July 1, 2020
Tracy Miller embraces the protean possibilities of the still life as the centerpiece of her art practice. Her exuberant, colorful, and joy-filled compositions combine recognizable and non-recognizable objects in teeming abandon. Focusing primarily on food and drink, Miller pulls images from old cook books and magazines, while some subject matter is painted from direct observation. In these densely packed paintings, Miller mixes a number of art world “isms”—Pop color, all-over abstraction, drip painting, and Old Master vanitas paintings. She finds specific inspiration in the work of Goya, Florine Stettheimer, Cézanne, van Gogh, and Fairfield Porter, but her imagery can also be sparked by music and memories.
“The abstraction/representation sets up a problem or puzzle that I am continually trying to balance or fix,” she tells us. “The paintings start out abstract and gradually become specific places. I’m never sure where they will end up—the places they turn into feel more like someplace that couldn’t exist—sort of what it would look like to be in a Hank Williams song.”
Tracy Miller received a BFA degree from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of California, Berkley. She has exhibited her work throughout the US, including American University Museum, Washington, DC; University of Massachusetts, Amherst; and Islip Art Museum. Her work is found in the collections of Des Moines Art Center, Sioux City Art Center, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Miller is a recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and awards from the Pollock-Krasner and Elizabeth Foundations. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Tracy Miller (American, b. 1966), Pie Hole, 2002; oil on canvas; 60 x 60 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
June 24, 2020
Michiko Itatani tells us, “In my youth, I wanted to pursue writing fiction. I strongly believe in fiction’s ability to express the deepest truths.” She majored in literature and philosophy in her native Japan and, seeking life experience, came to Chicago in the early 1970s to study visual art; it is there she has remained. The subject matter of her work, since that time, has been consistently of a personal and humanistic character expressed in conceptual and allegorical terms.
Itatani’s paintings are formally complex, often abstract, and intended to offer visual pleasure. In them, she explores psychological, cultural, and historical realms, but in ways that might not be immediately readable. The artist’s visual fictions center on depictions of space, both pictorial space and hyperspace. There is geometric structure in her compositions, but it is of an irregular nature. Her use of contrasting forms and interrupted planes suggests narrative motives, while webs of fine lines and appended panels provide amplifying footnotes. Itatani claims that her process of painting is similar to writing, but that her work often remains “incomplete, fragmented, and under inquiry.”
Itatani received BFA and MFA degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her work has been included in over 100 exhibitions throughout the Midwest, Europe, and Asia. She is included in national and international collections, among them the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; and the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento. She is a professor in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Michiko Itatani (American, b. Japan, 1948), Untitled from Viable Elevation V-3, 2000; oil on canvas; 78 x 96 x 4 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Dr. Harold F. Daum.
June 17, 2020
Janet Kuemmerlein is a fiber artist, painter, jewelry maker, and creator of fiber vessels. She is perhaps best known, however, for her sculptural textile murals that hang in civic, liturgical, and commercial spaces across the country. She is a pioneer in the fiber art movement, turning her attention to this medium in the early 1960s, just as the genre was beginning to be spotlighted internationally. Her work ranges from expressive abstractions of elemental forces to representational compositions of identifiable flora. It is all dynamically composed with passages of undulating, twisting, and sweeping curves and waves of fiber. Wool comprises the majority of her media, supplemented by silk, linen, rayon, and rope. A memorable aspect of her work is its vibrant color, and, for Kuemmerlein, color often comes before anything else. She summarizes, “I am drawn to the use of fiber in my work because of its tactile appeal, luminosity, color, and endless variety. It is the exuberance, vibrancy, texture, and movement found in growing forms in nature that inspires and informs [my subject matter].”
Kuemmerlein has exhibited her textiles nationally and internationally since the early 1960s. Most notable was her participation in the watershed exhibition of contemporary craft titled Objects: USA, in 1969. Kuemmerlein studied painting at the College of Creative Studies in Detroit, and trained in sculpture and metalsmithing at Cranbrook Academy of Art. Her work is in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Museum of Art and Design. She maintains a studio in Prairie Village, Kansas.
Janet Kuemmerlein (American, b. 1932), Yellow Rose with Bud, 1980; stitched fiber relief; 73 x 70 x 5 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Jean Rozmus.
June 11, 2020
Jane Pronko is well regarded for her urban-scene paintings, representational depictions of cities like Chicago, Kansas City, and New York. Although Pronko works from photographs, her work is not photorealistic: she elides sharp details and textures in favor of a soft focus that produces mood-filled and evocative compositions. The viewer easily recognizes her settings, but Pronko tempers specificity under a romantic haze of atmosphere.
Central Park West is a depiction of a tony residential section of Manhattan. We are looking north up the boulevard, Central Park is on our right. It appears to be late autumn; there are traces of yellowed leaves on the trees. Rain has recently fallen, and the headlights and taillights of taxis and other vehicles are reflected on the slick asphalt. The early evening sky is reflected there, too, interrupted by shadows cast by the trees that appear on both sides of the street. Traffic lights lead the eye into the distance, each offering a red dot of punctuation. The view depicted is a block or so north of the Museum of Natural History, around West 81st Street. Instead of including the museum’s beaux arts façade or its equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, Pronko depicts a much more generic streetscape. A tower belonging to The El Dorado helps us locate the scene, but the city’s space has been collapsed, and what is ten blocks away appears to be much closer. Instead of exact landmarks and topography, Pronko captures a sense of New York City that feels absolutely right. At the same time, the carefully controlled palette, veiling of detail, and pleasing abstraction of traffic and reflections combine to create something magical and mysterious.
Jane Pronko graduated from the University of Kansas with a BS degree. She took art classes at institutions in the Kansas City area, as well as with Philomene Bennett. Pronko has exhibited her work widely throughout the Midwest, and her paintings are found in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Spencer Museum of Art, and Sheldon Arts Museum, among others.
Jane Pronko (American, b. 1935), Central Park West, 2001; oil on canvas; 48 x 28 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the Richard Florsheim Art Fund.
June 8, 2020
From 1982 to 1986, Robert Dawson set out to document the Great Central Valley in California, an area of 18,000 square miles that includes Sacramento and Redding to the north, and Fresno and Bakersfield to the south. Using a large format film camera, his project was a photographic survey of California’s intensely farmed agricultural heartland. Dawson’s concern with the area included the “modern reshaping of the Valley’s landscape and the ramifications of this throughout the American West.” In addition to examining the problems of the valley, the project was also an examination of the sense of place of the Great Central Valley.
This quietly humorous landscape photograph is taken from an elevated point of view that allows for an unusual perspective: a flattened foreground, almost hidden middle ground, and a looming background. In the foreground sits a camper and truck–impermanent, diminutive and in shadow. In the background, an erect and columned building sits, majestically ignoring its surroundings and suggesting an air of permanence, but curiously also in shadow. The coy middle ground reveals some type of structure that is accessed only by a well-lit yet daunting and railing-free concrete ramp, leading to a room. Pictorially, this is the third option. It is neither permanent nor impermanent; it is the unknown.
Robert Dawson was recently awarded the 2018-2019 Fulbright Global Scholar award by the U.S. Department of State. His photographs have also been recognized by a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other awards. Dawson holds an MA from San Francisco State University, and his work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Library of Congress, and Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Robert Dawson (American, b. 1950), Courtland, California, from the Great Central Valley Project, 1985; gelatin silver print, 16 x 20 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Drs. Antonio & Luz Racela.
June 4, 2020
Peter Pincus creates three-dimensional paintings out of ceramic pots. Using complex slip-casting mold systems and colored-porcelain slip-casting techniques, the artist explores the ways contemporary ceramics relate to history and to the current moment. He has said that “pottery is a type of journalism. Pottery is not an individual thing. . . . Because for the entire history of our world, it has expressed culture. The work that I am making is part of a voice or a story in this generation.”
Pincus is inspired by the ceramic forms of classical antiquity as translated by 18th century ceramists. He, in turn, tweaks the translation. His system-based process begins with a drawing, moves on to a clay model, and then onto a laborious and time-consuming series of plaster molds, dissections, and resections. His signature geometric surface designs result from precisely ordered panels of stained-porcelain veneers. Pincus employs mathematical color schemes that often see an assertive color field paired with an equally emphatic form. He says, “This friction augments and enriches perceptions of space.”
Pincus attended Alfred University for both his BFA and MFA degrees in ceramics. His work has been featured in Ceramics Monthly magazine; SOFA, Chicago; and the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. His ceramics are held in the collections of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and Arizona State University’s Ceramics Research Center, among many others. Pincus is a visiting professor of ceramics at Rochester Institute of Technology. He lives and maintains a studio in Penfield, NY.
Peter Pincus (American, b. 1982), Trio of Vessels IV, 2016; colored porcelain with luster; 18 x 30 x 10 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, museum purchase.
June 1, 2020
This photograph by Linda Connor, from her 1979 monograph SOLOS, was made with an early-20th-century 8-by-10 inch Century view camera and a soft-focus “semi-achromatic” lens, which had both belonged to her great-aunt. The soft-focus lens combined with the 19th-century process of gold toning contact prints achieve, in Connor’s words, “a kind of timeless, somewhat mysterious, metaphoric, poetic kind of vision … rather dreamlike and often symbolic.”
In Untitled, a triangular stack of 66 tin cans is transformed as if by magic. The aberrations of light and shadow produced by the unique optics of the lens allow Connor to transmute ordinary objects into something ethereal and spectacular. Light bounces out of the cans and appears to illuminate them from within, producing secondary and tertiary circles of light, further complicating the simple arrangement.
The equilateral triangle used here as a symbol has been loaded with meaning throughout time and in various belief systems. For instance, in Christianity the triangle represents God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; in Ancient Egypt, the trinity represented the father, Osiris, the mother, Isis, and the son, Horus. Other belief systems view the triangle as representing true wisdom or perfection. Connor allows the meaning to change so that each viewer can see something different. She is “deeply interested in how to get photography, which so handily describes the facts of our world, to also move our spirits closer to the silent places where other realities and mysteries reside.”
Linda Connor began her photographic education under Harry Callahan at the Rhode Island School of Design, and later under Aaron Siskind at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology. Since then she has taught photography primarily at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Her work can be found in the collections of prominent institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; and the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO.
Linda Connor (American, b. 1944), Untitled, 1976; Gold chloride-toned contact print; 8 x 9.875 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Drs. Antonio & Luz Racela.
May 28, 2020
“I have spent the last couple of years trying to paint my way out of a corner. I seem to think that if I paint something I need—for instance, Freedom—paint Freedom and understand Freedom, then Freedom will become mine. Stuff like that. Sometimes I’m not so desperate, just interested—sometimes.
“And, of course, there is also the creative process—always a thrill. Like life. They are the same. As it is in painting, so it is in life. Actually the creative process is an enormous pleasure to me. My work is lots of fun (now). It is my aspiration to experience that same enjoyment off the stretchers and outside the rectangle.
“Inspiration comes and vision clears. Growth and magic occur. Messages get through. Paintings get painted.”
—Sharon Patten, 1995
Sharon Patten was born in Sedalia, MO, in 1943. She received a BA in German from the University of Kansas in 1965. Patten moved to Kansas City in 1975 and began attending the Kansas City Art Institute, receiving a BFA degree in 1979. She attended graduate school at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia for a short time, but chose to leave school and move to New York City in 1980. Patten moved back to Kansas City after a year in New York. In 1988, she was awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship. It was also in 1988 that she first showed her mature work in a group exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center in Kansas City. Throughout the early 1990s, Patten’s painting gained wider recognition through exhibitions in both Kansas City and New York. In June 1995, she received national attention when her work was highlighted in Art in America. Following a brief illness, Patten died in December 1995 at the age of 52.
Sharon Patten (American, 1943-1995), Success, 1987; oil on canvas; 90 x 120 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Jeff Jarrett.
May 25, 2020
Harold Edgerton’s contributions to science and photography are inestimable and it is the intersection of these two disciplines where one will find Edgerton’s contribution to fine art. One of Edgerton’s more prominent predecessors in the quest to stop-time, Étienne-Jules Marey, opined that “art and science encounter each other when they seek exactitude.” Though Edgerton strictly defined himself as an engineer and the photos he made as purely factual, the resulting photographs are often mystifying works of science and art.
The production of Edgerton’s photographs relied on his invention of novel stroboscopic lighting apparati. Edgerton’s “exactitude,” such as the one-hundred exposures per second required to make this photograph, reveals the beauty inherent within the laws of motion. A pitcher’s throw, practiced and accurate, produces an apparition when photographed with Edgerton’s ingenious methodology. The form is familiar, yet what the photograph describes is unexpected; an enigmatic revelation of reality. Edgerton’s art-world contemporarys, Edgerton now included, participated in the movement known as Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity or New Vision) which furthered artistic investigations into scientific law and thus pushing the limits of beauty into a previously imperceptible visual territory.
Harold “Doc” Edgerton was an institute professor emeritus at MIT until 1968. Edgerton’s work was included by Beaumont Newhall in the very first exhibition of photography held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1937. Later, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center of Photography in 1987. In 1986, Edgerton was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990), MacFayden Pitches (Pitcher), 1938; gelatin silver print; 20 x 16 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Ricci Racela & Michael Bonahan.
May 21, 2020
Gary Bowling’s paintings celebrate the varied rural landscapes of the American Midwest. Bowling embraces the quotidian view, or, as he puts it, landscape experienced from the highway. But his is the everyday vista seen at its best, often in bloom, luminous and colorful, or with flat plains glistening under towering, cloud-strewn skies. His work’s most conspicuous feature is its meticulous depiction of light and atmosphere, which helps to reveal time of day, season, and weather. Bowling’s landscapes are part of an American legacy that stretches back to the mid-nineteenth century. Painters of the Hudson River school, Tonalism, and American Impressionism have taught Americans to appreciate the native vistas, grand and small, that greet us on every outing.
The atmospheric clarity of Bowling’s paintings and the way he depicts the effects of light and shadow on color reflect an affinity with some photographic practices. One might be reminded of the pioneering color photography of Eliot Porter, whose use of the dye transfer process resulted in prints of exceptionally saturated hue. One might also think of a photograph like Edward Steichen’s Moonlight: The Pond (1904). Although in black and white, Moonlight captures the quiet mood of a tree-shaded marshland through the use of diffused and reflected light, as does the composition we are presented with here.
Gary Bowling received an MFA from the University of Arkansas and a BS from Missouri Southern State College. He has exhibited his work throughout the US, including Huntington Museum of Art, Huntington, WV; Brunnier Art Museum, Ames, IA; and Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, IL. He is included in more than 100 corporate collections as well as those of Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, Lincoln, NB; Rockford Art Museum, Rockford, IL; and Hallmark Fine Arts Collection, Kansas City, MO. His work has appeared in New American Paintings, American Artist magazine, and New Art Examiner. Bowling lives and maintains a studio in Lamar, MO.
Gary Bowling (American, b. 1948), James River Marsh, 2009; oil on canvas; 51 x 54 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the estate of Dr. Harold F. Daum.
May 18, 2020
Photographer Minor White once said about photography “Look at it not for what it is but what else it is.” In this photograph by Jack Welpott, “what it is” may be described quite simply. This photo was made inside the bedroom of a house once inhabited by Félix Thiollier, a turn-of-the-20th-century French industrialist and photographer. The photograph depicts a single bed covered in drying leaves that will be used to make tea. Above the bed hangs a framed print of a scene with all the familiar attributes of an idyllic landscape, Thiollier’s main subject. Welpott’s photograph is descriptive insofar as it records the bedroom faithfully to reveal “what it is”, however, “what else it is” may be teased out through interpretation.
This photograph is titled Verrieres, which from French refers to glass windows, but also to certain townships in France. With these two definitions in mind it becomes evident Welpott is referencing Thiollier’s home near Verrieres, and also certain elements in the room. Perhaps it’s the raking window light, or is Welpott coyly drawing attention to the glazing used to frame the print on the wall? In the glass there is a reflection of the room with windows and doors, where Welpott is making the photograph. The “what else it is” from White’s dictum may be discerned through a consideration of the photograph’s title, the location, and what is depicted. Welpott is allowing the viewer a window into his life, his influences, and his artistic intent. Just as Thiollier was an industrialist who chose photography, and just as the leaves are dried to make tea, so reality becomes transformed through photography.
Jack Welpott studied under the renowned New Bauhaus American photographer Henry Holmes Smith and received his Bachelors, Masters, and Masters of Fine Arts degrees from Indiana University.
During his early childhood, Welpott lived in Sedalia, Missouri, and attended Mark Twain Elementary School. Because of his fond memories of Sedalia, Welpott gifted the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art a portfolio of his prints.
Jack Welpott (American, 1923-2007), Verrieres, 1981; gelatin silver print; 14 x 11 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the artist.
May 14, 2020
During a career that spanned almost 70 years, Irving Kriesberg gave voice to a wide range of cultural and aesthetic practices. His unique brand of figurative expressionism blended the lessons of the European avant garde with the experience of living and studying abroad in Mexico, India, and Japan. He combined spiritual themes with contemporary messages and produced haunting images of human and animal forms.
In the painting Ascension, Kriesberg has created a tight compositional stage for the scene that unfolds. He depicts a hillock in a larger landscape setting upon which cavort animals whose origins are not easy to classify. Doglike creatures snap at the heels of a bright-orange stick figure, who seems to be coming apart at the joints as it gallops across the picture plane. This attenuated being turns its skeletal head to face the viewer, baring its teeth in an unnerving attempt at a smile. There is a great rush of diagonal energy in this work, running from left to right, and created by slashing patches of paint, a nervous linearity, and the use of vibrantly contrasting colors. The fantastical scene includes the kind of imagery that haunts unsettled dreams, but Kriesberg suggests that “[these] dreamlike images have mystical intent”—they are also the sort of storytelling tropes that populate myth, religion, and folklore.
Irving Kriesberg was born in Chicago in 1919. He received a BFA degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MA from New York University. His work was featured in the ground-breaking exhibition 15 Americans, which was held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1952, and included work by Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Kriesberg has exhibited his work widely since then, including showings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Yale University, and Washington University. His work is in leading institutions nationwide, among them the Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, and Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. He was the recipient of Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships and taught variously at Columbia, Yale, and the Pratt Institute.
Irving Kriesberg (American, 1919-2009), Ascension, 1997; oil on canvas; 64 x 65 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of an anonymous donor.
May 12, 2020
In Larry Fink’s photograph Teen Couple, Allentown Fair, the innocence and excitement of young love are on full display. It’s a semi-chaotic scene composed of nine figures; however, only one, the teenage girl, dominates the picture. She dances with her arms gently wrapped around her partner as she looks toward the camera, but not at it. She’s caught up in the moment, unaware she’s being photographed. Fink’s placement of her face is a textbook example of the “rule of thirds,” which helps to determine a compositional focal point.
Photographing at night, Fink uses black-and-white tonality in a way reminiscent of Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro, or light emerging from darkness. The illuminated form of the slow-dancing couple dominates the foreground and the background is chaotically organized with aberrations of light and form playing against darkness. Behind the teenage couple, words from advertisements are truncated and the various fair-goers are fragmented. However, the frantic energy of the fair at night is calmed by the girl’s content expression and relaxed demeanor; she embraces her partner with comfort and familiarity. In this moment, Fink has found intimacy teeming with the innocence of teenage love, worry free and meant to be.
Larry Fink has been an exhibiting photographer since 1960 and since that time has held solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, among many others. Fink is professor emeritus at Bard College, where he taught photography. He is the recipient of the Lucie Award for Documentary Photography and the International Center for Photography Infinity Award for Lifetime Fine Art Photography. He has also been awarded two Guggenheim Fellowships and two NEA Individual Photography Fellowships.
Larry Fink (American, b. 1941), Teen Couple, Allentown Fair, from the portfolio Making Out, 1957-1980, 1980; gelatin silver print; 19.875 x 16 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela.
May 7, 2020
Jack Earl hand-builds figural ceramic sculpture that depict things, scenes, and people from the world around him in small-town Ohio. Earl was initially inspired by the European figural ceramics tradition exemplified by Meissen. Rather than turning to the classical repertoire of Rococo figurines, Earl creates his own cast of personalities, often engaged in the humdrum activities of rural America.
Stone Story relates to Earl’s parallel interest in religion. Its full title is inscribed on the reverse of the form: “There is a Stone Story from Myth to Truth / that Lives in the soul of man. / It was spoken again by the King of Salem / as He Laid His hand on Abraham.” The title refers to the King of Salem, who is the biblical priest Melchizedek, and to the blessing he bestows on Abraham after the Battle of Siddim.
Stone Story is a two-part construction. The bottom two-thirds comprise a fool-the-eye rendering of the type of weathered stone carving that lines the portals of Gothic cathedrals. The figure cuts off just before the shoulders, forming a flat surface on which sits a slightly smaller portrait bust of an unknown man wearing a white button-down shirt, tie, and jacket. He is an open-faced individual, who stares out as if caught in contemplation.
Although much is made of Earl as a recorder of the human condition, it has also been noted that his use of curiously unrelated imagery can create surreal, metaphoric, or symbolic narratives. Such is the case with Stone Story. Is this composite figure a modern-day Melchizedek, a priest of the “most high God”? A small-town minister whose faith is rooted in scripture? Or a character like Hazel Motes, from Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, whose attempt to reconcile the secular and the spiritual comes to a bad end?
Jack Earl has lived and worked for most of his life in northwestern Ohio, where he was born in 1934. He attended Bluffton College and received an MA from Ohio State University in 1964. Earl has exhibited his work throughout the US and abroad, including American Craft Museum, Kansas City Art Institute, and Everson Museum of Art. His sculpture can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is a fellow of the American Craft Council.
Jack Earl (American, b. 1934), Stone Story, 1987; oil-painted earthenware; 36 x 16 x 14 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Margaret Pennington.
May 6, 2020
Mimi Plumb’s photographs from 1980’s California are a tapestry of isolation, humor, and foreboding. Her photographs hint that humans inherently hasten the lifespan of the planet and contribute to entropic forces. Plumb is an artist who grew up with the Cold War and has stated “I remember having insomnia for a time when I was 9 years old. My mother told me there might be nuclear war.” Plumb’s work from this time in the 1980’s may be viewed as a response to a world where post-apocalyptic daydreams were the norm.
In this photograph titled Pyramid Lake Plumb utilizes an unnaturally high camera position and centers the composition on a triangular beach, which leads to a hulking, bulbous rock formation. To the left a figure in the distance is suspended mid-air with arms and legs flailing against gravity’s pull; a tiny, thrill seeking moment of exhilaration in an alien landscape. But whatever sense of ecstasy may be derived from the jumping figure is quickly swallowed up by the landscape, an echo-less moment in a vast sea, sky, and earth.
Central to the photograph is a boulder with a circular opening, resembling a bird’s egg after its hatchling has broken through, or a cave, although not a very deep one. Below the opening, the man works tirelessly out of his tent. These three points form a triangle; tent, man, cave, all situated on Pyramid Lake’s triangular beach. Perhaps then, it may be inferred that Plumb is attempting to triangulate the meaning of her time, place, and existence; the photograph becoming a point of reference amongst the anxieties of modern life.
Mimi Plumb is a San Francisco-based photographer and educator. Her 2018 book Landfall was shortlisted for the Paris Photo/Aperture Foundation First Photobook Award 2019, and the Lucie Photo Book Prize 2019. In addition to the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, her photographs are in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Mimi Plumb (American, b. 1953), Pyramid Lake, 1985; gelatin silver print; 15.875 x 19.875 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela.
April 29, 2020
Julia Fernandez-Pol creates lush, abstract paintings that are process-forward, intuitive, and nature based. She explains that her work “is driven by interest in creating a world that originates from specific, dynamic forms found universally in nature.” At the same time, she strives to create “experiences of extreme beauty and visual decadence in order to generate an overwhelming visual impact.”
Fernandez-Pol begins her paintings with a strong color field, which she builds up in layers of marks, strokes, and accumulations by using palette knives, pulled paint, and blobs straight out of the paint tube. She creates highly active, sculptural surfaces that rely on the play of light and shadow as much as they do on a restricted palette of saturated color for their restless drama. The artist is inspired by patterns and structures found in the natural world, and her work encompasses related ideas of circularity, regeneration, and decay.
In Cascading Chrysanthemum, Fernandez-Pol employs a harmonious range of secondary colors, primarily greens and purples, to describe an opulent display of floral plumes, spume, and sprays. Her composition is based on a centralized density of form that seems to explode in all directions. The impastoed surface, raised almost to bas-relief, grants objectness to the painting: Cascading Chrysanthemum is not just a representation of a subject; it is, tangibly, a distinct something, itself.
Julia Fernandez-Pol is a Los Angeles-based artist who exhibits her work nationally and internationally. She received a BFA degree from Washington University, Saint Louis, and an MFA from Boston University. She has held residencies at Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, and Oehme Graphics. In addition to the Daum’s permanent collection, Fernandez-Pol’s artwork can be found at the National Gallery of Art and Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.
Julia Fernandez-Pol (American, b. 1984), Cascading Chrysanthemum, 2009; oil on canvas; 72 x 60 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the estate of Dr. Harold F. Daum.
April 22, 2020
Deanna Dikeman’s photograph Leaving and Waving 9/96 (1996) contains a multitude of contrasts that allow the viewer to discern not only the physical forms in the picture, but also the less tangible bonds of intimate human relationships.
The contrasts begin, formally, with two silhouetted figures, Dikeman’s parents, seen at a distance, standing against an open, well-lit, and tidy garage. The couple is stoic and solid, yet her father waves, his hand captured in visible motion, the gestural act of saying goodbye viscerally felt. Beneath them, the driveway is wet and reflective from a recent rain, allowing their slender-bodied silhouettes to continue onto the surface of the pavement, anchoring them in place. They are staying, rooted, waving.
Dikeman is leaving. In capturing the gesture of her father’s wave, joyousness is tinged with longing, sadness intermingles with love. The sky above her parents is in the gloaming; it is dusk and the end of another day and another visit. Her presence, or lack-there-of, is made apparent and deeply felt. Dikeman reminds us that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and that waving is not only for signaling goodbye but for saying hello.
This image is part of a series of photographs Dikeman made over a period of 27 years as she waved goodbye and drove away from visiting her parents at their home in Sioux City, Iowa. The series was recently the subject of a NewYorker.com essay and was shortlisted for the 2020 MACK First Book Award.
Deanna Dikeman (American, b. 1954), Leaving and Waving 9/96, 1996, gelatin silver print; 14 x 11 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, museum purchase.
April 15, 2020
This painting, Pacific Mask was part of a 20-year retrospective exhibition of paintings and prints by Richard Deon held at the Daum Museum in 2009. That show revealed Deon’s work to be an engaging amalgam of conceptual play and populist imagery. It also detailed the unfolding of an assured yet flexible point of view, one that was grounded in the lessons of late modernism, but open to uncalculated encounters with chance, the subconscious, and the ready-made. Deon drew on the visual style and methods used by school-book illustrators of the 1950s, who employed easily understandable images and situations to help explain academic lessons. Although Deon’s work mimics the look of these forebears, his compositions often place viewers in puzzling territory. Through aesthetic recontextualization, a strategy that includes isolation and dislocation, misidentification, and nonsensical juxtapositions, the artist allows conflicting images and ideas to coexist without logical resolution.
Richard Deon studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City under Joseph Kosuth, William Anastasi, and Jennifer Bartlett. From this experience, he gained familiarity with a strain of conceptual art that has close parallels to Dada and Surrealist precedents. He was encouraged to explore the relationship between visual image and mental concept, the formation of meaning, and the utility of recording dreams. Deon’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries in the US and Europe, including the Daum Museum; the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY; State University of New York at New Paltz; the Housatonic Museum of Art, Bridgeport, CT; and the Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY. He has received commissions for public art projects from the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority; The Urban Center, New York, NY; and Sam Fox School Washington University, St. Louis, MO. He maintains his home and studio in upstate New York.
Richard Deon (American, b. 1956), Pacific Mask, 1994-2003; acrylic on canvas; 102 1/2 x 80 1/2 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, museum purchase.
April 9, 2020
This arresting image is the work of photographer Joel Meyerowitz (American, b. 1938). The subject is a fire eater performing for passersby on a street near a Metro station in Paris, France. It is part of a series of images Meyerowitz took in 1967 during a year-long sojourn in Europe, where he focused on photographing chance encounters with life and human nature in public places. “It was an amazing year,” he has said, “the year of my coming of age as an artist and a man.”
Meyerowitz is a street photographer in the tradition of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, photographers who chased after what Cartier-Bresson called “the decisive moment,” a split second that reveals the larger truth of a situation. Meyerowitz transformed street photography with his pioneering use of color film. When he took up the camera in 1962, photographs could be considered serious art only if they were in black and white. Meyerowitz was part of a movement that made photography more interesting to a broader public. His work from this period has been likened to jazz, where the photographer performs a sinuous dance through the streets with a hand-held camera. Like Cartier-Bresson, Meyerowitz strove to capture, as he puts it, “some critical moment of revelation” in order to “present an image so that the person who looks at it enters that space of the image and has the experience without me pointing it out to them.”
Joel Meyerowitz is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world, including the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Venice Biennale for Architecture. During his career he has published over a dozen books, and his photographs are found in the collections of leading arts institutions, among them the Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Joel Meyerowitz (American, b. 1938), Untitled, from the portfolio Paris, France, 1967, 1980; Dye transfer print, 16 x 19 7/8 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Drs. Antonio and Luz Racela
April 6, 2020
Have you ever wondered about the two massive sculptures that stand on the State Fair Community College campus, flanking the entrance to the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art? They are part of the museum’s permanent collection, and are created by the American artist Arnold Zimmerman. The two monumental urns are made of glazed stoneware, stand around nine feet tall, and weigh about a ton each.
Arnold Zimmerman (b. 1954) is a leading American ceramist, well regarded for his large ceramic columns and urns, as well as for figural works that satirize contemporary culture. The Daum’s enormous vessels, dating from 1984, are inspired by the grand scale and idiosyncratic carvings found in Romanesque architecture—columns, pilasters, and statuary—which the artist encountered during travels and work in Europe. (Zimmerman worked as a stone carver in Provence, France, during the mid-1970s.) His untitled urns bear deeply carved surfaces and strangely animated forms that twist and turn, almost taking on characteristics of the human body. The abstract surface designs are influenced by what the artist terms “primal images,” including concentric circles, spirals, and arcs.
Zimmerman received a BFA degree from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred. He has exhibited his work internationally since the late 1970s, and sculptures by him are found at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC; and the Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park in Japan. Zimmerman maintains a studio in Hudson, New York.
Arnold Zimmerman (American, b. 1954). Two Untitled Urns, 1984; glazed stoneware; 104 x 27 in. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Dr. Harold F. Daum.
April 1, 2020
Robert Kushner is one of the founders of the Pattern and Decoration movement of the 1970s. The P & D movement arose in defiance of the tenets of Modernism and the austerity of Minimalist and Conceptual art. P & D artists were inspired by the traditional ornamentation of everyday objects and architecture. They focused on ways to blend the motifs and methods of non-western decoration with European painting traditions. For Kushner, the goal was to paint compositions that encompassed more than beauty, alone: “Can I imbue my flower paintings with the power, wonder, and sheer beauty that I have always experienced while looking closely at flowers? Can I make these paintings remind us that every blossom is a memento mori, a brush with death?”
The two paintings by Robert Kushner at the Daum were painted during a recent summer sojourn in Maine, where the artist was inspired by the hardy perennials that were in bloom during his stay. Since the 1980s, Kushner has embraced flowers as his primary subject matter. His work combines representational likenesses with abstract formal values in a way that straddles pure decoration and modernist formalism. Kushner draws from a broad range of influences, including Islamic and European textiles, the paintings of Henri Matisse, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Pierre Bonnard, and traditional Japanese screen painting. His work is well regarded for its effective arrangement of marbleized grounds, solid bands of color, and shimmering passages of metal leaf that act as foils to his open, calligraphic drawing style and expressive paint application.
Robert Kushner, Species Tulips and Columbines, 2013; oil, acrylic, and palladium leaf on canvas. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Dr. Harold F. Daum. Robert Kushner, Quince, 2014; oil, acrylic, and gold leaf on linen. Collection Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of Dr. Harold F. Daum.