Release Date: May 27, 2015
Works By Cecily Brown, Roni Horn, Martha Rosler, and Joseph Yoakum Enter the National Gallery of Art's Collection Thanks to Its Collectors Committee and Other Donors
Washington, DC—The National Gallery of Art recently acquired Girl on a Swing (2004) by Cecily Brown, a key painting in the artist's oeuvre, and Opposite of White, v. 2 (Large) (A) (2006–2007) by Roni Horn, a major example of her cast-glass works, the sculptural series for which she is best known. The acquisition of Girl on a Swing was made possible by the Collectors Committee, which also supported the purchase of Opposite of White, v. 2 (Large) (A), with additional funds from Howard and Roberta Ahmanson, John and Mary Pappajohn, Denise and Andrew Saul, Constance R. Caplan, Lenore S. and Bernard A. Greenberg Fund, Kyle J. and Sharon Krause, and Mitchell and Emily Rales. Opposite of White, v. 2 (Large) (A) is scheduled to go on view in the atrium of the East Building by late 2015, and Girl on a Swing will be installed when the East Building galleries reopen in the fall of 2016.
Martha Rosler's Cleaning the Drapes (1967–1972), an inkjet print from her seminal series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, and two large landscape drawings by the so-called outsider artist Joseph Yoakum, were purchased with funds from the Collectors Committee discretionary fund for photographs, drawings, and prints. The purchase of Cleaning the Drapes received additional support from the Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund and Yoakum's Briar Head mtn of National Park Range received additional support from the Donald and Nancy de Laski Fund.
"This year, the Collectors Committee with the generous support of several other donors has enhanced the Gallery's growing contemporary holdings with compelling works by three important women artists of our time—Cecily Brown, Roni Horn, and Martha Rosler—and the prolific self-taught artist Joseph Yoakum," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "We are very grateful to the Collectors Committee for their continued support of the Gallery's collection of modern art."
Cecily Brown, Girl on a Swing, 2004
Girl on a Swing reflects on the long-standing link between oil painting, sensuality, and flirtation in the history of art, and testifies to Brown's study of both old masters and abstract expressionists. As the first painting by Brown to enter the Gallery's collection, Girl on a Swing directly recalls the Gallery's own The Swing by Jean-Honoré Fragonard (c. 1775/1780), but Brown's painting is about primordial fears as much as pleasures. Twisting tree limbs converge near the center of the painting, creating a powerful focal point beneath which the girl of the title improbably swings while flurries of strokes suggest figures lurking nearby.
For her inspiration, Brown relies on a variety of two-dimensional sources, from magazines and record album covers to children's books, movies, and a library of exhibition catalogs and monographs including studies of El Greco, Velázquez, Goya, Picasso, Delacroix, Manet, and, present in her most recent work, Degas.
"Cecily Brown paints with a fine balance of control and abandon, mining art history while following the flights of her own fancy and the suggestions of the paint itself," said Harry Cooper, curator and head of modern art, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Brown's ability to create dense, intricate spaces in which figures emerge from abstraction has earned her recognition as one of the most important contemporary painters, with solo exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 2002 and the Des Moines Art Center and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in 2006–2007. Born in London in 1969, Brown attended the Slade School of Art in the early 1990s, just when such "Young British Artists" as Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were dominating the scene with provocative work. While Brown shared interests with some of them in feminism, sexuality, and mass media, her commitment to the history and practice of painting was distinctive. She moved to New York City in 1994 in part to establish her own identity and has lived and worked there ever since.
Roni Horn, Opposite of White, v. 2 (Large) (A), 2006–2007
Opposite of White, v. 2 (Large) (A) (2006–2007), a powerful black cast-glass sculpture, embodies rich contradictions: it is elegant and gritty, translucent and opaque, and a solid that can appear liquid. Within Horn's diverse practice, Opposite of White carries through the artist's most insistent themes, from natural phenomena (the sensuous materiality of the surface of water, the paradox of fire and ice) to notions about mutability, difference, identity, and the role of the viewer in creating personal meaning from the experience of her art.
"Horn's work emphasizes the viewing, the viewer, and the viewed so intensely that it sends us on a voyeuristic journey. Her work encourages us to search. Opposite of White compellingly encapsulates that endeavor," said Molly Donovan, associate curator of modern art, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
Born in 1955 in New York, Horn received her degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University. She lives and works in New York when not visiting Iceland, her adoptive home, whose landscape and people have served as her inspiration for over 30 years. Opposite of White evokes the idea (but not the form) of Iceland's age-old glaciers as well as the origins of the country itself in volcanic activity. Gazing at the fire-polished top of Opposite of White is like looking into a well, black and dense from absorbing light, yet reflective on its surface. The artist admits to the ambiguity of such a liquid black form, a recurring motif throughout her work. As she has said, "black water is black milk."
Horn's achievements have been recognized with solo shows at major museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Pompidou Center, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate. Opposite of White, v. 2 (Large) (A) joins Horn's drawing Lava Fields of Iceland (1992) in the Gallery's collection.
Martha Rosler, Cleaning the Drapes from the series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967–1972)
Cleaning the Drapes, a photomontage from Rosler's renowned series House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, is the first work by the artist to enter the Gallery's collection. Made between 1967 and 1972 while she was an MFA student at University of California, San Diego, the series grew out of Rosler's anti-Vietnam War activities and the images she saw in print media and on television, anti-war flyers, and posters.
Inspired by Max Ernst's surrealist collages, Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's provocative use of montage, and the collage-like style of Pop artists such as James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann, Rosler (b. 1943) was also deeply informed by the politically engaged work of the photographer, filmmaker, theorist, and critic Allan Sekula.
Rosler cut out images from both Life magazine and House Beautiful to make approximately 20 powerful, multilayered collages that contrast American middle-class life and aspirations with the suffering and destruction of the Vietnam War—the first war to be televised. Rosler herself said, "The images were always very far away and of a place we couldn't imagine." "In House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home, Rosler played with this idea of Vietnam as the 'living-room war,' and literally brought the war home, contrasting images of an idealized American home with pictures from Vietnam," said Sarah Greenough, senior curator and head of the department of photographs.
In Cleaning the Drapes, she presents a fashionably dressed woman, a homemaker, involved in the culturally accepted activities of caring for her family. As the woman vacuums her damask drapes, she pulls them back to reveal a television-like depiction of troops in Vietnam.
Rosler initially considered these photomontages as ephemera, like work made by so many other artists of the late 1960s and 1970s. She did not display them in galleries or museums but instead photocopied them and circulated them at anti-war rallies and reproduced them in journals. It was not until many years later that she copied the remaining original photomontages and printed them in editions of ten.
Joseph Yoakum, Mt Taum Sauk 1772 ft (c. 1965) and Briar Head mtn of National Park Range (c. 1969)
Two important large drawings are the first by self-taught American artist Joseph Yoakum to enter the Gallery's collection of works on paper. Beginning in the last decade of his life, Joseph Yoakum (1889–1972) produced some 2,000 drawings, nearly all of them landscapes, which are both visionary and rooted in reality.
In Mt Taum Sauk 1772 ft craggy mountains lean to the right, trees line up in soldierly columns, and individual areas of the composition interlock. "As with the work of so many self-taught or so-called outsider artists, the drawing reflects a high degree of knowingness or sophistication," said Judith Brodie, curator and head of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
In Briar Head mtn of National Park Range, nothing is static and everything seems to rise, fall, and flow in gentle waves. This later work not only draws more heavily on abstraction, but also possesses an anthropomorphic aspect, as if some figure or object were embedded in the landscape.
Born in Missouri to parents of mixed African American and Native American ancestry, Yoakum received little formal education. He left home by the time he was nine to join the circus as a hireling, and saw much of North America traveling by train. Yoakum served in France during World War I and upon his return took up travel again—across North America and to Australia and parts of Asia, working a string of jobs—mechanic, carpenter, janitor, fireman, farm worker, miner, and merchant seaman, among others—and eventually settled in Chicago's South Side in the late 1920s. More odd jobs followed in the 1950s, but by 1962 he began to make drawings almost full time. He looked back on his travels and recorded them in drawings that merge reality with fantasy. Yoakum came to the attention of a wider audience in 1967, when his works were exhibited in a Chicago church coffeehouse.
With the acquisition in 2013 of more than 60 works by James Castle, the Gallery laid the groundwork for a small but superlative representation of works by so-called outsider artists. The Yoakum drawings also build on the Gallery's desire to strengthen the representation of Chicago imagist art—Yoakum both inspired and exhibited with many of the Chicago imagists—an effort that was enhanced with the recent acquisition of Roger Brown's Waterfall (1974) from the Corcoran Gallery of Art.
A selection of the Castle works, and the two drawings by Yoakum, will be included in the upcoming National Gallery of Art exhibition Boundary Markers: Outliers and Mainstream American Art.
Prints, Drawings, Illustrated Books, and Photographs at the National Gallery of Art
The Gallery's collection of prints, drawings, and illustrated books consists of more than 115,000 European and American works on paper and vellum, dating from the 11th century to the present. Because works on paper are highly susceptible to overexposure to light, they can be exhibited only for short periods. For that reason, the Gallery maintains a schedule of changing exhibitions drawn from its own collection or on loan from other institutions and private individuals. Prints and drawings not on view may be seen by appointment by calling (202) 842-6380 or e-mail [email protected].
The Gallery's collection of photographs includes some 15,000 works spanning the history of the medium from 1839 to the present. The strengths of the collection are large and important groups by several major 20th-century American photographers, such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, and Robert Adams. Photographs not on view may be seen by appointment by calling (202) 842-6144 or e-mail [email protected]
The Collectors Committee was formed in 1975 to help select and finance commissions to fill the great public spaces of the East Building, which was then under construction. It has continued to acquire major 20th- and 21st-century paintings and sculpture for the Gallery and has also established a curatorial discretionary fund for acquiring prints, drawings, and photographs.
Founding benefactor Paul Mellon asked Ruth Carter Stevenson, chair of the Gallery's board of trustees from 1993 to 1997, to be the first chair of the Collectors Committee. Denise Saul and Kyle Krause are the current co-chairs of the Collectors Committee. A major collector of 20th-century art, Saul lives in New York with her husband Andrew and is a leading cultural philanthropist. CEO of the mid-western convenience store chain Kum & Go, Krause is a major collector of contemporary art and resides with his wife Sharon in Booneville, IA.
To date, the Collectors Committee has made possible the acquisition of some 300 works of art; approximately half of these acquisitions have been works by living artists. Major artists include Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Dan Flavin, Eva Hesse, Anselm Kiefer, Barbara Kruger, Norman Lewis, René Magritte, Kerry James Marshall, Joan Miró, Jackson Pollock, Martin Puryear, Gerard Richter, Wayne Thiebaud, and Anne Truitt.
Currently, there are 14 Collectors Committee acquisitions on view, as follows:
In the West Building:
-Edward Steichen, Le Tournesol (The Sunflower), c. 1920, tempera and oil on canvas
In the East Building:
-2 granite rock settees by Scott Burton from 1988
-Alexander Calder, Untitled, 1976, aluminum and steel
-Anthony Caro, National Gallery Ledge Piece, 1978, welded steel
-Max Ernst, Capricorn, model 1948, cast 1975, bronze
-Richard Long, Whitechapel Slate Circle, 1981, slate
-Allan McCollum, Collection of Four Hundred and Eighty Plaster Surrogates, 1982/1989, enamel on cast Hydro-Stone
-Michelangelo Pistoletto, Donna che indica (Woman who points), conceived 1962, fabricated 1982, silkscreen print on polished stainless steel
-David Smith, Sentinel I, 1957, steel
-Tony Smith, Die, model 1962, fabricated 1968, steel with oiled finish
In the Sculpture Garden:
-Scott Burton, Six-Part Seating, conceived 1985, fabricated 1998, polished granite
-Joel Shapiro, Untitled, 1989, bronze
-Tony Smith, Wandering Rocks, 1967, painted steel
For a full list of acquisitions made possible by the Collectors Committee, visit http://www.nga.gov/collection-search-result.html?donorList=219&donorObj=142999&pageNumber=1
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