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A museum-wide exhibit, Art at Colby: Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Colby College Museum of Art, will be on view July 11, 2009, to February 21, 2010, to mark the founding of the museum in 1959, a half century ago. A 376-page book of the same title, featuring 202 color illustrations, will be published to accompany the exhibition.
Art at Colby will present works acquired early in the museum’s history, such as Winslow Homer’s 1870 Adirondack landscape The Trapper, William Merritt Chase’s Tompkins Park, Brooklyn, and key works from the American Heritage Collection of folk art. It also will offer the most comprehensive overview to date of works from the Lunder Collection, promised to the Colby College Museum of Art by Peter and Paula Lunder in 2007.
The exhibition will provide a history of the museum through its collection, with artworks grouped by the decades in which they were acquired. Highlights include areas in which the museum has collected in depth: American art from the 18th century to the present, including works by John Marin and Alex Katz; contemporary art; and American prints by James McNeill Whistler (part of the Lunder Collection), Terry Winters and Richard Serra. Other highlights are early Chinese art from the Colville Collection, Greek and Roman artifacts and European paintings and prints.
An illustrated publication of selections from the collection, each with a newly commissioned text, will accompany the exhibition. Prefaced by a short history of the museum, the publication will include an impressive 144 brief essays by 98 authors on 176 works. Whereas the exhibition will juxtapose cultures and periods, the book will draw historical connections — a Roman Lar, or household god, precedes a pair of Chinese guardian tomb objects, and European prints are followed by a portrait by John Singleton Copley. The earliest work is a Cypriot vessel in the shape of a bull from c. 1450 B.C.E. The most recent is a wall installation from 2008 by the American artist Maya Lin, composed solely of straight pins. Most of the works in the book also appear in the exhibition. In addition, the exhibition is supplemented by other works from the collection.
Key to the mission of the Colby College Museum of Art is its dedication to new scholarship and to approaching the visual arts from a wide range of perspectives. Art at Colby, the book, contains essays from contributors including art historians Michael Leja, Anne M. Wagner, Geoffrey Batchen and Rachael Ziady DeLue and curators such as Kenneth John Myers, Erica E. Hirshler, Barbara Haskell and Ingrid Schaffner. Art at Colby is equally rich in writers less commonly associated with traditional museum collection overviews, from geologist Robert A. Gastaldo on Phillip Taaffe to poet Ron Padgett on Fairfield Porter to the multitalented Richard Hell on Joe Brainard. Artists also provide commentaries on fellow artists — Alex Katz on Winslow Homer, Rackstraw Downes on John Marin and David Salle on Roy Lichtenstein — as well as several poems inspired by artworks. The Colby community is richly represented with numerous contributions by students, faculty, and alumni.
As the Colby College Museum of art looks to its future as a teaching museum and a cultural resource in Maine, Art at Colby offers an opportunity to reflect on its past and the individuals who have developed and nurtured its mission.
Art at Colby: Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Colby College Museum of Art
376 pages, clothbound with jacket
202 color illustrations and eight black-and-whites
Published by the Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville, Maine; distributed by Distributed Art Publishers (D.A.P.), New York
Support for the publication has been generously provided by the Mirken Foundation, Alan B. Mirken ’51. Exhibition support provided by the Everett and Florence Turner Exhibition Fund, Colby College Museum of Art. The exhibition audio tour is sponsored by the Unity Foundation.
The Colby College Museum of Art, with 28,000 square feet of exhibition space, is one of the largest museums in Maine. It is open 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free and the museum is accessible to people with disabilities. For additional information visit www.colby.edu/museum.