***New publication announced!
Latin American Art at the Allen Memorial Art Museum
This 112-page catalogue of the AMAM’s collection of Latin American art of the 20th and 21st centuries includes more than 80 color illustrations. Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Denise Birkhofer chronicles the history and growth of the collection, which began in the 1930s and has grown to more than 200 works. An essay by Steven S. Volk, a professor of history at Oberlin College, tells how he has used the AMAM’s Latin American works to engage students in new ways. A foreword by Andria Derstine, John G.W. Cowles Director, discusses the AMAM’s pre-modern works from the region.
The catalog is available for $20.00 at the museum sales desk, or by calling 440-775-8665.
The exhibition Latin American and Latino Art at the Allen opens on Tuesday, September 2.
More information can be found online here.
“What happened to my closet?” asked Harry Hunsicker of Dallas, TX (Oberlin College, class of 1952) one Saturday in June 2014, as he and his half-sister Gretchen Weltzheimer Holden (OC 1963) of Portland, OR, walked through their former family home, the Weltzheimer/Johnson House. Harry and Gretchen were two of the four Weltzheimer children who moved into the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Usonian on April 1, 1949. Their observations and memories were of keen interest to volunteer docents Fred Unwin and Janice Patterson, Curator of Education Jason Trimmer, Oberlin College architect Pradnya Martz, and education assistants Sara Morgan and Victoria Velasco who trailed them through the rooms.
The house will be open this Sunday from 12pm until 5pm (and the first and third Sundays of the month from April through November), and we welcome visitors from all around the world. Student and community volunteer interpreters will be on hand to discuss the architecture and story of the house.
Interpreters of the W/J House are greatly advantaged to have the meticulously-researched guide that was published in 1995 as a bulletin of the Allen Memorial Art Museum, but found that the commentary by original occupants added significantly to the total story. Their visit and patient responses to the questions from the assembled group were recorded and documented as part of the museum’s efforts to preserve the social history of the house. Some interesting notes from that conversation:
· - “Yes, we did Minwax those spheres [along the roof edge],” said Gretchen. “When we didn’t seem to have enough to do, Mother would send us out to do more waxing.”
· - “I sat right there and studied,” Harry said, pointing to the built-in desk in the room he had occupied and explaining that he completed his degree at Oberlin while living at home and for a time at North Hall.
· - “I had bunk beds here,” Gretchen remembered. “I don’t know why I wanted them as they are miserable to sleep in.” Gretchen also recalled that half-sister Mary Ann wanted “a room that was cold” and she got her wish living in the last bedroom on the corridor.
· - “We never quite got the driveway finished,” Harry recalled, as he marveled at the still- expansive front lawn and the size of the perimeter trees, but lamented the loss of the woods behind the house.
· - Gretchen related that Harry and Mary Ann played a lot of croquet on the front lawn, but that she and her younger sister Kristin were too-often excluded as being “too little.”
· - “My father played the violin and mother played the piano,” Gretchen said, recalling her glorious sixth-grade graduation party staged by sister Mary Ann. She said the children all had music lessons and today she still attends concerts regularly.
· - “Mother was always reading,” Harry said, when asked if he knew how his mother discovered Wright’s architecture. “Those bookshelves in the hall were completely filled,” added Gretchen.
Harry had last visited the home when Ellen Johnson was living there and remembered her Claes Oldenburg art adorning the space. He was accompanied on his 2014 trip to Oberlin by his son Harry, also of Dallas. Friends of Gretchen from Akron and childhood friend Prue Richards of Oberlin toured the house with her. A third child, Mary Ann, was not able to make it to Oberlin. Unfortunately, the youngest Weltzheimer, Kristin, died in 2012. Margaret Boesche Weltzheimer died in Texas in 1966 and Charles Weltzheimer died in California in 2001.
More information on the Weltzheimer/Johnson House, including tour information and directions, can be found online here.
From the Vault: Los Angeles artist Tim Hawkinson’s diverse body of work explores machines, the body, and nature through drawings, photography, inflated latex casts, and mechanical constructions. The Fin Within is a cast of the space between the full length of the artist’s legs, from the top of his thighs to the soles of his feet. Hawkinson pressed his knees together, creating visible negative spaces that he inscribed with a crisscross pattern like the scales of a sea creature. When seen from behind, the sculpture resembles a serpentlike tail; from the front it emphasizes a fanlike webbing of the feet. From the sides, meanwhile, the impression made by the artist’s leg muscles is clearly visible. All of these various references allow Hawkinson to muse playfully on man’s relationship with other species, mythological creatures, or inventions, such as flippers worn by scuba divers. The word “fin” in the work’s title prods the viewer to further engage ideas of motion, steering, and stabilizing-all within a piece that is essentially static. As in many of Hawkinson’s other works, the subject is his own body, which he seeks to transform, fictionalize, and transcend. Hawkinson’s explorations resonate with fellow California artist Bruce Nauman’s own examinations of his body a generation or two before Hawkinson.
This self-portrait, life-size but fragmentary, evokes ancient and modern references that expand as the work is situated in different contexts. Hawkinson’s interdisciplinary approach to art and meaning connects with a broad range of works in the AMAM collection, including sculptures like Kiki Smith’s Untitled IV (Shield), a 1990 plaster cast of a friend’s pregnant belly. Equally intriguing are Fin’s resonances with works like Rubens’s The Finding of Erichthonius (1632-33), whose mythical subject is the snake-legged infant son of Vulcan and Gaea.
Tim Hawkinson (American, b. 1960)
The Fin Within, 1998
Aluminum and plaster
Ruth C. Roush Contemporary Art Fund and Art Object Sales Fund, 2008.6
Now on View: Thomas Satterwhite Noble’s The Present, a striking representation of a middle-aged, African-American woman, is one in a series of his paintings that explores the political and individualized implications of the Civil War and abolitionism. In this work, Noble depicts the allegorical figure as a statement on the African-American condition immediately following the end of the war. This work was painted in July of 1865, only three months after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and five months before the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which abolished the institution of slavery. Perhaps most intriguing about this work is that the status of the woman—who also appears as a model in another work by Noble—is left ambiguous for the viewer to ponder. The woman in the painting stares straight at the viewer with tired eyes as she leisurely puffs from a pipe. In the lower left corner, a bountiful, albeit messy, array of produce is strewn across the floor. Her glistening gold ring is also prominently displayed in the center foreground. These factors, in conversation with the ghostly portrait of Abraham Lincoln in the top right corner, indicate that the woman may be newly emancipated. However, the book nestled underneath her foot, which signifies her illiteracy, as well as the dilapidated interior and her shabby clothing may suggest that she is still enslaved.
This work is a recent acquisition for the museum’s collection and is currently on view in Stern Gallery where the entirety of the “Life and Art in Early America” exhibit is being shown through June of 2015.
Thomas Satterwhite Noble (American, 1835–1907)
The Present, 1865
Oil on canvas
R. T. Miller Jr. Fund and James K. (OC 1946) and Anne Fassett (OC 1947) Sunshine American Art Fund, 2014.30
Today we mark the birthday of German artist Käthe Kollwitz, born on this date in 1867. The AMAM owns twelve works by the artist, four of which are now on display in the exhibition Between Fact and Fantasy: The Artistic Imagination in Print.
Kollwitz’s compelling portrayal of a peasant uprising uses gritty realism and heart-rending imagery to depict an historical event that she did not witness. For all their unflinching representations of human suffering, aggression, and death, the scenes are based on her imaginative interpretation of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1522–25 that occurred in Germany during the Protestant Revolution. Intended as the first print in the series, The Plowers shows peasants—too poor to own work horses—harnessed to their plow. Outbreak presents the rousing figure of Black Anna, as Kollwitz named her, at the forefront of an onslaught of peasants wielding their farming tools, the only weapons available to them. One of the last images in the series, Battlefield heartbreakingly underscores the inevitable outcome of war: the search for a missing loved one.
Although these specific events occurred before Kollwitz’s time, she was no stranger to what she called the “insanity” of war. Based in Berlin, she lived through two world wars, losing her son in World War I and enduring the poverty and disenchantment of the Weimar Republic between the two wars. Her personal experiences, as well as her observations of the less fortunate around her, undoubtedly informed the agonizing and gripping images she created.
Between Fact and Fantasy remains on view through July 27, 2014.
Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945)
The Battlefield (Schlachtfeld), from the series The Peasants’ Revolt (Bauernkrieg), 1907
Etching and soft-ground etching
Gift of Pamela and James Elesh (OC 1964), 2012.28
With the King Sculpture Court ceiling currently undergoing conservation, all works normally on view have been moved to storage. Sadly, this includes our Japanese Coiling Dragon, easily one of the most popular works on view. So, we thought it would make a fitting subject for our first-ever gif! What do you think?
Japanese dragons, like other dragons, are fearsome and powerful creatures. However, they are also considered to be just and benevolent, often bringing wealth and good fortune to those who see them. Dragons also serve as water deities in Japan and are associated with rainfall and bodies of water. Fittingly, the coiling dragon here served as a fountain out in the museum’s courtyard for a number of years. For its original function, an incense basin rested on a stylized plume of water spouting from the dragon’s mouth.
Coiling Dragon, Meiji period, late 19th century
Gift of Charles F. Olney, 1904.723
Great weather (well, warm weather)… the Oberlin Chalk Walk… and gallery re-installations. Summer has arrived officially! Our two thematic exhibitions on Realism closed on Sunday, and the galleries are being prepped for next year’s shows. Three temporary exhibitions are still on view through much of July: Between Fact and Fantasy, The Legacy of Socialist Realism, and Prints and Printmaking.
Get a sneak peek of the 2014-15 exhibition calendar here - it promises to be an exciting and thought-provoking year!