Joslyn Art Museum Announces Opening of Post-War Galleries featuring New Acquisitions, Familiar Favorites

  • OMAHA, Nebraska
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  • April 20, 2014

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Tina Barney (American, b. 1945), The Garage, 2005, chromogenic color print, Museum purchase with funds from the James Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.6
Joslyn Art Museum

At a private reception last week, Joslyn Art Museum officially reopened its Pavilion galleries, debuting the reinstallation of its collection of modern and contemporary art. Special guests for the evening were members of the family of Omaha art collector Phillip Schrager — his widow Terri, brother Harley, and sister-in-law Beth — who generously donated an important mixed-media work by Frank Stella from the Phillip Schrager Collection of Contemporary Art to Joslyn earlier this year. The monumental piece, Nogaro (1982; above right), is the first major work by Stella to enter Joslyn’s collection and one of four new acquisitions on view for the first time at the museum.

Karin Campbell, Joslyn’s Phil Willson Curator of Contemporary Art, noted, “With the addition of several significant recent acquisitions, this new installation provides a fresh perspective on contemporary art at Joslyn. An exciting dialogue has emerged between these new gifts and acquisitions and the major works that form the core of our post-war collection.”

The three reinstalled galleries are located in the Museum’s Scott Pavilion. Visits to these galleries are included in free general Museum admission.

Jackson Pollock’s painting Galaxy (1947), the cornerstone of the Museum’s modern and contemporary collection, begins the exploration of abstraction in American art following World War II. Galaxy is one of Pollock’s first “drip” paintings, lively compositions that garnered attention for being “all-over,” or painted without regard for the edge of the canvas. A defining characteristic of Abstract Expressionism, this style would greatly influence other mid-twentieth century painters, including Helen Frankenthaler, whose lyrical canvas, Monoscape (1969), returns to view in the reinstallation. More recent artists have also looked to the innovations of Abstract Expressionism.

Christopher Wool’s Untitled (2006) recalls the gestural approach of Abstract Expressionists, but was created with stencils and rags. Nearby, Ross Bleckner’s 1944-1945 (1977/1980), an enigmatic, multi-panel work, straddles the line between painting and drawing. In sharp contrast are major sculptural works by Donald Judd and Martin Puryear. Judd’s pristine wall sculpture from 1982 epitomizes the industrial aesthetic of clean lines, pure colors, and basic geometric forms that characterize Minimalism, while Puryear’s subdued Self (1978) celebrates the inherent physical qualities of his chosen medium of hand-crafted wood.

The Pavilion galleries will feature periodic rotations of Joslyn’s impressive holdings of prints and works on paper. The current installation focuses on American Pop art, which emerged in the late 1950s in reaction to the growth of consumerism and advertising. Major paintings by Tom Wesselmann and Roger Shimomura hang alongside prints by some of the most important American artists of the twentieth century, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Wayne Thiebaud.

Two works — one a Joslyn favorite, the other a recent acquisition — come together to highlight different uses of technology. Nam Jun Paik’s Couch Potato (1994), a robot assembled from a variety of electronic devices, reclines in an easy chair. The work includes a fax machine, so that visitors can add their thoughts to the installation. Jennifer Steinkamp’s mesmerizing digital projection Judy Crook, 2 (2013) is on view for the first time 

The reinstallation includes four new acquisitions in various media. These include:

     Frank Stella (American, b. 1936), Nogaro, 1982, from the Circuit series (2nd version), mixed media on aluminum, 115 x 120 x 24 inches, Gift of the Phillip Schrager Collection of Contemporary Art from Terri, Harley and Beth Schrager, 2014.2 

Stella began painting as a teenager and continued this pursuit while studying history at Princeton University.  Upon finishing his undergraduate degree in 1958, Stella moved to New York City, where he encountered the work of Jasper Johns for the first time. In Johns’ early canvases, Stella saw the potential for a new visual language that called upon the gestural quality and prominent brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism, but allowed images to be taken at face value. Later, Stella would say of his own paintings, “What you see is what you see.”

Working in series has been central to the artist’s methodology since the late-1950s. During that decade and into the 1960s, he created several bodies of work that featured complex variations of geometric shapes and bold line. Later in the 1960s, he began incorporating large fields of saturated colors into his paintings. A second major transition occurred in the early 1970s, as Stella turned away from flat picture planes to begin experimenting with relief. His work became increasingly voluminous, growing away from the wall into the viewer’s physical space. By the 1980s, Stella had totally eschewed the austere flatness of his early canvases. These late works feature bold, graffiti-like paint application that emphasizes the shape of the underlying metal support to create forms that appear to float in space.

Nogaro is from Stella’s Circuit series (1980-84), twenty-two wall-mounted aluminum pieces named for cities with automobile racetracks. These dynamic, curvilinear constructions reveal the loose approach to form Stella achieved late in his career and epitomize his deft handling of three-dimensional space. For Nogaro, the artist eliminated all references to the traditional picture plane, allowing the wall to become the frame that contains the “painting.”

Jennifer Steinkamp (American, b. 1958), Judy Crook, 2, 2013, single-channel digital video projection, duration: 3 minutes 25 seconds, Museum purchase, bequest of Rose Marie Baumgarten, 2013.10

Jennifer Steinkamp is one of the most highly regarded digital video artists working today. By projecting images directly onto walls and other architectural features, Steinkamp alters how we experience physical space. Her work is inspired in part by the West Coast Light and Space artists of the 1960s, who created subtle atmospheric effects through immersive, perceptually challenging gallery installations.

Judy Crook, 2 is part of an ongoing series that honors teachers who profoundly impacted Steinkamp’s life and fostered her artistic career. Judy Crook taught Steinkamp during her undergraduate studies at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and was influential for her command of color theory. Appropriately, color plays a central role in Judy Crook, 2. In this animation, a tree sways elegantly as its leaves gradually shift from the vibrant greens of springtime to the warm hues of autumn before finally being shed, leaving its branches barren. The cycle begins again as the tree buds new leaves.

Tina Barney (American, b. 1945), The Garage, 2005, chromogenic color print, Museum purchase with funds from the James Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.6

Tina Barney first gained acclaim for her large, snapshot-like color photographs of family and friends. Yet despite their scale, Barney’s images maintain a sense of intimacy and familiarity. The Garage is from her most recent series, Small Towns:

In 2005, I was driving from my house, where I’ve lived since the nineteen-sixties, to Westerly, Rhode Island—a 15 minute drive. I realized I had overlooked this town where I’ve shopped for groceries, gone to the dry cleaners, fixed my car, gone to the bank, and repaired a watch. I began thinking about a new project to photograph. I was outside, which is rare for me, and I was also photographing strangers. The communal act of repeating events over and over, year after year, that develops into traditions, has always been the main attraction in whatever I seem to photograph. [I] started by photographing holiday parades with the local marching bands, craftsmen whose families had worked in the same locations for decades, such as metal workers, stone carvers, garage mechanics, and carpenters.

Red Grooms (American, b. 1937), King Don the V, 2007, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Gift of Red and Lysiane Grooms, 2013.15

Red Grooms’ career as an artist began during his teenage years when he was invited to show his paintings at galleries in his native Nashville. In 1956, after brief periods studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and Peabody College in Nashville, Grooms (born Charles Rogers Grooms) relocated to New York City to attend the New School for Social Research. Not only did New York become a great source of inspiration for Grooms, but he also encountered some of the most influential artists of the period, including Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hoffman, with whom Grooms studied during the summer of 1957. Over the course of the 1960s, Grooms was at the forefront of a new art form known as “Happenings” — live art events that combined performance, music, visual art, and the participation of audience members.  Grooms is perhaps best known for his “sculpto-pictoramas,” three-dimensional constructions that depict scenes of urban American life. Throughout his prolific career, Grooms has experimented with painting, sculpture, printmaking, and the moving image.

In the painting King Don the V, Grooms gives his friend, the now deceased New York Times book and theater critic and Omaha native D.J.R. “Don” Bruckner, the royal treatment. Known for his stylistic prowess, Bruckner earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and English from Creighton University and, as a Rhodes scholar, a master’s in classics and English from Oxford. Bruckner was a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times in the early 1960s, covering labor. He joined the Los Angeles Times in the mid-’60s, serving as its Chicago bureau chief before becoming a syndicated columnist for the paper.



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