Robert Adams: Turning Back

February 2, 2016 - June 5, 2016

Lower Jetté Galleries, Upper Jetté Galleries

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.

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Banner Image: Robert Adams, Sitka spruce, Cape Blanco State Park, Curry County, Oregon, 1999-2003. © Robert Adams, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Alec Soth: Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree

February 2, 2016 - June 5, 2016

Upper Jetté Galleries

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.

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Banner Image: Still from Alec Soth, Summer Nights at the Dollar Tree, 2012, single-channel video, 6:23 minutes. Courtesy the artist.

Alex Katz: A Singular Vision

October 29, 2015 - May 8, 2016

The Paul J. Schupf Wing for the Works of Alex Katz

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.

 


Banner Image: Alex Katz, Canoe, 1974, oil on canvas, The Lunder Collection, 2013.165

Peter Soriano: Permanent Maintenance

September 24, 2015 - May 22, 2016

William D. Adams Gallery, Museum Lobby

The Colby College Museum of Art has commissioned Peter Soriano to create a major wall drawing for its lobby gallery. Entitled Permanent Maintenance, this new work, which the museum has acquired for its collection, will be installed between September 9 and 23, when the lobby will be open to the public for viewing of the work-in-progress. Composed of acrylic and spray paint applied directly to the wall, this monumental, multipart work will span approximately one hundred linear feet divided into three integrally linked sections.

Soriano has taken inspiration for each section of the piece from specific sites on the Colby College campus, employing these sources to initiate a constellation of associative marks and notations. Evocative of the codes and symbols used by surveyors and suggestive of hypothetical architectural plans, Soriano’s visual translations of his impressions and perceptions captures, as the artist has observed, “the disquieting manner in which…appearances are altered depending on one’s perspective.”

Following the premiere of Permanent Maintenance, the individual sections of the work are designed to be recreated elsewhere. This open, adaptive approach defines Soriano’s creative process. Working from initial drawings and notes, he enacts the wall drawings to scale in his studio, working 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 will include a team of student installers and other participants when the piece is realized on site. While related to the wall drawings of such artists as Sol LeWitt and Mel Bochner, Soriano’s works give form to uniquely fluid and adaptive interrelations between object, site, and studio—as well as future sites—that distinguish his contribution from earlier manifestations of conceptually informed art.

Throughout the development of the project, Soriano generates associated but independent drawings on paper, combining marks, cuts, and folds into intuitive compositions. A selection of these project drawings will be on view in the Sally and Michael Gordon Gallery.

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.

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Highlights from the Permanent Collection

The Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion, Lunder Wing

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.