Featuring works from Dürer to Van Gogh, Master Prints from the Lunder Collection highlights four hundred years of the finest achievements in printmaking. Inspired to create works of exceptional quality and technical mastery, printmakers have produced some of the most celebrated, evocative, and dramatic images in the history of art. Drawn primarily from recent acquisitions, this installation focuses on aesthetic trends, technical innovations, and the variety of working methods used by printmakers from the Renaissance to the turn of the twentieth century. Works on view include Dürer’s largest engraving, St. Eustace from 1501; Rembrandt’s best-known landscape, The Three Trees from 1643; a rare bound copy of the 1799 first edition of Goya’s Los Caprichos; selections from Hiroshige’s One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, published between 1856 and 1859; works from Whistler’s “Amsterdam Set” of 1889; and Van Gogh’s only etching, Portrait of Dr. Gachet, completed shortly before the artist’s death in 1890.
Begun in response to the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Turning Back, an exhibition of 164 photographs by acclaimed photographer Robert Adams, will be on display at the Colby Museum of Art beginning February 2nd. According to Adams, “The theme of this [work] is the glory of the natural world and the tragic nature of human beings. The West is gone. What did we do with it? What have we traded for this great forest? What did we get in exchange?” For what he subtitled A Photographic Journal of Re-Exploration, the photographer headed East from the Pacific Ocean, photographing the evidence of irresponsible stewardship and unmitigated greed that he found in the forests along the way. He continued until he came upon a reason for hope in the orchards, pastures, and cottonwoods of Halfway, Oregon, about four hundred and fifty miles east of the Pacific.
Accompanying Robert Adams’ Turning Back is a 2012 video by Alec Soth (American, b. 1969) entitled Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree. This was conceived as a response to Summer Nights, a 1985 book of photographs taken by Adams during nocturnal rambles near what was then his home in Colorado. According to Adams, “What attracted me to the subjects at a new hour was the discovery then of a neglected peace.” Twenty years old when he first encountered the Adams book, and in search of a comparable “romantic solitude,” Soth also began shooting at night.
July and August evenings pose the optimal conditions for voyeurism, both acoustic and visual, as evidenced in Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree, which is set in Soth’s hometown of Minneapolis. His camera lingers on freeway overpasses, gas stations, and commercial parking lots as it clocks the waning daylight. Soth drifts from these public spaces—scenes of people commuting, running errands, or on a break—to the domestic, all the while absorbing the ambient sounds of the season. With nightfall comes a movement indoors, and the video concludes with a glimpse into a quintessentially American ranch house, lamp aglow in the window and flag on the wall. This is followed by an epilogue taken from the Allen Ginsberg poem “A Supermarket in California,” in which he communes with the spirit of Walt Whitman during an evening visit to a “neon fruit supermarket.” Like Ginsberg, Soth is measuring the distance between his United States and the one lyricized by Whitman. He is also looking at his images alongside the work of photographic forerunners such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank. As he has expressed it, “It is better to grapple with your influences than run away from them. I learned a lot about what defines my particular vision by figuring out how it differs from those who’ve inspired me.”
Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree may pay homage to one particular series by Robert Adams, but it comes into especially sharp focus when seen in proximity to Turning Back. Adams’ record of deforestation presents the legacy of westward expansion with great urgency, while, here, Soth studies our relationship to the built environment that has diverted and displaced these natural resources. Symbolically speaking, old-growth forests have been razed to make way for Dollar Trees, but neither Adams nor Soth wants to relinquish the possibility for a renewed sensitivity to one’s habitat.
About the Artist
Alec Soth has been the subject of many exhibitions, including From Here to There, presented at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, in 2010, and The Space Between Us, a major retrospective presented at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, and Fotomuseum Winterthur in Winterthur, Switzerland, in 2008. Among Soth’s monographs are Sleeping by the Mississippi (2004), Broken Manual (2010), and Songbook (2015). He is a member of Magnum Photos.
This installation features highlights from the museum’s permanent collection, including several recent acquisitions on view for the first time. Many of the artworks on display in A Singular Vision touch upon themes of pairing, doubling, and repetition. In some cases, these are formal devices, with Katz coupling figures off or depicting a subject multiple times within a single canvas. Elsewhere this entails his return to particular models or motifs over the course of his career.
An accomplished sculptor, Peter Soriano began making wall drawings in 2012. Rather than shaping, carving, or casting three-dimensional forms, he now assembles and arranges visual experience, using what captures and holds his attention to generate orchestrated constellations of marks, such as those that make up Permanent Maintenance, his largest wall drawing to date. Commissioned by the Colby College Museum of Art, this multipart piece spans approximately one hundred linear feet of the William D. Adams Gallery and is composed of acrylic and spray paint applied directly to the wall.
Soriano’s process is open and adaptive. Working from initial drawings and notes, he develops wall drawings to scale in his studio, proceeding section by section and producing a set of instructions for each visual element. Structured into these instructions are opportunities for the contributions of others, and the Colby project included a team of student installers and other participants when the piece was realized on site in September 2015. (Three notebooks of instructions as well as other materials related to the production of the work are on view in the Davis Curricular Gallery through April 28, 2015.)
Akin to the wall drawings of such artists as Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner, Soriano’s works give form to uniquely fluid interrelations between object, site, and studio—as well as future sites—that distinguish his contribution from earlier manifestations of conceptually informed art. Not only can the whole of Permanent Maintenance be installed elsewhere, but each of its three sections includes one or more components that can be presented independently.
The title Soriano gave to this commission suggests a relationship between the inherent unreliability of perception and the desire to capture and document the seen world. Soriano encountered the words “permanent maintenance” on a building façade in New York City, and he saved the phrase for potential repurposing, much as he does with other visual impressions.
About the Artist
Born in 1959 in Manila, Philippines, Soriano received his B.A. in Art History from Harvard College and studied at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture before moving to New York City in 1981. Beginning in the 1990s, he made a series of internationally recognized fiberglass sculptures. In 2004, during a residency at the Atelier Calder, Soriano experimented with readymade materials—among them, aluminum pipe, steel cable, and nylon webbing—that became the underpinnings of his first wall installations. As the wall works progressed, he added spray-painted lines and symbols, then eliminated the structural elements altogether to allow the notational vocabulary he had developed to become the sole source of his imagery. In New York, Soriano is represented by the Lennon, Weinberg, Inc., where one of his first wall drawings appeared. He has also realized wall drawings in Busan, South Korea; Brussels; and in Paris, where he is represented by Galerie Jean Fournier.
Peter Soriano: Permanent Maintenance
This exhibition catalogue includes essays by Elizabeth Finch and Kirsten Swenson and features an artist’s project with instructions for creating a wall drawing in a site of the participant’s choosing.
This exhibition showcases the reinstallation of the Museum’s permanent collection galleries and the integration of works from the Lunder Collection with the Museum’s core holdings, including recent gifts from the Alex Katz Foundation, and select loans. Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, this display reflects the Museum’s ongoing commitment to a comprehensive representation of American art from the nineteenth century through the present.
Highlights include David Smith’s steel Voltri Bolton II(1962), Maya Lin’s monumental marble sculpture Disappearing Bodies of Water (2013), a meter box by Donald Judd (1977), and Robert Mangold’s 18 acrylic and pencil drawings (1991) given by the Alex Katz Foundation. Cherished cornerstones of the collection, such as Albert Bierstadt’s View of Chimney Rock (1860) and Winslow Homer’s The Trapper (1870) will be featured, as well as recently acquired works by Frederic Edwin Church, William Matthew Prior, and Joshua Johnson.