Works by New York modernist / abstract expressionist Charles Seliger (1926-2009), created during the groundbreaking first decade of his career, are the focus of the special exhibition, “Seeing the World Within: Charles Seliger in the 1940s,” which will be on view in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art (MWPAI) October 21 through January 20, 2013. Read more
Andy Warhol Exhibit at Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute
An extensive selection of works by the one of 20th century’s most compelling artist will be spotlighted in the exhibition “The Prints of Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again” on view June 9 through September 8, 2013 in the Museum of Art, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. Read more
Former MWPAI President Milton Bloch Dies
Milton J. Bloch, former president of Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (MWPAI), died in his home in Charlotte, NC last week. He was 74.
Bloch, an artist, author, administrator, educator and philanthropist, served as president of MWPAI from January 1991 through December 2008. During his tenure he led the Institute through the largest period of growth in its more than 80-year history. By investing in excess of $25 million, he doubled the size of the campus which led to the renovation of the west side community.
MWPAI President Anthony Spiridigloizzi, who served 18 years as vice president with Bloch, said Bloch’s leadership forever changed MWPAI. “He was more than a ‘boss.’ He was a mentor and an inspiration,” he said. “He treated everyone with respect- there were no ideas that he didn’t consider valuable. He was a decent man who made a positive difference.””
Expansion and growth projects under Bloch’s tenure were numerous. Major accomplishments included: renovating the Museum of Art Interior- constructing an education wing connecting the Museum of Art building with Fountain Elms which also includes an underground storage facility to house the Museum’s collection- and revamping the former Fleet bank building on Genesee Street into a modern dance studio.
Bloch also initiated two major exhibitions, “Splendors of the New World,” which opened in 1992 and the inaugural American tour of “Soul of Africa: African Art from the Han Coray Collection” in 1998.
In 1999, he was instrumental in the creation of PrattMWP, a joint venture between MWPAI and Pratt Institute. This initiative included the construction of a new school of art studio building, student center, dormitories and library/academic building
Spiridigloizzi added that the physical changes were only a small part of Bloch’s legacy and that his greatest achievement was how he changed the working atmosphere for the Institute. “He opened everything up for the staff. He valued everyone and never turned anyone away. He loved hearing new ideas and allowed everyone to participate in decision making,” he said.
In 1998, MWPAI received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts- and in 2002, received the Outstanding Upstate Arts Organization award presented by the Alliance for NY State Arts Organizations. In 2002 Bloch received the Humanitarian of the Year award from the American Lung Association.
Upon his appointment, Bloch pledged a complete immersion in the Institute and the community-at-large. During his tenure he advised and assisted more than 50 area organizations including The Utica Symphony, Sculpture Space, JCTOD, GroWest, the City of Utica, Village of New Hartford and the Oneida County Historical Society. He has served as President of the Boards of Trustees for Faxton-St. Lukes Healthcare and The Community Foundation of Herkimer Oneida Counties.
“There are many organizations that were fortunate to benefit from his experience and willingness to devote his time to others,” Spiridigloizzi said. “He was a decent man who made a positive difference.”
Bloch was a graduate of Pratt Institute in New York City with a degree in industrial design. He also has a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Florida. After graduation, he became head of the art department in a community college in central Florida, and then director of the Pensacola Art Center in Pensacola, Florida. He has held positions as director of the Museum of Science and History in Little Rock, Arkansas, director of the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, New Jersey, and for 14 years was executive director of the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Bloch is survived by his wife, Mary Karen Vellines, daughters Kimberly Laakso and Farrell Hudzik, brother J. Stanley Bloch, and four grandchildren.
Donations may be made to the Mint Museum, 500 S. Tryon St., Charlotte, NC and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, 310 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y. 13502.
MWPAI Exhibition Explores Graphic Novels
The dramatic art of a significant emerging literary genre will be explored in the exhibition, “LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel,” on view March 4 through April 29 in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art.
In this look at the development and current practices of sequential art, also known as the graphic novel, “LitGraphic” showcases 200 original paintings, drawings, storyboards, notebooks, comic books, photographs, and a documentary film, offering insight into the lives of the artists and the nature of their work.
Featured artists and writers include pioneers Lynd Ward (“Vertigo”) and Will Eisner (“The Spirit”) as well as contemporaries including Sue Coe and Marc Hempel, whose illustrations for Neil Gaiman’s groundbreaking “Sandman” are on view also.
Mary E. Murray, MWPAI Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, said comics have always been an important influence on modern and contemporary artists, from Lyonel Feininger, to Willem DeKooning and Roy Lichtenstein “The art of these publications is more than light entertainment, it is serious commentary on contemporary culture, and we are excited to present this important component of visual culture to our patrons,” she added. Murray noted that more than 60 years ago, the Museum of Art showcased an exhibition of drawings by cartoonist William Steig, creator of the character Shrek- and an exhibition of Milton Caniff’s Steve Canyon comics.
Published in book form, graphic novels employ words and pictures to address thought-provoking subjects that will serve as the thematic framework for the exhibition. Commentary by artists and curators focusing on recurring subjects, artistic and cultural influences, and the climate that impacts the creative process will be woven throughout the exhibition where contemporary art meets traditional America.
An increasing number of artists are choosing to express themselves through graphic novels, which have received increased recognition in the popular sector, in noted periodicals including “The New York Times,” “The New Yorker” and in classrooms, libraries, and bookstores throughout the United States and abroad. A graphic novel employs the technique of cinematographic narrative, developed by comic-book artists, telling the story through metaphors and visual images, particularly images of action.
Graphic novels, or long-form comic books, have started to gain the interest and consideration of the art and literary establishment. Graphic novels, with their antiheroes and visual appeal, are approaching the popularity of the novel. Focused on subjects as diverse as the nature of relationships, the perils of war, and the meaning of life, graphic novels comprise the fastest-growing sections of many bookstores.
“LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel” is organized and toured by the Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Illustration: Lynd Ward’s “Beowulf wrestles with Grendel”, 1933 (Courtesy Wikipedia).
Thomas Hicks Trenton Falls Paintings Acquired
Two regionally significant landscape paintings of Trenton Falls, New York by the 19th-century American artist Thomas Hicks (1823-90), recently acquired by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art for its permanent collection, are presently displayed in the Edward Wales Root Sculpture Court. The landscapes are just two of the numerous treasures unveiled for the first time in the exhibition, “Enhancing a Legacy: Gifts, Promised Gifts, and Acquisitions in Honor of the Museum of Art’s 75th Anniversary.”
Hicks was one of the United State’s most successful mid-century portraitists. His summer sojourns in central New York State, and his personal friendship with Michael and Maria Moore, who owned and managed the fashionable Trenton Falls Hotel, led him to paint a sensitive group portrait of the Moore family, and the two important landscapes the Museum recently acquired with financial assistance of several donors.
The landscapes are intimate views of two of the sequence of rivulets, cascades, waterfalls, and pools that make up Trenton Falls, a picturesque tourist site in Oneida County. The landscapes hung in the lobby of the Trenton Falls Hotel for many decades. After descending in the Moore family they passed into the hands of a local family who owned them for approximately 60 years before being acquired by the Museum of Art.
Now, installed in mid-19th-century style frames, the two landscapes, along with Hicks’s portrait of the Moore family, are displayed in the Museum for the first time in more than 20 years. To mark this historic event the Museum has published a brochure with an insightful essay about the pictures written by Dr. David Tatham of Syracuse University. Additional insights about the paintings will be presented by Dr. Paul D. Schweizer, Museum Director & Chief Curator, in a lecture titled, “A Look Behind the Falls: The Museum’s Newly Acquired Trenton Falls Landscapes by Thomas Hicks” 4 p.m. Thursday, December 8 in the Museum of Art Auditorium.
Schweizer’s lecture is the second in a three-part series that will be presented by the Museum’s curatorial team in November, December, and January of 2012. Each lecture will provide behind-the-scenes remarks about the reasoning and effort that led to the acquisition of some of the artworks displayed for the first time in the Enhancing a Legacy exhibition. The series is designed to provide insights about the curatorial process, an essential but sometime little-known function for any public museum that collects, preserves, and interprets works of art. All three of the lectures are free and open to the public. Check the “Events” calendar of the Institute’s Bulletin or the Institute’s web site for the dates of the two other lectures in this series.
Illustration: Thomas Hicks (1823-1890), The Musicale, Barber Shop, Trenton Falls, New York, 1866. Courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh.
Ansel Adams Masterworks Exhibit in Utica
Images of the American West by the premier photographer of the 20th Century will be showcased in the major exhibition, Ansel Adams: Masterworks through January 8 in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art in Utica.
The collection of 48 images by Ansel Adams (1902-84) represents two-thirds of his Museum Set, a selection the photographer himself made to represent the best of his life’s work. In these images one sees the importance Adams placed on the drama and splendor of natural environments, particularly in the American West. Visitors to the exhibition will see iconic Adams’ images such as Monolith, the Face of Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, 1927 and Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, 1941.
Adams, a California native, first photographed Yosemite National Park at the tender age of 14 with a Kodak Box Brownie. He fell in love with the forests, valleys, and sublime rock formations there and soon dedicated his life to photographing and advocating for the conservation of the environment. In the 1920s Adams became a guide for the Sierra Club at Yosemite, where he covered the terrain via burro or woody station wagon, setting up his large camera and tripod on the roof of the car. He would be active in the Sierra Club for nearly five decades.
Adams’ stature in the history of photography is monumental. With Edward Weston, he was co-founder of the California–based photography group named f64, which emphasized “straight” or “pure” photography over soft-focus pictorialism. Photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who was an important influence on Adams, gave him a one-artist show at the New York City gallery, An American Place, in 1936. In 1941 Adams was commissioned by the Department of the Interior to document western national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Carlsbad Caverns. He received the competitive Guggenheim Fellowship three times- was a consultant for Polaroid- was named to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s environmental task force in 1965- was a co-founder of both the Friends of Photography and the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in 1967- was the subject of a major retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as a cover story subject for Time magazine in 1979- and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Jimmy Carter in 1980. In 1985, on the first anniversary of his death, Yosemite National Park named “Mount Ansel Adams” on the Merced River. Throughout his long career Adams was also an influential teacher- he lectured extensively and wrote several books.
A technical master, Adams developed the Zone System for black-and-white photography, in which light is divided into eleven zones, from pure black to white. This system regulated light exposure and development of negatives in the dark room in order to maximize the photographer’s control of each print. Such control was imperative for Adams, who believed photography reflected the maker’s emotional response to his subject matter.
Photo: Ansel Adams from the 1950 Yosemite Field School yearbook (Wikipedia Photo).
American Modernism at Fenimore Museum
Some of the best of American Modernist art will be featured at the Fenimore Art Museum this summer in Prendergast to Pollock: American Modernism from the Munson-Williams Proctor Arts Institute. This exhibition, which opened last week, showcases 35 key works from every major artist from the first half of the 20th century, including Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.
Organized by subject matter, the exhibition displays the radical transformation of art in the early 20th-century. In an innovative interpretation, three thematic sections—landscapes, figure studies, and still lifes—will reference 19th-century traditions that the artworks were built upon.
Exhibition labels will refer Museum visitors to other galleries in the Museum where they can view examples of these precedents. Museum President and CEO, Dr. Paul S. D’Ambrosio, explains: “These three subject areas of the exhibition reflect the 19th-century pieces in the Permanent Collection of the Fenimore Art Museum. The interpretation itself will help bridge the gap between traditionalism and modernism, allowing the exhibition to resonate with fans of both styles.”
While some celebrated 20th-century painters built upon 19th-century artistic traditions, others consciously sought to rebel against those same traditions. It began with the Ashcan school protesting against elitism by being more inclusive with their subject matter. As the American Modernism movement grew, Abstract Expressionism liberated color and form from the description of objects, creating the revolutionary artwork featured in the fourth and final section of the exhibition.
This sea of change brought the center of the art world to New York City, shifting away from the traditional capitol of Paris. Prendergast to Pollock uniquely represents the art of this era.
This traveling exhibition was organized by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts institute Museum of Art, Utica, New York. The national tour sponsor for the exhibition is the MetLife Foundation. The Henry Luce Foundation provided funding for the conservation of artworks in the exhibition.
For more information visit the Fenimore Art Museum’s website.
Illustration: Jackson Pollock. Number 34, 1949, 1949. Enamel on paper mounted on masonite. 22 x 30-1/2 in. Edward W. Root Bequest. Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, NY.
Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns
Vera Wang, Christian Dior, Paco Rabanne, Zac Posen, and Bob Mackie are just a few of the world-renowned designers whose creations are showcased in “Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns” on view June 19 through September 18 in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art in Utica.
Wedding gowns are the ultimate in fashion opulence. This monumental exhibition, the most impressive ever presented on the wedding gown and the largest in MWPAI history, showcases 50 gowns dating from the 1700s to today.
From vintage to vogue, gilded to goth, these fashion masterpieces are the epitome of artistry, illustrating how the same styles that pervade the fine and decorative arts in the Museum’s collection manifest themselves in fashion art.
Ancient Greek and Roman motifs, which saturated American arts in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, are embodied in the empire waistline, sheer material, and columnar outline of an 1801 gown in “Wedded Perfection.” The bride would have eschewed the opulent heavy silks and structured gowns associated with French and English 18th-century aristocracy of a generation earlier, and as captured in a 1763 emerald-colored, brocaded-silk gown in the exhibition.
Designers transform extraordinary ideas into clothing. Each gown in “Wedded Perfection” relates a story about cultural values, the bride, or the creator of the dress. Dressmaker Ellen Curtis (1850-1923), for example, wanted her own wedding dress to serve as a showpiece, a way to entice more ladies to call on her needle-working artistry. In the exhibition, her stylish wedding dress illustrates a mastery of skill and tailoring techniques and an awareness of all the latest fashions. Contemporary couture designer Zac Posen fashioned an imaginative vision into an extravagant dress for his sister’s 2004 marriage. The intense color and six-foot train ornamented with silk poppies are inspired by the movie “The Wizard of Oz” and reflect the bride’s sense of style. The train in its entirety can be seen in the exhibition.
“Wedded Perfection” will explore the origin of western bridal traditions, trendsetting wedding dresses, contemporary and avant-garde wedding dresses, influential designers and periods when the “traditional” white wedding dress was not worn.
When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840, she popularized the mode for the single-use white wedding gown. Not all women could afford such a luxury, and dresses of numerous colors are represented in the exhibition. When Evelyn Marie Wright married during the depression, for example, her family was not in a position to buy an elaborate wedding gown. Her future mother-in-law, an accomplished seamstress, crafted a fashionable dress from machine-made lace. The bride chose blue, her favorite color, and despite the high neckline of the dress, its sleek, form-fitting shape and light fabric are alluring.
The variety of styles in the exhibition illustrates how each bride makes a personal statement. As exemplified by the lace, tulle, feathers, fur, rhinestones, and flowered trim on the gowns, the wedding dress is an artistic canvas. The dress may be the most elaborate piece of clothing a woman will ever wear and the one garment in which she is assured rapturous attention. An opulent 1887 gown is ornamented with silver beads, faux pearls, and wax orange blossoms, a symbol of purity. Thirty-four years later, a 1921 dress also elaborately decorated with pearls, demonstrates how quickly fashion arts revolutionize.
With gowns that vary from a fairytale princess style to a 1967 installation piece by celebrated international artist Christo, this exhibition will examine the compelling allure of the glamorous wedding dress for modern women and its present iconic stature. A gown by New Hartford, N.Y., native and Emmy-award winning designer David Zyla evokes historical antecedents interpreted in an ultra-modern and chic manner. Likewise, dresses by Vera Wang illustrate her trendsetting designs of elegant formfitting, strapless dresses.
Including elaborate fashion statements and extreme runway samples by leading designers, “Wedded Perfection” is organized by the Cincinnati Art Museum. Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute is the only other venue for the exhibition. A fully illustrated catalogue will be available in the Gift Gallery.
Special Exhibition Admission: MWPAI Members—first visit free with the voucher that you will receive in the mail- subsequent visits, $5. General Admission—$10
Group tour rates, which include a guided tour and offer a gourmet luncheon on the Fountain Elms Terrace, are available for groups of 20 or more. Contact Ellen Cramer at (315) 797-0000, ext. 2149, for more information.
Photo: Christian Dior (1905-57) France, Wedding Ensemble: Dress, Crinoline, and Headpiece, 1954, linen, silk, Gift of Countess de Rochambeau.
Student Organized Exhibit Highlights Museum Collection
”Follow the Light: Fine and Decorative Arts in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute,” opening April 14 is an exhibition organized by students in the Exploring Museum Careers High School Partnership Program, and examines a broad range of works from the Museum’s collection by tracing the connection each shares with a recent Museum acquisition.
Josiah McElheny’s, Chromatic Modernism (Yellow, Blue, Red), (2008), chosen for the museum collection by Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Mary Murray in honor of the MWPAI 75th anniversary, is the centerpiece for the exhibition. The exhibition shows how such diverse art works as a Tiffany lamp, c. 1900, and a Stuart Davis watercolor, Colors of Spring in the Harbor (1939), are a part of the history behind McElheny’s work, setting up an unexpected relationship between these and a variety of other works from the collection.
A gallery talk will be presented by the exhibition’s student curators at 5:30 p.m. A reception will follow the talk. Follow the Light remains on view through July 7.
The students, Amy Gleitsmann, Journey Gyi, Annalyn McNamara, Andy Mendez, and Roxanna Pineda, from Thomas R. Proctor High School in Utica, and Eliza Bell, Mary Bonomo, and Marlee Mitchell, from Clinton Senior High School, all worked together with Institute staff on all aspects of producing the exhibition, from selecting the objects to leading tours. The students met and worked with other museum staff to learn about each person’s career background and role at the museum. The students completed regular assignments and participated in art research, publication design, marketing, exhibition layout and installation, arranging public programs and tours- and producing an audioguide of the exhibition.
For more information about the program, contact Museum Education Director, April Oswald, at 797-0000 ext. 2144, or [email protected]. Upon the opening of the exhibition, listen to the exhibition audioguide at www.mwpai.org/museum/events.
Utica Exhibition Highlights Holiday Season
A mixture of greenery and finery marks the Victorian Yuletide celebration that opens in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art period rooms in Fountain Elms Friday, November 26 and remains on view through January 2, 2011. This annual exhibition brings to life an historical 19th-century Christmas and illustrates the origins of many of today’s Holiday customs.
This year, the dining room and parlor will be arranged to depict an evening party called a kettledrum. At this type of affair, somewhat of a predecessor to the 20th-century cocktail party, the dining table was set with a buffet of cold entrees, salads, fruit, cakes, and other sweets. Guests were served eggnog, tea, coffee, wine, and claret or champagne.
One author of etiquette books noted that at a kettledrum, an assortment of unmatching china should be used, which added to the festive appearance of the table. In keeping with all these traditions, the dining room will feature a bountiful table setting using all of the best crystal, silver, and china, and highlighted by an elaborate Yuletide centerpiece.
The Successful Housekeeper (1882) provides a detailed description of a kettledrum: “At a kettledrum, the time is passed in greeting friends, disconnected fragments of conversation, listening to music or recitations, and, best of all, in partaking of good cheer from the groaning refreshment table.”
After “partaking of good cheer,” a guest could retire to the parlor to enjoy music and the profuse Christmas decorations of greenery and a table-top tree. Despite the convivial gathering and abundant food and spirits, guests were expected to follow certain proprieties. The Successful Housekeeper also noted that: “[Women’s] bonnets are not discarded and only one hand is ungloved. The experienced guest hardly ever remains more than an hour.”
The Museum’s other period rooms will be adorned with various types of Christmas trees. The library will feature a German putz—a traditional miniature farm scene featuring buildings, animals, and figures. The Museum’s putz belonged to the Williams family, whose daughters, Rachel and Maria, grew up in Fountain Elms. The girls’ diaries from the 1860s record the simple gifts they received: books, cornucopias filled with candy, pens and journals, and paper dolls.
In the manner of our forebearers, the period rooms will be dressed with a variety of greenery, ribbon, wreaths, and flowers and with the beauty of autumn, which was harvested and laid aside for the bleak winter holidays. Nineteenth-century toys and games will be on display. All of the decorations that grace the period rooms are based on 19th-century accounts of how a home as grand as Fountain Elms would have been decorated for the Holiday season.