Posts by kvaughn65

Visual Arts Curator at The Department of Art and Architecture, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Today is the birth anniversary of James Brooks

James Brooks was born on October 18, 1906, in Saint Louis, Missouri, and moved with his family to Dallas in 1916. He studied art at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, and, after moving to New York in 1926, took night classes at the Art Students League. Like many other Abstract Expressionists, Brooks painted murals for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project in the late 1930s and early 1940s. His best-known project was a mural titled Flight (1940–42) at the International Marine Terminal building at LaGuardia Airport. This vibrant, monumental work—the largest of the WPA murals—measures 12 feet high and 237 feet long and depicts the history of flying, from early mythology to the latest innovations, in a clean, Social Realist style.

From 1942 to 1945, Brooks served as a combat artist with the U.S. Army in the Middle East and returned to New York in 1946, at the height of what would later be termed the Abstract Expressionist movement. An inveterate risk taker, he soon abandoned figuration for abstraction. He reconnected with Jackson Pollock, a friend from the WPA days. Brooks not only took over their Eighth Street studio when Pollock and his wife, artist Lee Krasner, moved to Long Island, but also credited Pollock with encouraging him to try a more gestural style.

During the late 1940s, Brooks’s aesthetic evolved from a loose derivation of Cubism to a moodier, more atmospheric style. In the summer of 1947, Brooks had a breakthrough. He was painting on paper, and glued the paper onto heavy cloth for archival purposes. He noticed that the paste he used to attach the paper to the cloth bled through to the side he was painting on. From then on he would start by working on the cloth and then switch to the front of the painting, combining accidents with deliberate choices in an approach that he used for several years. In the 1960s, Brooks shifted styles again, building compositions out of larger, bolder, and simpler forms.

Formally considered an Abstract Expressionist, James Brooks produced bright, dense works marked by their vibrating tension between spontaneous form and controlled gesture. “My painting starts with a complication on the canvas surface, done with as much spontaneity and as little memory as possible. This then exists as the subject…At some undetermined point the subject becomes the object, existing independently as a painting.”

In the Collections, we have:
James Brooks (1906-92)
Eastern, 1982
Lithograph on Somerset paper, 77 x 57 cm.
Gift of Kenneth L. Halsband ‘88

Hunter, Sam. James Brooks. Praeger, 1963


Today is the birth annivesary of Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, on October 17, 1855. His father was a successful Boston businessman who was ruined financially in the great fire of 1872. Hassam left high school without graduating and ended up working for a Boston wood engraver. As an artist, his formal studies were begun at the Boston Art Club (1878) and later continued at the Academie Julian in Paris (1886-1889). He was greatly influenced by Louis Boulanger and Jules Joseph Lefebvre. He attended drawing classes at the Lowell Institute, a division of MIT, and was a member of the Boston Art Club. The early portion of his artistic career were devoted to illustrations and watercolors. At the age of 23 Hassam was exhibiting publicly and had his first solo exhibition, of watercolors, at the Williams and Everett Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts in 1892. From this time forward, Hassam was committed to the life of a professional painter. Recognition came early in both the U.S. and abroad. Hassam was extremely active in the social and technical areas of the artistic community. In 1890, he, and several others, founded the New York Water Color Club. He also joined the American Water Color Society and shortly thereafter joined the Players Club and the Society of American Artists. The fruition of this entrepreneurial fervor came about in 1897 when he helped establish the Ten American Painters, an exhibiting group that included many of the finest painters of the day: Frank W. Bensen, William Merritt Chase, Thomas Dewing, John Twachtman and J. Alden Weir.

Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
Church at Old Lyme, 1924
Etching, 35 x 31 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

Childe Hassam (1859-1935)
The Writing Desk, 1915
Etching, 32 x 24 cm.
Gift of Robert North in memory of Marion de Mauriac North ‘32

This is a portrait of Mrs. Hassam at Holley House, Cos Cob Connecticut. Hassam worked as a wood engraver early in his career, before his critical second trip to Europe in 1885. But it was well after establishing himself as America’s pre-eminent Impressionist painter that he turned to etching, in 1915 at the age of 56. This was the year he created The Writing Desk. This impression of The Writing Desk has a light airy quality. The movement provided by the flowery surroundings and fine strokes of etching provides a fascinating counterpoint to Mrs. Hassam’s thoughtful, contemplative mood.

Weinberg, H. Barbara (Helene Barbara), Childe Hassam, American impressionist / New York : Metropolitan Museum of Art ; New Haven : Yale University Press, c2004
“Childe Hassam, American Impressionist.” By: Weinberg, H. Barbara. American Art Review, Jul/Aug2004, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p118-176
“The Prints of Childe Hassam.” / Exhibit By: Denker, Eric; Cooper, Herbert L.. American Art Review, May/June 2003, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p92-95

Art of the Week

Kara Walker (b.1969)
Boo-Hoo, 2000
Linocut on Arches paper, 102 x 52 cm.
Gallery purchase, The Friends of Houghton House-Paula Kalenik ’71

Kara Walker is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes that examine the underbelly of America’s racial and gender tensions. Her works often address such highly charged themes as power, repression, history, race, and sexuality.

Born in Stockton, California, Walker moved to the South at age 13 when her father, artist Larry Walker, accepted a position at Georgia State University and her family relocated to Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta. Focusing on painting and printmaking in college, she received her BFA from the Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. Walker was included in the 1997 Biennial exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Later that year, at the age of 27, she became the youngest recipient of the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s “genius” grant, which launched a public controversy around her work. In 2002 she was chosen to represent the United States in the São Paulo Biennial in Brazil. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and is included in the collections of major museums worldwide. The 2007 Walker Art Center–organized exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Oppressor, My Enemy, My Love is the artist’s first full-scale U.S. museum survey. Walker currently lives in New York, where she is a professor of visual arts in the MFA program at Columbia University.

“Walker’s unwieldy imagination is fixated with race in the starkest and most American of terms, black and white, as they were forged in the ante-bellum South, a time not so long ago in a galaxy called here.”

Boo-Hoo is a print in which we see a woman with an Afro, hoop earrings, and a full skirt, whose lips and eyes resemble blackface, weeping copiously as she gingerly holds a whip and snake, both turned in towards herself. Why is the woman crying? Not so much because of the torture she undergoes, which takes on a humorous and cartoonish tone, not least because she inflicts it on herself. Following Butler, I suggest that we read this print as an attempt to picture a subject for whom melancholia has been structural.

In this reading, the whip and the snake that the woman holds can be read not just as objects which she uses to effect her own torture, or mementos of the time when slavery was taking place, but as metaphors for the stereotypical images of blackness that Walker uses in her work. For the black subject who sees the way that society sees her in these images, they are weapons that continue to sting long after whips have ceased to do so. The deep cultural ambivalence about these images, whose display is considered unequivocally problematic by some, and encouraged by others because it reveals America ‘s true racism, means that they come up again and again, remaining painful but never being publicly mourned. Though their historical origin dates back to the time of slavery, they cannot render that history knowable today, and hence bring a kind of pain that can only indicate the unrecoverability of its origin. As Reid-Pharr writes about Walker’s autofiction and her approach to memory. Instead of attempting to access the historical period from which racist images originate, Boo Hoo brings the blackface image to the surface yet again to address its unmournable quality, and to reveal how the use of such images in art that deals with Black identity fundamentally fails to recoup the history it addresses, creating a specific type of pain that is about the consequences that the citation of that history in the present has for the subject.

Walker, Kara Elizabeth. Kara Walker : narratives of a negress / New York : Rizzoli, 2007.
“Missus Kara E. Walker: Emancipated, and On Tour / Exhibition review and review article” By: Pinder, Kimberly N. Art Bulletin, December 2008, Vol. 90 Issue 4, p640-648
“Transgression, Excess, and the Violence of Looking in the Art of Kara Walker.” By: Wall, David. Oxford Art Journal, Oct2010, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p277-299

New Gift

Arthur Dove (1880-1946, U. S.)
Saint Peter’s, 1937
Watercolor, 29 x 24 cm.
Gift of Richard A. Scudamore ’55

Arthur Dove, whose abstractions from nature would influence many younger American artists, was born in Canandaigua, New York, in 1880. Dove moved with his family in 1882 to Geneva, New York, and even as a child, began experimenting with painting. Following his parents’ wishes, he began pre-law study in 1901 at Cornell University. However, he enrolled in art courses as well, and after graduating in 1903, worked as an illustrator in New York. During an eighteen-month trip to Europe (1907-09), Dove met Max Weber and Alfred Maurer, and soon after his return to New York he met Alfred Stieglitz, who was to be his dealer and advisor for the rest of his life. In 1909 he moved to Westport, Connecticut, where he painted and kept a farm. In his first one-person exhibition, held at Stieglitz’s Gallery 291 in 1912, Dove established himself as one of America’s most prolific and inventive artists working with abstraction. Dove continued to paint abstractions until his death in 1946.

This work was sent to Alfred Stieglitz at An American Place in New York by Dove. It has only had two owners before coming to the Colleges. It is a depiction of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Geneva, New York. Dove’s watercolors were stimulated by his admiration for those of Georgia O’Keeffe’s earlier works. Dove did not commit himself to watercolor until 1930. Its translucent liquidity suited his need for what he called ·”·a means of expression which did not depend upon representation. . . [but was] nearer to the music of the eye.·”· The crystalline light of water color well-handled evoked what he referred to as ·”·sensations of light from within and without.·”· He took readily to the medium, producing one or two a day. summarizes Dove’s characteristic tension between empathy with the natural world and a bent toward full abstraction. The fluidity of the paint and the speed of the brush dabbing wet-in-wet suggest a locale – a broken downward stroke for a tree, a single horizontal one for the water’s edge – without depicting it. Its subject is the fugitive mood of the place, a turbulent metaphor for the inner life of the artist observing it.

D.B. Balken, Arthur Dove: Watercolors, exhibition catalogue, New York, 2006, pp. 45, 84, pl. 27, illustrated.
“Arthur Dove: Watercolors at the Alexandre Gallery,” New York Times, June 17, 2006.
D.B. Balken, Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, exhibition catalogue, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 2009, n.p., pl. 39, illustrated.

Recent Gift

Emile Gruppe (1896-1978, U.S.
Autumn in the Mountains, 1930-39
Oil on canvas, 76 x 102 cm.
Gift of David K. Anderson

Gruppe was born in Rochester, New York. He lived his early years in the Netherlands where his father Charles Paulo Gruppe painted with The Hague school of art and acted as a dealer for Dutch painters in the U.S. The family returned to the states around 1913 ahead of World War I. His brother Paulo played the cello, his other brother Karl became a sculptor and his sister Virginia a watercolorist. Gruppe studies at the National Academy in New York and the Acadèmie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.

In the early 1930s, Gruppe moved to Gloucester, Massachusetts, particularly Rocky Neck and Cape Ann, one of the oldest artist communities in the U.S. He established The Gloucester School of Painting from 1940 to 1970 in an old schoolhouse with his mentor John Fabian Carlson. Gruppe was the teacher of artists including Otis Cook, Bill Wray and Nathalie Nordstand. Later, Jefferson, Vermont became a second campus for his students. And still later, Naples, Florida provided another palette for his landscapes.

These artists painted en plein aire (or outdoors) and captured scenes directly onto canvas. The Cape Ann School of American Impressionism remains a strong academic aspect of the history of American art.  

Although Gruppe is best known for his variety of impressionistic landscapes, he also painted figures and portraits. His modern style was largely inherited from the French Impressionist Claude Monet. He is best known for his harbor scenes of Gloucester, Massachusetts and vistas in and around Cape Ann like Gloucester Morning.

During his lifetime, Gruppe received awards from The National Academy and Allied Artists among others. He published three books on painting: Gruppe on Painting, 1976, Brushwork, 1977, and Gruppe on Color, 1979. Gruppe conveyed innovative and groundbreaking information about the use of color, palette techniques, and color theory. 

Public collections of Gruppe’s work are held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and at the White House, Washington D.C.

This painting belonged to Julia Broadhead Bissell, wife of Philip TenBroeck Bissell, who taught languages at Cornell and the University of Rochester. They were residents of Geneva. Ms. Bissell’s father was George Broadhead who ran a prominent art gallery at 46 East Avenue in Rochester during the 20s-30s. Ms. Bissell left the painting to Mary Ellen Anderson, Mr. Anderson’s mother. When Mrs. Anderson died, David Anderson kindly thought the painting should come full circle and gave it to The Colleges.

Emile A. Gruppé (1896-1978) By: Lowrey, Carol. American Art Review, November/December 2008, Vol. 20 Issue 6, p100-109, 10p

The Wall. American Art Review, Jul/Aug2014, Vol. 26 Issue 4, p8-8, 1/4p, 1 Color Photograph

Recent Gift

Recent Gift

Dell, Jeffrey (b.1971, U.S.)
They Shall Have Stars, 2017
14 layer serigraph on transparent Yupo, 86 x 58 cm.
Gift of the Print Club of Rochester

Jeffrey Dell was born in California and raised in Oregon. He received his BA in Studio Art from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota, studying printmaking with Leonardo Lasansky. He spent two years at a post-baccalaureate program at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, studying with Rosalyn Richards. Subsequently, he completed his MFA in printmaking from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, working with Lydia Madrid and Jose Rodriguez. Her served two years as a fellow at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy from 1998-2000, teaching printmaking, book making, and study abroad. Since then, he has been teaching studio art at Texas State University, in San Marcos, where he maintains a studio. Dell is represented by Art Palace Gallery in Houston.

“I consider They Shall Have Stars to be a tertiary spur of my large series Future Castles. The ittles of all works from this series are stolen from 1970s and 80s science-fiction novels, for which Chris Foss did the cover art. The intent is to mix high and low references, contemplation with diversion. Parallel to this is an attempt to have dimension co-exist with flatness, something that the graphic tradition does very well.
I wanted They Shall Have Stars to also evoke the sugar appetites, like my earlier ‘cake’ work, so I chose a form that references the hard candy ribbons my grandmother always had in a crystal dish next to her TV.”

Recent Gift

Vuyile Cameron Voyiya (b.1961, South Africa)
Blissful Swing III, 1990-99
Linocut, 93 x 114 cm.
Gift of Edward T. Pollack ’55 in honor of Mark and Mary Gearan in recognition of their strong support for the performing arts

Vuyile Voyiya is a print maker that graduated from Michaelis at a time when few black people managed to complete their higher education. This process could have left him feeling ostracized and other. Questions of identity come through strongly in his work as he leaves his own culture to become part of the western university system. His higher education separates him from the community he comes from. Perhaps if he were a lawyer and earning money it would have been easier for his community to understand. There is an expectation for him to give back to his community and this is not always easy as the life of an artists is never the most financially secure. It is hard in the South African context where there is not as much governmental support for the arts.

Voyiya persisted and the quality of his work has been recognized by the larger international community. Amongst other international collections he has been accepted for a residency at the Brandy Wine workshop in the Philadelphia. As a result his print work is part of the Philadelphia museum of art.
His latest works have moved away from comments of the struggle in South Africa and talk more of the intimate relationships between two figure. The dynamics are shown through gesture and dance rather than language. I spent much time in conversation with Voyiya as I wrote a mini Monologue on his work for my UCT Honour’s Degree in Fine Art. He struck me as an intelligent and articulate artist with a vast amount of experience of the South African artworld  ranging from the struggle in the1980s to the present day. In his time as the education officer at the South African National Gallery he did much to share his experience and educate South Africans from all backgrounds.