the viewers about the veracity of the scene.Patrick Nagatani’s work has been exhibited internationally since 1976, including at the Art Institute of Boston , Museum of Photographic Arts , San Diego; and the Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England. Numerous books have featured his work including Seizing the Light: A History of Photography by Robert Hirsch (2000), and Photography by Barbara London and John Upton (1998). His work is in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art ; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Denver Art Museum International Center for Photography, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art ; and Metropolitan Museum of Art , New York. He has been the recipient of many awards including the Polaroid Fellowship and the NEA Visual Arts Fellowship. Currently a Professor of Art at the University of New Mexico, Nagatani lives in Albuquerque.


Tape-estries (1982 to 2013) Confessions of a Tapist

The process is like driving from Albuquerque to Los Angeles non-stop. It’s like being in shape and running ten miles. It’s like chanting. It’s like doing all the movements of Tai Chi the meditative way. It’s about finding a zone of no thought. Time passes and only my aching fingers and shoulders indicate how long I have been continuously painting with the tape. I relish the focus on details and to be lost in the quiet and minute parts of the whole. Decisions are mostly made as a reaction to the materials, the image and the emotive feel. Time is a factor. It must take long sessions to get to the zone. After each session there is another zonal journey. Clarity often comes after a long session. More things are revealed to me after each session. Magic is a goal. My entire day is shaped by solitude and what I believe is constructed beauty. I want magic in my life and work. Beauty is important. I relish the fact that the tape is an inexpensive and somewhat castaway art material. The Zen of the material and process moves me to a spiritual happiness.

I have often desired the overlay of sensory experience in my work. These pieces require looking from afar and getting in very close, both vantage points offer differing visual experience. The pieces are wonderful to touch. I’ve been in the zone off and on for over thirty years with this work. Time has no fixed position, it has been positive energy for me. It has left me no room or desire for negative creative existence. Most things seem to now have a place in the cosmic meaning of things. Especially in coping with getting older and dealing with cancer.

The taping process is obsessive. It is done with precision and ardor. Masking tape is a simple material. I use every variety of masking tape that is commonly available. The subtle color of the tape creates my range of hues for my “painting” palette. There are varying degrees of translucency and the amount of layers dictate a value shift. The tearing and cutting parodies a variety of “brush strokes.” The original surface images are large Chromogenic Lightjet photographs from a variety of sources that are often collaged and manipulated in Photoshop. These are cold mounted with Coda (two sided archival adhesive) to museum ragboard. The archival museum board is contact cemented to oak wood laminate and stretcher bars are wood glued for stability. Finally, the entire finish taped surface is multi-coated with Golden Acrylic Matte Medium of different strengths. Two final brush coatings of Golden Polymer Varnish with UVLS (Ultraviolet filters and stabilizers) are finally applied. Although masking tape is not considered an “archival” medium, the matte medium both seals the piece from oxidation and soaks through the masking tape for added adhesion. My “tapist” career started in 1982 and the pieces made at that time have lasted throughout the years. I believe that the pieces have a life of their own and will change very slowly in time, much like mummies from ancient Egypt have lasted through the centuries but nevertheless have changed. The work might be seen as an evolving entity with the spirit of permanence and impermanence interwoven into the materials used in the artistic process.

A perfect quote from Patricia J. Graham’s book, Faith and Power in Japanese Buddhist Art 1600-2005, regarding artists influenced by using Buddhist imagery in Japan hits home to my thinking today. “All these artists turned to Buddhist imagery for intensely personal reasons, without regard for the whims of the art establishment, and developed distinctive styles for Buddhist subjects. They borrowed freely from Western art, philosophy and art materials in order to instill new life into traditional religious themes, and they completely absorb themselves into their work, which itself becomes a path of self-cultivation.”

Introducing the Art Collection 2

Josef Albers (1888-1976). Formulation : Articulation I:5, Right, 1972. Screenprint, 38 x 102 cm. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84. ©2012 The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation I Artists Rights Society, New York (ARSNY). hws-a-17

Josef Albers was a painter, poet, sculptor, art theorist, and an educator. Through his teachings he introduced a generation of American artists to the European modernist concepts of the Bauhaus. His experimentation with color interaction and geometric shapes transformed the modern art scene, offering an alternative to Abstract Expressionism and inspiring movements such as Geometric Abstraction, Color field painting, and Op Art. Albers’ early glass paintings, woodcuts, linocuts, treble clefs, bicongugates, kinetics, transformations, constellations, variants and homages to the square are reproduced by Ives-Stillman under the artists’s supervision.

Josef Albers Formulation: Articulation includes 127 silk-screened prints based on geometric designs and complex relationships of color. In these prints, Albers (1888-1976) explores different effects of perception, such as the illusion of movement and the interaction of adjacent colors. His color research extended into such series as Treble Clef, Variants on a Theme, and Homage to the Square all represented in this portfolio. An overview of Albers’ life work, this series of prints was published in 1972 by Harry N. Abrams, New York. The images were selected and arranged in specific order by Albers himself.