Introduction the Collections 5

The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges hold several traditional works by well-known American artists.

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
A Drink of Water, 1937
Lithograph on paper, 27 x 37 cm
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

Born in 1889 in Neosho, Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton chose to follow a career in art, rather than politics, where his father and great-uncle, for whom he was named, had achieved prominence. Benton went to Chicago at age 19, studying at the Art Institute of Chicago for two years before going to Paris. There he encountered the work of artists such as Cézanne and Matisse, and the work of the cubists and synchronists, a group of painters who emphasized color as the means of creating form and energetic movement in their canvases. Moving to New York in 1913, Benton was producing paintings that displayed the principles of modernism he absorbed in Paris. Benton continued to paint in a modernist mode until 1918, when he served as a draftsman in the U.S. Navy during World War I. Spending two years drawing realistic sketches and illustrations affected his style so profoundly that Benton abandoned modernism in favor of a more naturalistic depiction of his subjects, primarily American scenes. Between 1920 and 1924, he journeyed through the South and Midwest, drawing and painting the scenes he observed. By the end of the decade, his art was focused entirely on America and its people, and Benton became a leading American Regionalist artist, rejecting modernism as “foreign.” Using dramatic contrasts of dark and light and strong, mobile forms, his canvases burst with energy. These vigorous works mainly celebrate regional, small-town life, but his subjects also include Biblical and mythological scenes, often populated by what were regarded as typical American figures. In 1935, Benton moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where he spent the rest of his life, painting and teaching for many years at the Kansas City Art Institute. Benton’s art was well known for both its power and populist viewpoint, and he received numerous commissions for murals for public buildings, ranging from museums, to the Missouri State Capitol, to the Truman Library in Independence, Missouri. He had just completed a mural for the Country Music Foundation in Nashville, Tennessee, at the time of his death in 1975.

This print is an “Ozark mill scene, made from a drawing. The house is abandoned but the well is still usable. Many such Ozark farms have been abandoned and the land turned into pasture. In some areas the forest is returning.” A painting A Drink of Water was completed after the lithograph in 1937.

News from the Collections

A recent article in Art in America, focuses on the work of Nicholas Krushenick:

The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges hold a four series artwork by Krusenick (Mount Cadillac, Big Moose Lake, Blue Hill, Kennebunkport):

Nicholas Krushenick (1929-)
Suite, 1980
Silkscreen, 81 x 104 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Born in New York City in 1929, Krushenick served in World War II, then studied art upon his return to home life. He attended the Art Students League of New York (1948–1950) and the Hans Hofmann School Of Art (1950-1951). He and brother John Krushenick opened an artists’ cooperative called the Brata Gallery in the late fifties. Krushenick began showing his work publicly in New York in 1957, at the age of 28. By 1962, his work was shown at upscale galleries and, by the year 2000, was part of major permanent collections throughout New York and the United States. A formality and brilliance of color reminiscent of medieval Europe’s banners is apparent in Krushenick’s art Yet there is, at the same time and in spite of the bright energy, a depiction of a painful tension. Krushenick began in a figurative style after his studies at the Art Student’s League and the Hans Hofmann School of Art, then moved from one to another of several varieties of Abstract Expressionism. It was in the 1960’s that the soft brushwork he had favored was abandoned for hard-edge black stripes that cut through jewel-like colors; beneath the shimmer of the coloring is a solidity of effect that relates his color areas to the intervening bars. In 1969, Krushenick gave up his soft brush abstract expressionist technique for bolder colors and lines similar to illustration, yet maintaining use of abstract figurative forms. This style marked him as one of the original practitioners of pop art.
In his later years, Krushenick taught at the University of Maryland, College Park from 1977 to 1991. He died in New York on February 5, 1999, at age 69.

Introducing the Collections 4

The Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges include environmental art such as

Alan Sonfist (1946-)
View of Manhattan; Time Landscapes, 1980
Lithograph, photo-collage and hand coloring, 72 x 72 cm.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William E. Welsh, Jr. P’84

Alan Sonfist is a New York City based United States artist most often associated with the Land or Earth Art movement. He is best known for his “Time Landscape” found on the corner of West Houston Street and LaGuardia Place in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Proposed in 1965, “Time Landscape” was not realized until 1978 under Mayor Ed Koch. It was eventually landmarked by the city. It has often been cited as the first urban earthwork of its kind. More recently, Sonfist has continued to create artworks within the natural landscape, inaugurating a one acre (4,000 m²) landscape project titled “The Lost Falcon of Westphalia” on Prince Richard’s estate outside Cologne, Germany in 2005.

Considered a pioneer of public, green art that celebrates our links to the land, to permaculture, Alan Sonfist is an artist who has sought to bridge the great gap between humanity and nature by making us aware of the ancient, historic and contemporary nature, geology, landforms and living species that are part of “living history”. With a reawakening of public awareness of environmental issues and of a need to regenerate our living planet Sonfist brings a much needed awareness of nature’s parallel and often unrecorded history and present in contemporary life and art. As early as 1965 Sonfist advocated the building of monuments dedicated to the history of unpolluted air, and suggested the migration of animals should be reported as public events. Alan Sonfist, Alan Sonfist, “Time Landscape of New York City”, outdoor installation, 1965- present. In an essay published in 1968 titled Natural Phenomena as Public Monuments, Sonfist emancipated public art from focussing exclusively on human history stating: “As in war monuments that record the life and death of soldiers, the life and death of natural phenomena such as rivers, springs, and natural outcroppings need to be remembered. Public art can be a reminder that the city was once a forest or a marsh.” Alan Sonfist continues to advocate, in his urban and rural artworks, projects that heighten our awareness of the historical geology or terrain of a place, earth cores become a symbol of the deeper history or geology of the land. His art emphasizes the layered and complex intertwining of human and natural history. He has bequeathed his body as an artwork to the Museum of Modern Art. Its decay is seen as an ongoing part of the natural life cycle process.

Time Landscape (1965-1978-Present) is an artwork by the American artist Alan Sonfist (1946- ). It consists of plants that were native to this area in pre-colonial times. These planted were replanted here until 1978, on a rectangular plot of 25′ x 40′ situated in lower Manhattan at the northeast corner of La Guardia Place and West Houston Street.

Fifty Years After Selma: an Evening of American Negro Spirituals

We are pleased to announce a concert featuring Dr. François S. Clemons, tenor, and Kate Gridley, pianist in the Abraham Reception Room of the Davis Gallery at Houghton House, Hobart and William Smith Colleges on Thursday, February 19th, 2015 at 7:00 p.m.

As Founder/Director of the world-famous ‘Harlem Spiritual Ensemble, Maestro Clemmons performs regularly all over America, Europe, and Asia, carrying on his vision for preserving, sustaining and commissioning new and traditional arrangements of American Negro Spirituals for future generations. In addition, he has sung with numerous orchestras including the Cleveland Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Indianapolis Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Colorado State Orchestra, the Memphis Symphony, the Jackson Symphony, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Florida State Symphony, the Springfield Symphony, the Youngstown Symphony, the Salina Orchestra, and the Hanover Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra. In honor of his work with the American Negro Spiritual in lecture demonstrations, recitals, and master classes as well as his teaching at Middlebury College, Dr. Clemmons received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Carnegie-Mellon University in 2004.

Painter and musician Kate Gridley maintains a painting studio in Middlebury, Vermont, where she has lived and painted full time since 1991. Gridley trained at the Mannes School of Music in New York for nine years, studying classical piano, theory and composition, before studying privately in college, culminating in an independent study and recital. Simultaneously, Gridley sang in auditioned choirs large and small, from madrigal ensembles, to barbershop quartets, Bach choirs, even a three-hundred-voice choir with the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to founding The Allegro Chorus in Middlebury, VT, Gridley has accompanied on piano numerous singers, stage productions and local school events for the past fifteen years. She has performed in multiple stage productions at The Town Hall Theater. She is the accompanist at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society.

Musical selections will include Ah Woke Up This Morning With My Mind, Lil Boy How Ol’ Are You, and Everytime I Feel the Spirit among others.

Refreshments will be provided and the exhibition Kate Gridley: Passing Through, Portraits of Emerging Adults will be open to view.

Today is Fernand Lèger’s Birthday!

In the Collections of Hobart and William Smith Colleges you will find

Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
Le Cirque, 1950
Lithograph, 53 x 46 cm.
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

French painter Fernand Leger was aligned with the cubist movement and was, an innovator in abstract art. He studied briefly at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1903. By 1911 he had become friendly with Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso and had exhibited at the Salon des Independants. He was originally trained as an architect’s draughtsman and photographic retoucher. Having failed the entrance exam to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1903, he studied at the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs and the Academie Julian. In 1909 he ranked as one of the three major Cubists and became a member of the Puteaux group in 1911. He was the first of the Cubists to experiment with non-figurative abstraction, contrasting curvilinear forms against a rectilinear grid. He renounced abstraction during the First World War, when he claims to have discovered the beauty of common objects, which he described as ‘everyday poetic images’. In 1924 he made a ‘film without scenario’, Ballet Mecanique, in which he contrasted machines and inanimate objects with humans and their body parts. During the Second World War, Leger lived in the USA where he taught at Yale, returning to Paris in 1945, when he opened an academy. His large paintings celebrating the people, featuring acrobats, cyclists and builders, thickly contoured and painted in clear, flat colors, reflected his political interest in the working class, and his attempt to create accessible art. From 1946 to 1949 he worked on a mosaic for the facade of the church at Assy, produced windows and tapestries for the church at Ardincourt in 1951, as well as windows for the University of Caracas in 1954. In 1950 he founded a ceramics studio at Biot, which, in 1957, became the Leger Museum. In 1967 it became a national museum. The relations of geometric forms and mechanical elements-cranks, pistons, cogs, and robots-were an important part of his artistic vision. Leger came to the United States in 1940 to escape the German forces in Paris. He traveled extensively, and his work during this period was inspired by the American industrial landscape. It was at this point that he began to minimize the connection between color and outline. Leger experimented with lithography (a highly successful medium for him) at the Paris Atelier 17. Today his paintings and prints can be seen in prominent museums throughout the world.

Introducing the Collections 3

Zeng Shanqing (1932-)
Four Horsemen, 1978
Ink and color on paper, 102 x 188 cm.

Born in 1932 in Beijing, Zeng Shanqing was part of the ill-fated generation of intellectuals that was to suffer under the depredations of Maoist excesses during the Cultural Revolution. However, as a very young artist his promise was swiftly recognized and he graduated from the elite Central Academy in Beijing in 1950. Zeng has consistently explored two main themes in his work, horses and figures, and largely draws his inspiration from the simple, nomadic life of the Tibetan high plateau. It was in Tibet that Zeng began to develop the pictorial breadth and vitality of color that provide the vehicle for his humanistic sympathies. Zeng Shanqing’s work has been collected in many important and museums and institutions around the world, including The British Museum, The Ashmolean Museum of Oxford University and Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. Currently lives and works in New York, USA.

Zeng is a master of capturing, with bold and swift brushstrokes, the grace of Tibet’s stallions, ponies, and other majestic creatures. This work metaphorically highlights the deep yearning for freedom, not only in Tibet but in China herself.

The painting displayed here, Four Horsemen by Zeng Shanqing, is a contemporary work in ink and wash technique. The volume and the spacial relationships are represented through negative space (in Chinese “liubai”, which literally means leave white), the adjustment of the ratio of ink to water, the pressure of pressing the brush on paper, and the way (angle and speed of wiping) of placing the brush on the paper. The composition of this painting is not typical or traditionally designed. The four horsemen are tightly framed in the painting, leaving little space on the upper right corner; however, it shows a very special perspective of looking at this painting from above and the movement of people and horses to show the Chinese nomadic culture and life. Tianchu Wu WS’14