The Alex Katz Foundation, incorporated in 2004, has played a central role in the development of the Colby College Museum of Art’s collection. Over the course of more than a decade, the foundation has given nearly four hundred and fifty works of modern and contemporary art to the Colby Museum. Founded with the mission of supporting artists and art institutions through the purchase of artworks and their subsequent gifting, the Katz Foundation has become a model of artist-led philanthropy. On view in this exhibition will be a selection of artworks by contemporary artists including Elizabeth Peyton and Dana Schutz, artists of Katz’s generation such as Ronald Bladen and Al Held, whose reputations continue to grow, and foundational early twentieth-century modernists such as Charles Burchfield and Marsden Hartley.
Featuring numerous recent acquisitions, this exhibition presents selections from the Colby Museum’s holdings of contemporary works on paper. Many of the artists represented are new to the collection and have entered it through their accomplishments in printmaking. These include Tomma Abts, Glenn Ligon, Raymond Pettibon, Lee Bontecou, Amy Sillman, and John Baldessari. Drawings by Richard Serra, Daphne Cummings, Sharon Louden, Elena del Rivero, and Terry Winters, among others, offer vibrant evidence of that medium’s continued relevance and centrality. Photography, an area of the collection experiencing tremendous recent growth, is also amply represented by such artists as Richard Misrach, Loretta Lux, and An-My Lê.
The 1950s saw American artist Alex Katz (b. 1927) take up and master painting directly from nature, lay claim to Abstract Expressionism’s size and scale on behalf of figurative painting, and innovate with collages and cutouts. It was a decade in which he looked to the portraiture of Édouard Manet for lessons in the relationship between figure and ground, and the one in which he met Ada, his most enduring model. Given the overwhelming popularity of painterly abstraction, this was also a period when he destroyed hundreds of canvases, and those that survived had little to no audience. This major exhibition will introduce audiences to an overlooked body of work and consider it within the context of the aesthetic commitments of the decade. Brand-New & Terrific: Alex Katz in the 1950s features sixty-five paintings, cutouts, and collages, including many on loan from the artist and major public and private collections.
Details about the exhibition tour coming soon.
Aesthetic Harmonies explores the many artistic, social, and historical contexts in which we can situate the artist James McNeill Whistler. Drawing from the museum’s rich collections of European, American, and Asian art, the exhibition reexamines Whistler’s relationship to the Etching Revival in Britain, French Realism, American Impressionism, and transatlantic Aestheticism. It also places the artist’s experiments with color, form, beauty, and nature in dialogue with early American modernism, mid-twentieth-century abstraction, and contemporary art. Aesthetic Harmonies thus constructs a history of modern art through Whistler’s diverse practices, philosophies, and influences. This exhibition is curated by Associate Professor of Art Tanya Sheehan and the students in AR497 (Fall 2014); Maria Bowe ’15, Catherine Maguire ’15, Caroline Pelham ’17, Francesca Soriano ’16, Veronica Vesnaver ’15, and Marina Wells ’15.
In his “Ten O’Clock Lecture” in 1885, the American James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) presented himself as an artist set apart from the public, bearing no relation to the historical moment he lived in. However, the myth of artistic independence that Whistler developed was but one part of a complex and highly significant relationship he had with the world around him. As a painter, printmaker, designer, traveller, and performer, Whistler engaged with a variety of places, people, and ideas that stretched from the United States to London, Venice, and Japan. Drawn entirely from the renowned Lunder Collection, this comprehensive exhibition will place eighty-five featured art works, including the finest examples of his prints, into a dynamic international and cosmopolitan context. The exhibition and its accompanying catalog will explore how Whistler transported his immediate surroundings into the “realm of art” while he, in turn, was shaped by the encounters he had as he traversed the global art worlds of the nineteenth century.
Artist feature: Ann Landi, Whistler: The Original Art Star, Artnews, December 2014
Art movement: Sebastian Smee, ‘Whistler’s Mother’ to visit Clark Art Institute in July, The Boston Globe, March 2015
Related exhibition: “Whistler in Paris, London, and Venice.” Yale University Art Gallery. 1111 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06520. Friday, January 30, 2015–Sunday, July 19, 2015.