Thursday, Oct. 3 – Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, Faulconer Gallery
Starting on Thursday, Oct. 3, "From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum, 1606 – 1884" will be on display at the Faulconer Gallery. The exhibition presents almost 100 rare and beautiful books drawn from the collection of Florence Fearrington, a former trustee of Grinnell College.
Modern museums and art galleries have their origins in late Renaissance private collections of artifacts gathered for study and admiration. These collections, or "wunderkammers," were the work of scholars, kings and priests, each driven to gather pieces of the world and fashion a personally coherent whole. "From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum" documents the fascinating intersection of science and art in these collections, and explores the shift from private spaces to public institutions.
The exhibition at Faulconer Gallery is an edited version of the 2012 exhibition "Rooms of Wonder: From Wunderkammer to Museum 1599-1899," presented at the Grolier Club in New York. Lesley Wright, director of the Faulconer Gallery and lecturer in art, explains, "The 93 works assembled for the Faulconer's exhibition shed light on the beginnings of systematic collections as a part of the early modern explosion of knowledge. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of cabinets of curiosities (or Wunderkammers), this exhibition is ideal for a college museum."
Faulconer Gallery will host the following public events while "Wunderkammer" is on display:
- Thurs., Oct. 3, 4:15 p.m.: "Is a Crocodile a Work of Art? Seeing Objects in the Cabinet of Curiosities," a gallery talk by Paula Findlen, Ubaldo Pierotti Professor of Italian History and Director, Suppes Center for the History and Philosophy of Science, Stanford University. Co-sponsored by the Center for Humanities.
- Thurs., Oct. 3, 5 p.m.: Opening reception. Refreshments will be served.
- Mondays and Thursdays, 12:15 p.m.: Yoga in the gallery with Monica St. Angelo for beginners and experienced practitioners. Co-sponsored by Live Well Grinnell. Mats are provided.
- Sat., Oct. 12, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.: All ages welcome to the gallery's Community Day. Tour exhibitions and enjoy exciting interactive, hands-on activities. Refreshments will be served.
- Sun., Oct. 13, 7 p.m.: Indie musician Wesley Stace will bring his collection of singers, musicians, poets, and entertainers to Grinnell's Sebring-Lewis Hall.
- Sun., Nov. 17, 2 p.m.: Royce Wolf, associate professor of mathematics and statistics, will play piano, featuring selections by Sergei Prokofiev, Paul Hindemith, Charles Ives, and Béla Bartók.
- Tues., Nov. 19, 4:15 p.m.: "Wonder and Culture." Vance Byrd, assistant professor of German; Vanessa Lyon, assistant professor of art; and Catherine Rod, special collections librarian, archivist of the College, and associate professor, will present a panel exploring how wonder infused and shaped cultural expression in the early modern period.
- Thurs., Nov. 21, 4:15 p.m.: "Wonder and the Scientific Method." James Lee, assistant professor of English; Tammy Nyden, associate professor of philosophy; and Joshua Sandquist, assistant professor of biology, will present a panel that brings together the idea of wonder with the development of science as we know it today.
- Thurs., Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m.: Fresh Flutes concert, directed by Claudia Anderson, applied music associate.
- Tues., Dec. 3, 4:15 p.m.: "Evolving the Modern Museum." Students in Lesley Wright's Museum Studies class will explore selected pieces in the exhibition and discuss their significance in relation to contemporary museum practice.
"From Wunderkammer to the Modern Museum, 1606 – 1884" is open through Dec. 15. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, and admission is free.
Also on view in Burling Library is "Journeys of Wonder: From Curiosity to Insight," curated by Catherine Rod and Chris Jones, along with Chase Booth '16 and Sam Dunnington '14. "Journeys of Wonder" will be on display Sept. 27 through Feb. 14, 2014.
Friday, Sept. 20 – Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, Faulconer Gallery
"Stocked: Contemporary Art from the Grocery Aisles," curated by Emily Stamey ’01, brings the grocery store to the gallery.
"Stocked" compiles the work of contemporary artists who take the grocery store and consumption of its products as their subjects. Shopping carts, candy wrappers, grocery lists, paper bags, milk bottles, and cereal boxes — these ordinary, often overlooked items emerge as objects for artistic investigation.
Stamey, associate curator at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, explains how her interest in grocery stores began: "It stemmed from both a scholarly interest in pop art and a personal interest in food. I loved the idea of a project that would focus on the common denominator of grocery shopping — an activity that all of us, regardless of gender, class, or race has experienced."
The result? An exhibition that presents the work of contemporary artists who keenly and cleverly interrogate the grocery items we purchase, the environments in which we shop, the social frameworks we encounter there, and the cultural norms that inform our habits of consumption.
Faulconer Gallery is hosting the following events related to “Stocked”:
- Sept. 20 – Dec. 15: Faulconer Gallery will hold a food drive for donations to Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA).
- 4:15 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20: Emily Stamey, associate curator, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, will introduce the exhibition.
- 5:15 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20: Opening reception. Refreshments will be served.
- 12:15 p.m., Mondays and Thursdays: Yoga in the gallery with Monica St. Angelo for beginners and experienced practitioners. Co-sponsored by Live Well Grinnell. Mats are provided.
- 4:15 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 24: Doug Hess, assistant professor of political science; and Rachel Porath, county director, MICA, will provide local, state, and national perspectives on issues of food security.
- 4:15 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 26: "Full House: Pop Art, Domesticity, and Consumer Culture." Christin Mamiya, associate dean and Hixson-Lied Professor of Art History, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, will address the consumer culture of the 1960s and how pop art developed.
- 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 12: All ages welcome to the gallery's Community Day. Tour exhibitions and enjoy exciting, interactive, hands-on activities. Refreshments will be served.
- 4:15 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 29: Artist Scott Blake will talk about his work with barcodes, including "I Am What I Eat," featured in "Stocked."
- 4:15 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 7: Roundtable discussion and reading with Camille T. Dungy, author of "What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison," and professor of creative writing, San Francisco State University. Co-sponsored by Writers@Grinnell and WOW! Wonder of Words Festival.
"Stocked " is open through Dec. 15. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, and admission is free.
The exhibition is organized by the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, Kansas. The exhibition has been generously supported by the Lois Kay Walls Foundation Trust, Spirit AeroSystems, Delta Dental, Richard D. Smith and Sondra M. Langel, and additional private sponsors.
Sunday, 21 March, will be your final opportunity to see the current exhibitions in the Faulconer Gallery, Influence and Repeat, Reveal React: Identities in Flux. The Gallery will be closed for installation from 22 March until 6 April, when we will reopen with but here all dreams equal distance, a collaborative poetry project with Terri Witek and Cyriaco Lopes, offered in conjunction with Writers@Grinnell.
Shanghai was our last stop in China, and I was unable to post a blog about our experiences before we flew home. As the largest city in China, Shanghai (the city) is home to as many people as Florida (the state). Not only do about 20 million people call the city home, but Shanghai is currently hosting World Expo 2010, which is averaging about 500,000 visitors A DAY. Needless-to-say, Shanghai was crowded, particularly in the places which tourists frequent. We made our pilgrimages to The Bund, gazing across the river at the high-rise extravaganza of Pudong; to Nanjing Road with its historic and contemporary department stores and shopping malls, neon lights, and throngs; and to People’s Park with its gardens and museums. Warning: do not take the subway in Shanghai between 5:00 and 7:00 pm if you are claustrophobic.
But there are areas where we got away from the crowds and discovered a less frenetic side of Shanghai. In the early 20th century, Shanghai was controlled by European countries, each of which had their own “concession” or area under their governmental control. The French Concession is still an historic district within the Shanghai master plan and retains a quieter pace, with few high rises and a European feel to the streets and shops. We took the metro to the French Concession one evening for dinner, and to another part the next morning to stroll the streets.
When we visited the Urban Planning Institute, we learned more about the parts of the city that the Chinese will preserve in the future. The third floor of the Urban Planning Institute has an enormous scale model of the city, which really drives home the size of the urban landscape. Without a preservation plan, it’s clear that Shanghai would likely lose most of its historic treasures in the mad march to modernize and provide for its millions of inhabitants. Luckily they are working to protect the past as they create the future.
The Shanghai Museum is an amazing institution—one of the premier museums of Chinese art and culture. Like the Nanjing Museum, it has galleries devoted to ceramics, jade, bronzes, lacquerware, but it also has extensive galleries of Chinese painting and calligraphy. We knew we couldn’t see it all, so we concentrated on the paintings, ceramics and bronzes. We had not had the chance to really look at an extensive collection of historic Chinese painting and we thoroughly enjoyed our time with the scrolls. The collection is installed chronologically, which is typical in Chinese museums, so we could see stylistic evolutions. The labels, however, were quite connoisseurial, relating each artist to his predecessors and noting the age of the artist at the time he created the scroll. The labels were not very helpful in pointing out stylistic details or information about the subject.
The huge bronze collection at the Shanghai Museum was a revelation. The pieces, again chronological, were beautifully presented in special cases with good labels. We were amazed by the intricacy and workmanship of the bronze vessels, which were as much as 5,000 years old. The galleries finished with a section showing, step by step, how bronzes were cast, which was very informative.
Across the park is MOCA Shanghai. The curator, Victoria Lu, visited Grinnell a few years ago and I was interested to see her museum. The structure is contemporary and dramatic in design. The day we visited an Italian motor scooter manufacturer was rolling out three new bikes and the entrance was taken up with promoters and fans of the product. Inside was a most peculiar show called “Stay Real Forever,” which purported to be a view of the 21st-century generation’s sensibilities. It featured work by KEA, an appropriation artist, No2Good, a creator of popular culture figures (a sort of Chinese Hello Kitty), and Ashin, a rock musician who also fancies himself an artist. The work all tried to critique culture in fairly heavy handed and obvious ways. The cartoony quality of the pieces had a nice commercial sheen and the “mousy” figures were wildly popular with the camera-wielding teens visiting MOCA. I was not convinced. C
I may have been unfairly prejudiced against the exhibition since we went straight there from the MoGanShan art district, where we saw a lot of galleries and some really remarkable shows. But I’ll save that story for another blog.
Television is a funny medium. It brings us together through shared viewing experiences, and it isolates us in a pool of light in a darkened room. We look to the ubiquitous box for information, forgetting that what we see is produced and edited to fit a format. What we receive is someone’s creation.
How fitting, then, for artists to create art from the created reality of television. The four summer exhibitions at the Faulconer Gallery (Grinnell College) delve into the least scripted moments of television as well as the manufactured realities received through the airwaves. Two of the exhibitions are specifically based on TV as a medium. The other two dig deeper into the desires that undergird American life. The 4 exhibitions were curated by Dan Strong, our curator of exhibitions and the Gallery’s associate director.
Like a bank of TV monitors, the exhibitions present a sea of familiar (and not so familiar) faces. Viewers will challenge one another to identify this or that famous person. Michael Van den Besselaar snags the images for his portraits from TV screens. Caught in a single frame, they lose all quality of animation and are oddly specific and anonymous at the same time. He further underscores the brutality of TV by including his Larger Than Life series—black and white images of the famous and unknown in death, or, as Dan says, their final close-up. Backing onto these paintings is an actual bank of TV monitors showing Harry Shearer’s (yes, that Harry Shearer) The Silent Echo Chamber. We learn in these largely silent, endless minutes, that all those people we are used to seeing and hearing in animated discussion of the day’s events, first have to sit, and sit, and sit in front of the camera, waiting to be cued. How long must they wait, we wonder? What do they think about as they fidget, stare, or slump? What would we do for minutes on end, with our nothingness recorded on film for posterity?
Watching TV has a lot to do with desire. We want to know. We want to consume. We want to live vicariously. Desire in its most elemental form drives the virtuoso painting Feast by Brian Drury. Without giving too much away, Drury paints the base desires of our creature companions on this American continent, doing what they must to survive and thrive.
Mark Wagner makes desire explicit, in a sense, by literally creating his art out of money, dollar bills to be precise. Cutting and collaging the myriad details found on the two surfaces of our most common piece of paper, he makes tour-de-force portraits and recreations of famous paintings. Familiar faces from Chuck Close to Mona Lisa, commodified by their monetary materials, underscore the connection between price and value. He pushes this connection further with titles like Employee of the Month, 2006 and Fortune’s Daughter, 2005, which depict people we are unlikely to know but who get their moment of fame (at a specific dollar value) at the hands of the artist.
The exhibition left me thinking about desire, and how it isn’t always pretty. These 4 glimpses of unlooked for longings underscore that what we want most may be more appropriate for the 10 o’clock news than for decent human conversation. As Dan Strong notes, we are witness to the “collision of hopeful ideals and unrelenting reality that is TV” and our larger American life.
Most days find me at my desk at the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College. Currently I am preparing to travel to China as part of a long-standing faculty exchange between Grinnell and Nanjing University. Faculty from Nanjing come to Grinnell to conduct research and to instruct our students in Chinese language. Faculty from Grinnell travel to Nanjing to conduct research and to teach in their areas of specialty. The exchange is over 20 years old and has forged strong ties between Grinnell and one of the great universities of China.
While in China, I have two specific goals along with my daily task of acting as a sponge to absorb as much as I can of Chinese art and culture. I will be teaching a course on museum studies in which I will try, in four short weeks, to outline the basic issues and ideas behind American art museums. I originally proposed the course because of the explosion of contemporary Chinese art and a desire to better understand the museum worlds of our two countries. I've since learned through a recent article by Barbara Pollack that the Chinese are building and developing over 1000 new museums, but don't have much infrastructure for staffing and running them. I hope my course can be a tiny contribution to the future of museums in China.
I will also be scouting artists and scholars who may be able to travel to Grinnell in 2011 as part of an exhibition in development. Because Grinnell has a long-standing relationship with China, we've wanted to present a Chinese art exhibition. Our first attempt will be an exhibition curated by Deborah Rudolph of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at U.C. Berkeley. Her show features the beginnings of commercial printmaking in Ming period China. The artists we hope to bring will enliven the exhibition with demonstrations of traditional paper making, woodblock carving, woodblock printing and book binding. Professor Andrew Hsieh of Grinnell College has done some preliminary work on this project, and I eagerly await my chance to carry it forward.
I will be traveling with my husband, Dr. Donald Doe, a lecturer in Art at Grinnell College. He will be teaching a course on the history of American landscape painting--a tradition, at 200 years old, just a bit younger than the Chinese landscape tradition, which is over 1000 years old. He's excited to see what kind of dialogue ensues around landscape.
I'm delighted that I will have someone with whom I can compare notes every day and who can help puzzle out all the mysteries that abound in the course of travel. Our first stop will be Hong Kong for a few days, then on to Nanjing. On to packing!
In the past week, we've had the chance to visit two places where the focus is on preserving and maintaining the ancient tradition of Chinese woodblock printing. Since at least the Tang dynasty (almost 2000 years ago), the Chinese have used woodblocks to print documents, books, posters and images--a much more efficient process than hand-drawn calligraphy for producing multiple copies. While the creation of the woodblocks themselves is just as laborious, the block can then be preserved and used for centuries if properly stored.
The China Block Printing Museum in the city of Yangzhou (yong jo) was founded in the 1950s, but moved to a beautiful new purpose-built museum just a few years ago. It shares the building with the Yangzhou Museum and is based to 300,000 woodblocks amassed by the Guangling Press of Yangzhou. The displays include woodblocks, books produced from the blocks, information on the printing process, and an impressive open storage area housing the blocks themselves.
Downstairs in an atrium, under a skylight, the Museum presents ongoing demonstrations of the woodblock process. The entire process requires about 18 steps--we saw 5 steps. On thin vertically lined paper, a man copied out the text to be printed, using extremely fine calligraphy. Modern Chinese is written horizontally, left to right, just like Western text. But traditional texts are still written top to bottom, right to left. The paper is then pasted face down onto a woodblock. Wild pear wood makes the best blocks. They are very durable, but soft enough to take the ink.
The carver carves around each character until it is raised above the surrounding wood. He carves out the vertical lines as well, so that they will print. Watching him work was extraordinary (as was the calligraphy). His hands were so deft as he did intricate work with a very sharp knife. There is no room for error in this work, and takes years to master.
Once the block is completed, it is inked using a big stiff brush. Ink is brushed liberally over the surface, then the printer lays a piece of paper on top of the block and rubs it several times with a wooden block padded by layers of large leaves. The print is pulled off the block and set aside to dry. Later the pages are collated, stacked, folded, trimmed, covered and hand-bound.
At the Jinling Buddhist Publishing House (aka Buddhist Canon Publishing House), an oasis in the middle of high-rise Nanjing, a small staff preserves this process at a living museum. In a beautiful old compound, using blocks that are 150 years old, they continue to produce Buddhist texts using the traditional methods, which they feel are closer to the tenants of Buddhist practice. The director gave us a wonderful tour, including a visit to the storage room where they keep 120,000 blocks, neatly organized by book. We saw two women pulling pages off the woodblocks, taking less than 10 seconds to print each page. A woodcarver was creating a new block to replace an old one damaged or lost. And 9 women were collating, stacking, folding and binding the books, which are then sold to Buddhist sites around China (and the world).
Jinling is so important that the Japanese government paid to rebuild it after the Japanese occupation forces during WW II destroyed it. And during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party stopped the destruction of the wood blocks by the Red Guard. They are too important to the heritage of China even for those difficult times. Even so, 30,000 blocks were lost. The director estimates it would take 10 carvers 100 years to replace them.
These visits help bring alive an exhibition we are planning on the rise of commercial printing in China from the Ming and Qing eras. We will be working with the museum in Yangzhou to bring people to Grinnell to demonstrate this process, and I now know how exciting it will be to add their expertise to our exhibition.