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Revelation: A Fresh Look at Contemporary Collections

May 29 - September 19, 2004 

 

Two years ago when Carla Hanzal was considering accepting the position of Curator of Contemporary Art for the Mint Museums, colleagues cautioned that the Museums and the Charlotte region lacked a sustained national profile in contemporary art outside of studio crafts.  For her first major Mint exhibition (last summer's Passing was an inherited concept), Hanzal chose to challenge the perception. (right: Bob Trotman, Cake Lady, 2002, Collection of Dana and Rick Davis, Trotman lives in Casar, NC.)

Revelation: A Fresh Look at Contemporary Collections on display May 29 through September 19, 2004 at the Mint Museum of Art addresses relevant themes and trends from the 1960s onward through 60 contemporary paintings, sculptures, photographs and works on paper. Thirty of the works are from the Mint collection, while thirty more are from area collections.

Revelation presents artworks from the past four decades from minimalist statements of the 1960s and 1970s to popular culture-inspired art of the 1970s and 1980s to recent works that address environmental issues and the quests for identity.

"The freedom from prescribed methods of creating art had its genesis in the 1960s, a time of vast social change," wrote Hanzal in the exhibition essay.  "Artists began to question how art should (or should not) function: whether it should be accessible to everyone or only to an elite few." 

The formal concerns of modern painters of the 1950s - their emphasis on the essential qualities of color and flatness - gave way to several important investigations: the spare statements of minimalist works that often incorporated grid patterning or machine-forged components as seen in Dan Flavin's 1971 fluorescent sculpture; the exploration of how the eye physiologically registers color and perception investigated by practitioners of op art illustrated by Gene Davis' Jack-in-Box, 1964; and the influence of popular culture (media and advertising) on the wealth of material imagery found in pop art. (left: Donald Sultan, Aqua Poppies, December 10, 2002, (Sultan is an Asheville native, living in NYC)

In diametric contrast to the concerns of the minimalists and op artists were the explorations of a new generation of artists that drew upon images found in popular culture. Robert Rauschenberg's, Andy Warhol's and James Rosenquist's prints in Revelation are inspired by media and advertising - newspapers, comics, pulp fiction, television - and incorporate appropriated photography to make a statement about the psychological content of iconic and materialistic images.

The media-influenced art of the 1960s and 1970s served as the precursor to 1980s and 1990s postmodernism, in which issues of personal, racial and gender identity were examined by artists and the works they created. The fetishlike sculpture Demeter Presiding Over Impotence, 1981, by Daisy Youngblood and Marisol's portrait of Pocahantas, make statements about powerful females while Juan Sanchez's and Vivienne Koorland's paintings address issues of personal, racial and cultural identity. The generative themes found in Ruth Shortt's glass sculptures as well as Rick Horton's and Peggy River's gestural paintings convey potency and mystery.

From the 1960's onward, photography continued to be a viable source for artists as they composed and directed the images captured on film to make particular statements about malleable identity, as is evidenced in the photographs by Jacqueline Haydenand, Laurie Simmons, and the double portrait by Julie Moos. The landscape also became relevant subject matter for environmentally conscious artists, conveying a sort of "ecological revolt." Depictions of a fragile landscape revealed a loss of faith in modern technical progress. Masumi Hayashi's Love Canal #2, a panoramic photo collage of a contaminated landscape that was an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, reflects these concerns.

New approaches to methods and materials were another major development from the 1970s onward. Artists began using a variety of unorthodox materials, such as Donald Sultan's use of tar, flooring material and flocking to create a painting. Sultan's Aqua Poppies December 10, 2002, a recent acquisition to the Mint's collection, is arresting in scale, but its dense surface and evocative image belie the elaborate and time-consuming painting process that borrows from blue-collar construction techniques. Likewise, Bob Trotman's Cake Lady in part investigates how productivity is often tied to self-worth. The subservient 1950s housewife that Trotman meticulously carved and painted is inspired by the character Laura Brown from Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours. Cake Lady bears a disfiguring crack, revealing the strain of self-deception involved in maintaining a heroic veneer of accomplished domesticity. (right: Masumi Hayashi, Love Canal #2, 1991, Gift of Nancy Hayashi)

"The variety of works presented in Revelation illuminate the multiple perspectives gained by experiencing the world viscerally and with great curiosity," stated Hanzal.  "With great sensitivity, the featured artists bring to their work an awareness of the mystery of both the physical and inner realms, reveling in the disconcerting as well as the sublime.  This exhibition demonstrates a vibrant interest by area collectors in the art of our time that and could be viewed as a step in countering a perception past its prime." 

 

Revelation: A Fresh Look at Contemporary Collections

by Carla M. Hanzal, Curator of Contemporary Art

 

This summer's exhibition reexamines selections from The Mint Museums' contemporary collection - works never before on view at the museum - have been sprung from storage, new purchases are being unveiled, and works that have been generously made available by collectors reveal a vibrant interest in the art of our time.

Assembled to illustrate the many themes and concerns investigated by contemporary artists, Revelation presents artworks from the past four decades. From minimalist statements of the 1960s and 1970s; to popular culture-inspired art of the 1970s and 1980s; to recent works that address environmental issues, the quests for identity, and the exploration of both the disconcerting and the sublime-all are found within this exhibition.

Today's artists do not subscribe to any one sanctioned style or medium. Contemporary artists are at liberty to make art in any manner they choose. In turn, the viewer is conferred great freedom in discerning each work's content, completing the meaning, and experiencing his or her own revelation based on individual preferences, perceptions and experiences.

The freedom from prescribed methods of creating art had its genesis in the 1960s, a time of vast social change. Artists began to question how art should (or should not) function: whether it should be accessible to everyone or only to an elite few. The formal concerns of modern painters of the 1950s - their emphasis on the essential qualities of color and flatness - gave way to several important investigations: the spare statements of minimalist works that often incorporated grid patterning or machine-forged components; the exploration of how the eye physiologically registers color and perception investigated by practitioners of op art; and the influence of popular culture (media and advertising) on the wealth of material imagery found in pop art.

Minimalist art placed emphasis on context: art was supposed to be a phenomenon experienced in real time and space, as illustrated by Dan Flavin's 1971 sculpture made of fluorescent lamps. Flavin prescribed how this object would be installed (at a designated height and in a corner) so that the object created lines of controlled radiance. Flavin's objects are studies of geometric abstraction, yet his use of light as a formal element could possibly signify enlightenment and meditative purity.

Gene Davis' Jack-in-Box is comprised entirely of painted vertical lines of equal width. The juxtaposition of contrasting hues and the repetition of colors create an optical effect as some colors appear to advance and others recede. Relying not only on the uniform placement of color, but also on the physiological reactions of the eye to contrasting hues, the viewer's perception also becomes a concern of the artist. The paintings by Joseph and John Dumbacher utilize machine-forged, stainless steel channels of varying lengths to provide containment for thick, sensuous color. These paintings reflect some of the same concerns as Davis' and Flavin's in their investigation of platonic idealized form and composition.

In diametric contrast to the concerns of the minimalists and op artists were the explorations of a new generation of artists who drew upon images found in popular culture. Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and James Rosenquist all gleaned from the media and advertising - newspapers, comics, pulp fiction and television - and appropriated photography to make a statement about the psychological content of iconic and materialistic images. Although Warhol was an accomplished draftsman capable of lyrical line, he chose to create art that explored composition, color and the resonance of graphic images. Warhol's Bald Eagle, printed with exuberant, contrasting colors is at once bold and haunting. This proud raptor, facing the danger of extinction, is memorialized in advance of its vanishing.

Popular culture-inspired artwork served to redefine expectations about the function of art, allowing it to provide commentary about the contemporary experience. This intent to reflect the experiences and perceptions of modern life remains one of the most salient themes probed by contemporary artists. The media-influenced art of the 1960s and 1970s served as the precursor to 1980s and 1990s postmodernism, in which issues of personal, racial and gender identity were examined by artists and the works they created. The fetishlike sculptures by Daisy Youngblood and the portrait of Pocahantas by Marisol, for example, make statements about powerful females, while Juan Sanchez's and Vivienne Koorland's paintings address issues of personal, racial and cultural identity. The generative themes found in Ruth Shortt's glass sculptures as well as Rick Horton's and Peggy River's gestural paintings convey potency and mystery.

From the 1960s onward, photography continued to be a viable source for artists as they composed and directed the images captured on film to make particular statements about malleable identity, as is evidenced in the photographs by Jacqueline Hayden and Laurie Simmons, and the double portrait by Julie Moos. The landscape also became relevant subject matter for environmentally conscious artists, conveying a sort of "ecological revolt." Depictions of a fragile landscape revealed a loss of faith in modern technical progress. Masumi Hayashi's Love Canal #2, a panoramic photo collage of a contaminated landscape that was an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site, reflects these concerns. Don Harvey's Bird Songs and Chemical Plants, also has as its subject the loss of habitat and the contamination of natural resources.

Other depictions of the landscape, such as Chen Zhen's Zen Garden, address the reciprocal relationship we have with the external, natural environment. Zhen's fabricated garden incorporates elements of Chinese medicine, which attaches great importance to the wholeness of the human body and its symbiotic relationship with the surrounding environment. Essentially, Zhen's garden of stone, wood and alabaster becomes a landscape of the human body with its interdependent internal organs. Olafur Eliasson is concerned with the phenomenon of the landscape: its changing atmosphere and our perceptions while traversing various sites. He has created a grid of photographs of lighthouses found in Iceland, chronicling the experience of the island's coast. Likewise, Joe Walters creates drawings of branches and sculptures of nests that pertain to his experience of nature in coastal South Carolina. The vastness of the ocean or desert is a theme explored by Vija Celmins, whose painstakingly rendered landscapes allude to qualities of the sublime, or being overcome by the sheer magnitude of the natural environment.

New approaches to methods and materials were another major development from the 1970s onward. Artists began using a variety of unorthodox materials, such as Petah Coyne's use of earth and sticks to create a suspended sculpture which resembles a habitat, or Donald Sultan's use of tar, flooring material and flocking to create a painting. Sultan's Aqua Poppies December 10, 2002 is arresting in scale, but its dense surface and evocative image belie the elaborate and time-consuming painting process that borrows from blue-collar construction techniques.

Likewise, Bob Trotman's Cake Lady in part investigates how productivity is often tied to self-worth. The subservient 1950s housewife that Trotman portrays is inspired by the character Laura Brown from Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours. Cake Lady bears a disfiguring crack, revealing the strain of self-deception involved in maintaining a heroic veneer of accomplished domesticity. This sculpture is not only a particular portrait, but also symbolizes a more universal state of psychological discomfort.

Chuck Close, Alex Katz and Amy Fichter all create frontal portraits, although their techniques of rendering friends and relatives vary drastically. Close uses an underlying grid in which he builds up colors with patterns within each separate square to create a composite rendering of a face; while Katz uses flattened perspective, color and reductive form to create portraits that, like Close's, have an analytical quality. Fichter builds a dense surface from individual lines of pigment to create an image that conveys an intensity of demeanor as well as the malleability of the subject's flesh.

Judy Fox is perhaps best known for her series of hyper-realistic ceramic portraits. Einstein is one of many portraits in which Fox illuminates the childhood innocence of the world's great minds. Balancing precariously on one foot as if challenging the Newtonian laws of gravity, the infant Einstein teeters at the edge of the high pedestal. Einstein's theory of General Relativity, published in 1915, proposed that both gravity and motion can affect the intervals of time and space.

Robert Lazzarini's sculptures also investigate hyper-realism, but his use of distorted perspective lends a new interpretation of familiar objects, such as a violin, chair or hammer. Fabricated with amazing veracity, yet extremely distorted, these ubiquitous objects take on an expressive quality that is at once haunting and iconic. Modeled on actual objects found in the artist's workplace, the chair and hammers are meticulously finished so that they bear the imprint of use. Lazzarini's first sculpture in this series, the Stradivarius violin, represents technical perfection of a hand-built instrument. Like their minimalist antecedents, Lazzarini's sculptures are experienced in real time and space.

Collectively, the variety of works presented in this exhibition illuminates the multiple perspectives gained by experiencing the world viscerally and with great curiosity. In the hands of these artists, form and material are altered to reflect concepts, to make tangible thought. With great sensitivity, the artists bring to their work an awareness of the mystery of both the physical and inner realms, reveling in both the unnerving as well as the enchanting.


Revelation: A fresh Look at Contemporary Collections ­ Exhibition Checklist

 
BRIGIDA BLATHAR. Brazilian, 1959-
A Coeta do Neblina 2001
c-print
Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta. 2003.129.4
 
DENNIS CARY.
Vase 1990
gelatin silverprint
The Progressive Art Collection.
 
VIJA CELMINS. Latvian/American, 1939-
Untitled ­ Desert 1971
lithograph on Arches paper 52/65
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
VIJA CELMINS. Latvian/American, 1939-
Drypoint ­ Ocean Surface 1983
drypoint on Arches paper 33/75
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
CHUCK CLOSE. American, 1940-
Lyle 2003
screenprint
Collection of Sonia and Isaac Luski.
 
PETAH COYNE. American, 1958-
Untitled #343 1987
mixed media
Allan Chasanoff Ceramic Collection. 1997.73.16
 
GENE DAVIS. American, 1920-1985
Jack-in-Box 1964
oil, canvas
Gift of Elinor F. Poindexter. 1991.23.7
 
JIM DINE. American, 1935-
Night Palette 1965
lithograph 6/11
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
JIM DINE. American, 1935-
Self-Portrait as a Negative 1975
etching, drypoint
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Franklin E. Altany. 1986.55.2
JIM DINE. American, 1935-
Hand Colored Flowers, State 1 1977
hand colored etching 33/50
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
JIM DINE. American, 1935-
Two Hearts for the Moment 1985
lithograph
Collection of Emily and Zach Smith
 
JOSEPH AND JOHN DUMBACHER. American, 1960-
Line 140 2002
stainless steel, stabilized pigment
Courtesy of Fusebox, Washington, DC.
 
JOSEPH AND JOHN DUMBACHER. American, 1960-
Line 144 2002
stainless steel, stabilized pigment
Courtesy of Fusebox, Washington, DC.
 
JOSEPH AND JOHN DUMBACHER. American, 1960-
Line 179 2003
stainless steel, stabilized pigment
Collection of Robert Cox and Holly Lenninhan.
 
OLAFUR ELIASSON. Danish, 1967-
Lenchtturn (Lighthouses) 1999
c-print edition 1/6
Collection of Heather and Tony Podesta, Falls Church, VA.
 
MARISOL ESCOBAR. American, 1930-
Pocahontas from "An American Portrait 1776-1976" 1976
lithograph on Copperplate paper
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard B. Liroff. 1982.220.12
 
AUDREY FLACK. American, 1931-
Banana Split Sundae 1980
collotype
Gift of the Democratic National Committee. 1981.182.3
 
AMY FICHTER. American, 1971-
Allyson 2002
pastel
Gift of Wendyth and Warner Wells. 2004.22
 
 
DAN FLAVIN. American, 1933-1996
Untitled 1971
fluorescent light
Gift of Arthur and Carol Goldberg. 1980.177.2
 
JUDY FOX. American, 1957-
Einstein 1988
terra cotta, casein paint
From the Allan Chasanoff Ceramics Collection. PG1997.39.49A-B
 
PETER GOIN. American, 1951-
Fabric-draped Tree Near Horse Pasture River, North Carolina from the Humanature 1992
dye coupler color print
Gift of the Artist. 1993.1
 
JANE HAMMOND. American, 1950-
Untitled 1991
mixed media on paper
The Progressive Art Collection.
 
DON HARVEY. American, 1941-
Bird Songs and Chemical Plants 1991
photo on metal, copper, text, plastic birds, vinyl tubes, fluids
Gift of the Artist. 1994.40A-R
 
MASUMI HAYASHI. American, 1945-
Love Canal #2 1991
panoramic photo collage with 3-D photographs
Gift of Nancy Hayashi. 1993.41
 
JACQUELINE HAYDEN. American 1950-
Hidden Identities 1988/89
c-print
Gift of the Artist. 1990.38
 
RICK HORTON. American, 1954-1990
Night Without Manners 1988
oil, paper
Gift of David Z. Lloyd. 1991.24
 
ALEX KATZ. American, 1927-
The Red Band 1979
lithograph 35/60
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
VIVIENNE ASYA KOORLAND. American, 1957-
Flowers for Adam Czerniakow 1987
oil, linen
Gift of Henry and Maria Feiwel. 1992.24.1.8
 
VIVIENNE ASYA KOORLAND. American, 1957-
The Three Phases of the Night: Cambodian Princess 1988
charcoal, tar, ink, paper
Gift of Henry and Maria Feiwel. 1992.24.1.4.1
 
VIVIENNE ASYA KOORLAND. American, 1957-
Three Phases of the Night: Counsel for the Defence: Verges at Barbie's Trial 1988
charcoal, tar, ink, paper
Gift of Henry and Maria Feiwel. 1992.24.1.4.2
 
VIVIENNE ASYA KOORLAND. American, 1957-
The Three Phases of the Night: Lidice 1988
charcoal, tar, ink, paper
Gift of Henry and Maria Feiwel. 1992.24.1.4.3
 
ROBERT LAZZARINI. American, 1965-
violin 1998
flame maple, ebony, bone, spruce
Collections of Eileen Harris-Norton and Peter Norton, Santa Monica
 
ROBERT LAZZARINI. American, 1965-
chair 2000
maple, pigment
Collection of Linda Van Art.
 
ROBERT LAZZARINI. American, 1965-
hammers 2000
oak, steel
edition of ten plus one artist's copy
Collection of Robert Lazzarini.
 
JULIE MOOS. American, 1965-
Friends and Enemies: Kristen and Abby 1999
c-print
Museum Purchase: Exchange Funds from the Gift of Harry and Mary Dalton. 2004.16
 
JESUS BAUTISTA MOROLES. American, 1950-
Las Mesas #4 1982
Texas granite
Museum Purchase. 1983.129
 
JOHN PFAHL. American, 1939-
Bethlehem #41, Lackawanna, New York 1988
ektacolor print
Anonymous Donor. 1993.2.1
 
JOHN PFAHL. American, 1939-
Bethlehem #73, Lackawanna, New York 1988
ektacolor print
Anonymous Donor. 1993.2.2
 
JOHN PFAHL. American, 1939-
O-Cel-O #7, Tonawanda, New York 1989
ektacolor print
Anonymous Donor. 1993.2.3
 
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG. American, 1925-
Arcanum III 1981
screenprint with hand-coloring 48/85
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG. American, 1925-
Arcanum VII 1981
screenprint with hand-coloring 48/85
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG. American, 1925-
Arcanum IX 1981
screenprint with handcoloring 48/85
Courtesy of Bank of America Art Collection.
 
ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG. American, 1925-
Statue of Liberty 1983
photoscreen print
Collection of Royal and SunAlliance.
 
JUDY RIFKA. American, 1945-
Beach III 1984
oil, linen, wood
Gift of the Artist. 1994.5
 
PEGGY RIVERS. Icelandic,
Chromatin 1998
oil on canvas
Collection of Linda Van Art.
 
 
TIM ROLLINS, K.O.S. and Kids of Charlotte. American, 1955-
Amerika IX 1987
watercolor, charcoal, acrylic, pencil, book pages, linen
Gift of the Artists and Knight Gallery, Spirit Square Center for the Arts, with support from the North Carolina Arts Council. 1987.33
 
ROBIN ROSE. American, 1946-
Under Trees 1980
encaustic paint, linen, aluminum laminate
Gift of Aaron and Barbara Levine. 2003.57
 
JAMES ROSENQUIST. American, 1933-
Communications Center, NY City 1983
screenprint
Collection of Royal and SunAlliance.
 
JUAN SANCHEZ. American, 1954-
? Y Que? (So What?) 1992
acrylic, canvas, oil, oil pastel, oil stick, laser printer ink, handmade paper
Gift of the Artist. 1993.32
RUTH SHORTT. Irish,
Orifice 1998
steel, glass
Collection of Linda Van Art.
 
LAURIE SIMMONS. American, 1949-
For Diane von Fürstenberg 1984
color photograph
Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Ivey's Department Store. 1987.11
 
DONALD SULTAN. American, 1951-
Eight Red Poppies with Flocked Centers, March 18, 2002 2002
screenprint, 2/12
Collection of Emily and Zach Smith.
 
DONALD SULTAN. American, 1951-
Aqua Poppies Dec 10, 2002 2002
enamel, flocking, tar, spackle, tile, masonite
Museum Purchase: Charlotte Garden Club Fund and Exchange Funds from the Gift of Harry and Mary Dalton. 2003.90A-F
 
BOB TROTMAN. American, 1947-
Cake Lady 2002
wood and pigment
Dana and Rick Davis.
 
BOB TROTMAN. American, 1947-
John 2004
wood and pigment
Collection of Pope and Peggy Shuford.
 
JOE WALTERS. American, 1952-
Nests 2002
wire, clay, polymer, resin
Courtesy of Joie Lassiter Gallery.
 
JOE WALTERS. American, 1952-
Tree Panels 2003
tea, bleach, varnish
Courtesy of Joie Lassiter Gallery.
 
ANDY WARHOL. American, 1930-1987
Merce 1974
screenprint, Japanese Wall
Collection of Royal and SunAlliance.
 
ANDY WARHOL. American, 1930-1987
Bald Eagle, Endangered Species 1983
screenprint
Collection of Royal and SunAlliance.
 
DAISY YOUNGBLOOD. American, 1945-
Demeter Presiding Over Impotence 1981
earthenware
Allan Chasanoff Ceramic Collection. 1997.73.82
 
DAISY YOUNGBLOOD. American, 1945-
Evening Cow 1985
earthenware, steel
From the Allan Chasanoff Ceramics Collection. PG1998.120.64A-C
 
CHEN ZHEN. Chinese, 1955-2000
Zen Garden 2000
alabaster, metal, wood, plastic, plants, light
Collection of Heather and Tony Podesta, Falls Church, VA.


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