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Impressionism & the Caribbean: Francisco Oller & His Transatlantic World

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Francisco Oller, Hacienda La Fortuna,

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World, an exhibition of approximately eighty paintings by Realist-Impressionist painter Francisco Oller (1833–1917) and his contemporaries. Organized by the Brooklyn Museum and debuting at the Blanton, the exhibition reveals Oller’s important contributions to both the Paris avant-garde and the Puerto Rican school of painting. Providing historical, geographic, and cultural context for Oller’s work, the exhibition also features paintings by nineteenth-century masters Paul Cézanne, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and others. The Blanton’s presentation also includes a small selection of works by contemporaneous Texas artists working on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the most distinguished transatlantic painters of his day, Oller helped transform painting in the Caribbean. Over the course of his career, he traveled between Europe and Puerto Rico, spending considerable time in Paris. With each trip home, Oller brought with him the latest concepts and elements of early European modernism – including tenets of Realism and Impressionism – and combined them with the artistic styles and traditions of San Juan, revolutionizing the school of painting in Puerto Rico and throughout the Caribbean region.

Oller emerged from the relatively small art world of San Juan in the 1840s. After training in the San Juan studio of Puerto Rican painter Juan Cleto Noa, he traveled to Spain where he drew inspiration from works in the Museo del Prado and studied under Neoclassicist Federico de Madrazo. However, it was Paris that truly captured Oller’s imagination. He made three trips there (1851–53; 1858–65; 1895–96), studying in the ateliers of Thomas Couture and Charles Gleyre, and was mentored by Realist master Gustave Courbet, whose influence can be seen throughout Oller’s career. In Paris, Oller affiliated himself with Paul Cézanne, fellow Caribbean artist Camille Pissarro (born in St. Thomas), and other members of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist movements. He exhibited work at the Paris Salons (1864–65; 1895–96) and the 1875 Salon des Refusés. Oller spent nearly two decades in Europe working alongside the pioneers of Realism, Impressionism, and Naturalism, and, through his travels, participated in a vibrant exchange of aesthetic ideas, forging his own brand of international modernism while engaging social issues unique to the Caribbean.

Although he spent many formative years away from home, Puerto Rico remained Oller’s primary subject and source of inspiration. Lush, tropical landscapes layered with historical meaning, portraits of Puerto Rican intellectual figures, still life paintings of local fruits, and unidealized depictions of urban and rural labor are counted among the artist’s most loved and recognized works. Beyond his work as an artist, Oller also played a key role in educational reform on his native island, publishing influential treatises on art and ethics and founding ten schools and art academies, several of which were tuition-free and open to women.

Highlights of the exhibition include Oller’s Hacienda La Fortuna (1885), The School of Master Rafael Cordero (1890–92), and an intimate plein-air portrait of Cézanne. Cézanne’s The Village of Gardanne (1885–86), Monet’s Vernon in the Sun (1894), and Frederic Edwin Church’s Jamaica (1871), along with paintings by fellow Caribbean artists José Campeche, Pío Casimiro Bacener, and Esteban Chartrand, provide visitors with a greater understanding of the diverse cultural and artistic landscape in which Oller worked and thrived.

Impressionism and the Caribbean builds on the Blanton’s legacy of presenting groundbreaking scholarship on Latin American art and artists. After its premiere at the Blanton, the exhibition will travel to the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan.

From San Juan to Paris and Back: Francisco Oller and Caribbean Art in the Era of Impressionism, a book by Edward J. Sullivan, will accompany the exhibition.

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the foremost university art museums in the country, and has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas. The Blanton’s permanent collection of more than 17,000 works is recognized for its European paintings, an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, and modern and contemporary American and Latin American art.

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Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance

This exhibition at the museum’s downtown Austin venue, the Jones Center on Congress Avenue, includes artworks by Antoni from 1989 to the present and solo dance performances by Antoni developed in collaboration with Halprin.

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Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013. Premiered at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 2016. Artwork © Janine Antoni. Image courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photograph by Carlos Avendaño.

The Contemporary Austin presents an exhibition by artists Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin at its downtown Austin venue, the Jones Center at 700 Congress Avenue. On view January 23 through March 17, 2019, Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance is a retrospective of work from the past thirty years by New York–based artist Janine Antoni (Bahamian, born 1964 in Freeport, Grand Bahama), including sculptures and photographs. The exhibition also includes a solo dance performance by Antoni developed collaboratively with the pioneering dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin (American, born 1920 in Wilmette, Illinois).

On view on the second floor of the Jones Center, Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance invites visitors to experience an immersive, evolving arrangement of artworks and a series of fifteen live performances by Antoni. The works on view and performances are presented in three rotations focusing on themes prevalent throughout Antoni’s career: motherhood (January 23 – February 3), identity (February 5 – 24), and absence (February 26 – March 17). Together, Paper Dance provides an intriguing look into Antoni’s hybrid artistic practice, highlighting the ways in which she uses the body as tool and material in her performance and visual art. Through the changing nature of the exhibition and the artist’s time-based activation of the galleries, audiences will encounter a multitude of experiences over the course of the exhibition. Paper Dance is organized by Julia V. Hendrickson, Associate Curator, The Contemporary Austin, in collaboration with Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement.

Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013. Premiered at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 2016. Artwork © Janine Antoni. Image courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photograph by Carlos Avendaño.

Says Hendrickson, “The museum is thrilled to showcase a glimpse into the depth and breadth of Janine Antoni’s powerful work over the last thirty years, to tease out some key themes throughout her career, and to bring to Austin this unique take on an artist’s retrospective. While Antoni is primarily known as a sculptor, performance manifests itself in many of her processes. Paper Dance unites her physical art making with live performance, showing the importance that the body has had to the artist. Audiences will be able to experience, alongside the artist, connections between objects, movement, and space, gaining insight into the experience and memory of their making.” Adds Mellard, “The intimate performances Antoni developed collaboratively with Anna Halprin build on the choreographer’s legacy and offer the public a unique opportunity to see the visual artist in action, interacting with her own legacy through past works. It is an honor to invite Antoni back to Austin and to present this unique, hybrid project, which is both deeply affecting and reveals great insight into her process.”

Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013. Premiered at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 2016. Artwork © Janine Antoni. Image courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photograph by Carlos Avendaño.

The exhibition at the Jones Center consists of a wooden dance floor and thirty-nine wooden art crates containing thirty-eight works of Antoni’s sculpture and photography from 1989 to the present. As visitors enter the space, they will see the dance floor, along with an arrangement of crates, which also serve as seating during the live performances. Through three separate thematic rotations, these crates will be reconfigured, unpacked, and packed by the artist and art handlers both during and in between performances, so that the space—and artworks on view—changes over time, allowing for a new experience for those who return throughout the exhibition.

Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013. Premiered at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 2016. Artwork © Janine Antoni. Image courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photograph by Carlos Avendaño.

Each thematic rotation begins with the crates installed in a rough oval (imagined by the artist as a “nest” encircling the dance floor). During each performance, Antoni will remove a few artworks from the crates, so that a total of twelve to sixteen works are progressively revealed during each rotation. For example, during the first thematic rotation, motherhood, the nest of crates and their accompanying artworks will eventually be rearranged into tableaus, with works on view such as Umbilical, 2000, a cast sterling silver sculpture of a spoon with negative impressions of the artist’s mouth on one end and her mother’s hand on the other, and If I Die Before I Wake (mother’s hand meets daughter’s hand in prayer), 2004, a translucent porcelain nightlight similarly depicting each of their hands meeting in common prayer, close in size but distinguished by the signs of age that mark the hand of the mother.

The score of the Paper Dance performances derives from a 1965 dance work by Halprin, Parades and Changes, featuring dancers interacting with brown paper while performing the act of dressing and undressing—elements that recur in Paper Dance. A video excerpt of Halprin’s Parades and Changes is on view in this exhibition, connecting Antoni’s body of work to Halprin’s influential expansion of the boundaries of dance and performance to encompass social issues, build community, and foster personal healing.

Janine Antoni in collaboration with Anna Halprin, Paper Dance, 2013. Premiered at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, 2016. Artwork © Janine Antoni. Image courtesy the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photograph by Carlos Avendaño.

Inspired by this historic performance by Halprin, within the museum gallery will be placed long rolls of brown paper, which Antoni will use during her performances as she wraps and tangles her body in and out of the paper’s folds, alternately clothed and nude as she moves through the space. The crumpled brown paper will be left following each performance, so that a pile of these relics will grow through the course of the exhibition. During museum open hours, visitors may walk among the crates and view the artworks; they may also encounter the artist and art handlers working behind-the-scenes to rearrange crates and artworks between performances.

Says Louis Grachos, Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director & CEO of The Contemporary Austin: “Moving and surprising, Janine’s works reflect many of the directions of contemporary art over the last thirty years in a deeply personal way. I couldn’t be more pleased to present this thoughtful and dynamic show, and I encourage the public to make repeat visits to experience the exhibition as it evolves.”

Janine Antoni and Anna Halprin: Paper Dance follows a previous collaboration between Antoni and The Contemporary Austin. In 2015, Antoni was invited with the dancer and choreographer Stephen Petronio to present Incubator, an exhibition of collaborative and solo video, sculpture, and photography that was co-sponsored by The Contemporary and testsite, Austin, and exhibited at testsite. Antoni first presented Paper Dance publicly in 2016 as part of the exhibition Ally, featuring collaborative projects between Antoni, Halprin, and Petronio at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Early versions of Paper Dance were performed by Antoni between 2013 and 2015 at Halprin’s Dance Deck in Northern California, an important contemporary dance site since the early 1950s.

Tickets for the Paper Dance live performances are free with museum admission; advance tickets are recommended at thecontemporaryaustin.org/paperdance.

Trailer for Spirit Labour that will be screened on the rooftop on March 6, 2019.

The museum will also present a range of exhibition-related programs, including an Artist Talk on February 5, 2019, in which Antoni will discuss how her past work continues to reveal itself when experienced through improvisational movement, and Open for Discussion on February 19, 2019, a group conversation about motherhood, identity, and absence, in which the public is invited to participate. Additionally, on March 6, 2019, the museum will present a rooftop film screening of Spirit Labour (directed by Hugo Glendinning and Adrian Heathfield, 2016, 41 min.) that follows the creative practice of Janine Antoni and her collaborations and conversations with the dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin and the writer Hélène Cixous.

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Vincent Valdez: The City

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Vincent Valdez’s The City
Vincent Valdez’s The City Photo credit: The Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin will present Vincent Valdez: The City in its Contemporary Project gallery, opening on July 17. Acquired by the Blanton, The City paintings are comprised of two works: The City I, a large, four-part canvas portraying a group of men, women, and a toddler in Ku Klux Klan regalia on a bluff above a glowing metropolis; and The City II, a single canvas depicting a pile of mattresses amongst other discarded trash.

“Expanding knowledge and human understanding is among the university’s core values and central to the Blanton’s mission,” said Blanton Director Simone Wicha. “The university serves as a platform for complex inquiries into societies past and present, and at the Blanton we cultivate these conversations around great works of art. A leading Texas-based artist, Vincent Valdez is committed to exploring some of the most persistent and challenging social issues of the day. His works from an earlier series, The Strangest Fruit, are among our most-utilized teaching resources at the Blanton. I’m confident that the presentation of Valdez’s powerful paintings, The City I and The City II, will also engage important and timely dialogues.”

Vincent Valdez interview by Veronica Roberts, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Blanton Museum of Art; April 25, 2018, Artist’s studio, Houston

The Blanton has developed programming around The City that includes an opening day conversation between Vincent Valdez and Maria Hinojosa of NPR’s Latino USA. In September, the Blanton will welcome scholars, artists, students, and other members of the public to Facing Racism: Art and Action, a symposium that will feature keynote speaker Dr. Kellie Jones, Associate Professor in Art History and Archaeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University. Dr. Jones has curated exhibitions such as Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties, which was on view at the Blanton in 2015 and included work that helped inspire Valdez to make The City. Twice-monthly, the museum will host more intimate conversations in the exhibition gallery that invite consideration and discussion of The City from diverse disciplinary and social perspectives. In addition, the Blanton will provide opportunities in the gallery and online for visitors to respond to and learn more about the exhibition.

“In advance of presenting Valdez’s work to the public,” added Blanton director Wicha, “the Blanton brought together over 100 leaders and thinkers from across campus and the greater Austin community who have helped us to enrich the dialogue around this work. In addition to these collaborators, we are also indebted to the generous funders who helped the Blanton acquire this work—UT alumnus Guillermo C. Nicolas and James C. Foster, UT alumni Jeanne and Michael Klein, and Ellen Susman who immediately understood the potential impact of having this powerful work on campus.”

The City

Valdez’s The City confronts the ongoing ubiquity of racism in the United States. The 30-foot long City I painting uses a grisaille palette to evoke historical photographs of a past era. However, symbols from contemporary life including Nike shoes, a glowing iPhone, a Chevrolet truck, as well as a modern cityscape, mark the painting as firmly set in the present day. “These individuals could be any Americans,” said Vincent Valdez. “There is a false sense that these threats are contained at the edges of American society, in small town landscapes or in the American South.”

The urban setting of The City also suggests the physical components of structural racism. “The designs of many American cities today still reflect segregation,” explained Valdez. “The plotting and location of train tracks, city dumps, land claimed through eminent domain, junkyard locations, city jails and police stations, storage and industry sectors, underfunded schools and housing, even down to the placement of parks and trees.”

Philip Guston, City Limits, 1969.
Philip Guston, City Limits, 1969. Oil on canvas, 6’ 5” x 8’ 7 1/4″ (195.6 x 262.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Musa Guston. © The Estate of Philip Guston and The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

The City was inspired by Gil Scott-Heron’s 1980 song, The Klan, and Philip Guston’s City Limits, a 1969 painting of cartoonish Klansmen that he saw in the Blanton’s presentation of Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties in 2015. “For centuries, artists, writers, and musicians have dealt with questions of identity, fear of the ‘other,’ and the threat of violence,” elaborated the exhibition curator, Veronica Roberts, Blanton curator of modern and contemporary art. “Although The City I offers a symbolic representation of American society, in many ways, I see it as a contemporary history painting, helping us to reflect on the ways the past continues to inform the present.”

The Blanton’s showing of The City follows its acquisition and exhibition of two paintings from Valdez’s The Strangest Fruit series, which refers to the overlooked history of the lynching of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the American Southwest during the 19th and 20th centuries. “Vincent Valdez is a virtuosic painter tackling some of the most challenging aspects of American identity and culture,” said Roberts. “The Blanton’s commitment to Valdez’s work reflects our larger mission to support significant Texas and Latino artists among the diversity of perspectives and histories we share in our modern and contemporary art galleries.”

The City was acquired for the Blanton’s permanent collection with support from Guillermo C. Nicolas and James C. Foster in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein, with additional support from Jeanne and Michael Klein, and Ellen Susman in honor of Jeanne and Michael Klein.

Major funding for the Contemporary Project is provided by Suzanne McFayden.

Exhibition Guide and Essay

[ENGLISH VERSION] – Copies of this guide will also be available in the exhibition gallery. A printable PDF of the guide is available for download HERE.
[VERSION EN ESPAÑOL] – A printable PDF of the guide is available for download HERE.

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Harry Ransom Center presents “Mexico Modern”

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Chronicling two decades of cultural exchange between Mexico and the United States, the exhibition “Mexico Modern: Art, Commerce, and Cultural Exchange, 1920–1945” showcases examples of modern Mexican art and design. It also documents the ways — through exhibitions, books and articles — this art was broadcast to new audiences, primarily in the United States. The exhibition demonstrates how, in the 1920s and 1930s, Mexican art that was initially received as avant-garde gained mainstream acceptance.

On display from September 11, 2017 through January 1, 2018 in the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, the exhibition highlights the important history of 20th-century art and how artists, museum curators, gallery owners, journalists and publishers in both countries instigated a cultural phenomenon by creating and promoting art that pioneered a synthesis of indigenous traditions and international aesthetics.

The more than 200 items in the exhibition, drawn primarily from the Ransom Center’s collections, reveal the importance of the transnational networks of individuals and institutions that sought, championed and interpreted many great, often radically new, works of art. The materials include paintings, photographs, jewelry and decorative arts, as well as correspondence, periodicals and exhibition brochures.

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940). / photo credit: courtesy the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin.

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“‘Mexico Modern’,” notes guest curator Thomas Mellins, “provides a unique opportunity to showcase the Ransom Center’s remarkable collections to present a memorable cast of characters, whose connectedness is revealed not only through great works of art, but also via intimate media such as letters and snapshots.”

The popularity and prestige of Mexican art throughout the 1920s and 1930s was the direct result of a dynamic exchange between Mexico and the United States, where New York, Chicago and Los Angeles served as epicenters of cultural activism.

This Mexican moment encompassed artists such as painters Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jean Charlot; graphic designer and art historian Miguel Covarrubias; photographers Nickolas Muray, Tina Modotti, Edward Weston and Manuel Álvarez Bravo; and jewelry designer William Spratling. Their work was championed by journalist and writer Anita Brenner, curator René d’Harnoncourt and publishers Frances Toor and Alfred and Blanche Knopf, among others. These individuals, many of whom traveled back and forth between the two nations, collectively became an important part of the historical narrative.

“Some of these individuals were famous in their lifetimes,” said Donald Albrecht, guest curator. “Others will be discoveries for some people visiting the show. One of the great pleasures of organizing ‘Mexico Modern’ has been to give these highly creative, though sometimes overlooked, people their due.”

Accompanying the exhibition is the book “Mexico Modern,” which will be published by the Museum of the City of New York and the Ransom Center in conjunction with Hirmer. The book features essays from the curators and profiles of leading figures showcased in the exhibition. Also included is an introductory essay by George F. Flaherty, assistant professor of Latin American and U.S. Latino art history at UT Austin, that explores the social, political and economic contexts of the era.

“Mexico Modern: Art, Commerce, and Cultural Exchange, 1920–1945″ can be seen starting Sept. 11 in the Ransom Center Galleries on Mondays through Fridays from 10 AM to 5 PM, with extended Thursday hours until 7 PM. The galleries are open from NOON to 5 PM on Saturdays and Sundays.

Public tours are offered every day at noon, Thursdays at 6 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 PM.

The Museum of the City of New York will host the exhibition in fall 2018.

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[gdlr_notification icon=”fa-camera” type=”color-background” background=”#999999″ color=”#ffffff”]Top image: Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940). / photo credit: courtesy the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin.[/gdlr_notification]

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