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Archive for the ‘Special Exhibits’ Category

This post comes to us from Jenny Haskins, Curatorial Intern.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Au Nouveau Cirque: Papa Chrysanthéme, after Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Stained-glass window, 1894-5, Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Art Nouveau (or “New Art”) was a brief, but significant movement occurring in the late-19th to early-20th centuries. It had a powerful influence on other movements, including Art Deco and Modernism. The spirit of Art Nouveau will visit the New Britain Museum’s McKernan Gallery  when The Brilliance of Louis Comfort Tiffany: Painter and Craftsman replaces Toulouse-Lautrec and His World. The two exhibitions are appropriately sequenced since Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s (1864–1901) highly decorative lithographs are considered to have given way to the Art Nouveau movement, though the exact initial source is arguable and vague. Although I am sad to know that the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit will eventually come to an end, it is exciting that the work of an artist who was a major influence on the American Art Nouveau movement will be taking its place.

It is easy to recognize Louis Comfort Tiffany (1848–1933) as essential to the flourishing of American decorative arts during the turn of the 20th century. He was the son of Charles Lewis Tiffany (1812–1902), the founder of one of my favorite jewelers, Tiffany & Co. Although Tiffany worked closely with his father’s renowned company (he became the first design director of the company upon his father’s passing), his primary interest remained in art. Tiffany was a successful paintiner, not to mention a prolific designer of stained glass, lamps, mosaics, metal work, ceramics and jewelry. In 1885, he created Tiffany Studios, a glass manufacturing and design company that made lamps, stained glass windows and vases with the assistance of skillful designers and artisans. It wasn’t long before Tiffany became an international sensation.

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This post comes to us from Jenny Haskins, Curatorial Intern

From Tagliapietra’s Dinosaur series

From Tagliapietra’s Dinosaur series

Glassblowing was always a fascinating and curious medium to me. The ability to create delicate three-dimensional forms through rugged heating and cooling processes is attractively foreign. Glass is a material used on a daily basis throughout the world, however, it is moving beyond the realm of strictly functional objects and becoming increasingly understood and appreciated as fine art. Lino Tagliapietra is a contemporary glass artist currently featured in a Davis Gallery Exhibition, A Joint Venture: The Collection of Thomas and Kathryn Cox. He produces his work in series usually based on famous landmarks or cities he has visited. Dinosaur, in the Cox Collection, is a black-striped organic form mixing rigid and smooth textures. It belongs to a series of work inspired by marine animals, depicting organic forms with long necks extending from oval cores. In the artist’s words, this series integrates “the strength of the dinosaur with the fluidity of the fishes that inhabit the waters of Venice.” I found its presence here at the NBMAA to be a great opportunity to explore the world of glass art and become more familiar with one of its best known artists.

Tagliapietra was born in Murano, Italy in 1934 where he apprenticed under internationally known Muranese master, Archimede Seguso (1909-1999), beginning at the age of eleven. By 21, he earned the title: maestro vetraio (master glassblower), and continued to work in the finest Muranese glass factories for the next 25 years. Becoming a master glassblower is a painstakingly long experience which requires exposure to a scientific environment for multiple years. The United States does not offer many courses in learning these scientific fundamentals (which may be why I find the medium so foreign), therefore European courses are more ideal. Murano, the glassblowing capital of the world, provides the finest programs to become the master of the craft, not to mention its very artistically inspiring landscapes and scenery. (more…)

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This post comes to us from Sarah Churchill , Curatorial Intern.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901)

One of the perks of interning here at the New Britain Museum of American Art is access to the museum’s excellent programming, including last month’s symposium “Toulouse-Lautrec & His World Under the Microscope.”  Art historian Nancy Noble presented thought-provoking insights into the inhabitants of Lautrec’s world, while Rhea Higgins focused her attentions upon the many parallels between Lautrec and his contemporary Edgar Degas. Degas, aware of the so-called “parallels” famously said of Lautrec, “He wears my clothes but cuts them down to his size.” Ouch.

I was struck also by the comparison drawn by Noble between Lautrec and Andy Warhol. Both were printmakers and savvy, self-conscious marketers who worked tirelessly to elevate the genre of commercial art. Both suffered crippling disabilities and terrible isolation. This connection is probably the most poignant, for it was the experience of isolation that formed, not only the love of art in each of them, but also the sadness and longing that underscores their work. More fascinating still is their shared interest in the popular culture of their day. It would not at all seem strange to picture the two, side-by-side, holding court at Studio 54. Both Lautrec and Warhol blurred the line between life and art to the point that it can be tough to tell which is the reflection…

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For the purpose of these interrogations, the Museum has developed a series of questions for exhibiting contemporary artists in an attempt to enliven and explore the discourse between the artist and the institution – with specific focus on site, interpretation, relevance, process, and sources.

Eric Souther builds and utilizes his own software, manipulating video and sound to explore how technology shapes experience and communication in our contemporary culture. His individualistic artistic explorations of the unseen network of the digital age reveal the experiences of modern life “saturated with digital information.”

Souther’s “Chair” is on view at the NBMAA until March 31st. Search Engine Vision “Chair”, 2009. Eric Souther. Single-channel video.

Souther’s “Chair” is on view at the NBMAA until March 31st.
Search Engine Vision “Chair”, 2009. Eric Souther. Single-channel video.

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This post come to us from Alyssa Speranza, Curatorial Intern.

If you haven’t already visited Toulouse-Lautrec & His World, then you should! If you have already seen it, you may have wondered, What is a lithograph? Why was it Toulouse-Lautrec’s medium of choice? And how did he print with so many colors?

Lithography is a method of printmaking that involves the use of limestone – the word “lithography” quite literally means “to write with stone.” But the question what is a lithograph can only be truly answered through observation or hands on experience. This video produced by the Museum of Modern Art provides a concise demonstration.
http://www.moma.org/explore/multimedia/videos/151/939

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This post comes to us from Ronald Abbe, Museum Docent.

Jane Avril, 1895. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Color lithograph. Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece

Jane Avril, 1895. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901). Color lithograph. Herakleidon Museum, Athens, Greece

Toulouse Lautrec has come to the New Britain Museum of American Art. Is he an alien presence or a comfortable fit?  The answer is obvious when one views the connections between his art and the work that emulates it elsewhere in the Museum.

Lautrec was an innovator.  He tried to find a way to capture a moment in the most dramatic way possible.  His cropped compositions make his scenes seem to be glimpsed in passing.  The asymmetry of his arrangements and the daring exaggeration of figures and faces make his scenes come alive.  These effects were startling in the late l9th century but so were photography and the new printing process of lithography.  Quickly, the public found his poster lithographs exciting, and soon there was a craving in Paris for all things new.

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Now through January 27th, the public is invited to participate in an upcoming installation by NEW/NOW artist, Michael Mahalchick, by donating objects which will become the raw material for his work. Welcomed items include trinkets, hand-made treasures, decorative objects, manufactured goods,  etc. If an object could conceivably be found at a garage sale and is of reasonable size, it likely fits the bill. Objects selected for inclusion in the artist’s work will be featured in the upcoming exhibition NEW/NOW: Michael Mahalchick in the Cheney Gallery March 9- June 9, 2013.

The work of Michael Mahalchick defies any one specific definition. Moving seamlessly between the realms of sculpture/assemblage, installation, performance, music and dance, Mahalchick incorporates a self-identified “scavenging” aesthetic or “thrift-store nostalgia” to his work. In utilizing objects of everyday use (or disuse), the artist is free to imbue whatever meaning he sees fit to ascribe, making icons out of the ordinary.

Michael Mahalchick March 7 – April 22nd, 2012 : Michael Mahalchick, "IT" installation, March 6th, 2012, Canada Gallery

Michael Mahalchick, “IT” installation, March 6th, 2012, Canada Gallery

Ever since Duchamp scandalized the world with his Fountain, the concept of the object as art has been a prominent part of our visual lexicon, from Rauschenberg’s gritty Combines to the poetic assemblages of Joseph Cornell. Like Duchamp, Mahalchick’s works call into question meaning and purpose in art and culture. Who holds the power to ascribe meaning in our every day lives and why? (more…)

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This post come to us from Alexandra Nasto, Curatorial Intern.

Museum Project #011, The Field Series, 1997. Atta Kim (b. 1956). Chromogenic print, 122 x 162 cm, 56 x 66 cm

Many modern-day artists are inventors of reality, bringing to life people and places of the past and creating new realms of experience through experimentation with traditional techniques and media. The contemporary art scene is ever ripe with innovative concepts and technologies that inspire artists to push the boundaries of their own work. Atta Kim (b. 1956) is one such photographer whose highly conceptual images have been shown in his native Seoul, South Korea and in international shows from Paris to São Paulo, Copenhagen to Kansas City, and Beijing to Berlin. Kim’s work arrives in Connecticut this summer, when seven magnificent, large-scale photographs will be displayed at the New Britain Museum of American Art. The New/Now: Atta Kim exhibition is the latest in the museum’s New/Now series for emerging contemporary artists, and will be on view from August 25th to November 25th.

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This post comes to us from Bethany Gugliemino, Curatorial Intern

Joyous Windows, 2003-2006. Mundy Hepburn (b.1955). Hand-blown glass, phosphor, argon, helium, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, small static electric charge. Charles F. Smith Fund, 2006.00.

Mundy Hepburn, of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, began his experiments with glassblowing in 1963 at the age of eight after accompanying his mother to the Guilford Town Fair, where he witnessed a glassblowing demonstration. Captivated by what he had seen, he attempted to replicate the effects himself at home by melting an old light bulb over the flames of a gas stove. His mother caught him, but Hepburn quickly explained that he had “fire polished” the glass, removing the sharp edges. His mother was impressed by his inventiveness, and from that point on his parents encouraged his experiments (and made sure that they were more properly supervised). He dropped out of school at fourteen but continued to explore new methods of working with glass as a way of dealing with personal problems he was experiencing at the time.

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This post comes to us from Sara Cotter, Curatorial Intern.

Taking the Veil, 1863, Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889). Oil on canvas, 49 1/2 x 39 3/4 in. Yale University Art Gallery.

The works included in the exhibition, The Weir Family, 1820-1920: Expanding the Traditions of American Art, which will be on view in the McKernan Gallery from June 30th until September 30th, illustrates the influence that travel and study in Europe had on the developing art of America in the 19th century. This phenomenon is exemplified by the work of the three Weirs represented: Robert Walter Weir and his sons, John Ferguson Weir and Julian Alden Weir. All three men studied in Europe as part of their artistic training and subsequently had long and successful careers back home in America, as artists and art instructors. The Weir dynasty represents almost a century of artistic production, during which major changes were occurring in the nature of American art and its relationship to the art centers of Europe – changes in which the Weirs figured prominently.

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