Jan Matulka, American, born Czechoslovakia, 1890–1972. Untitled Study, 1940–1950. Watercolor/ink and red pencil on paper. 11 x 8 1/2 inches. Courtesy of McCormick Gallery, Chicago and the Estate of Jan Matulka

Jan Matulka: The Unknown Modernist

July 6, 2020 - September 6, 2020

Dow Gallery

Jan Matulka (1890—1972) was a skilled artist and influential modernist, yet most people don’t know his name as well as they do other artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, or Arshile Gorky. Despite his presence and participation in some of the most impactful moments in the development of modern art, Matulka has been pushed to the periphery of art history. This exhibition reevaluates his position in the development of modern American art through sixteen works by the artist and his contemporaries, including Max Weber, George L.K. Morris, Fannie Hillsmith, and Gerome Kamrowski.

The early 20th century in the United States was a crucial period in which the germination of ideas and styles led to the creation of a new, modern American aesthetic. As early as the mid-19th century, artists in Europe began to rebel against the expectations of what art should be. By the end of World War I (1918) European artists, especially in Paris, were fully embracing the avant-garde—a French term meaning “advance guard” and used to describe art that was innovative and experimental. Born in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), Matulka divided his time between two cities: Paris and New York. In Paris he immersed himself in the arts, returning to New York City with the avant-garde concepts he learned. Matulka became an instructor at the Art Students League of New York, where he laid the foundation for the first generation of modern American artists by introducing his students to the experiences he had cultivated abroad.

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Matthew Wead, American, born 1984. Amadou Diallo, 2009. Woodcut on paper. 36 × 24 in. Image: 36 × 24 in. (91.4 × 61 cm). Museum purchase, 2009.89

Black Matters

July 6, 2020 - October 11, 2020

Graphics Gallery

In 2009, Matthew Wead created a series of prints woodcuts titled Shooting Targets. Each print is based on real individuals who were killed or injured by police officers or armed vigilantes. Most of the perpetrators were later exonerated. These artworks are his way of confronting a system that is intended to protect everyone yet has subjugated and brutalized so many, and to remind everyone that Black matters.

Wead used himself as the model for each print. His poses were an attempt to capture the emotion of the victim right before the moment of violence. According to the artist, the figures look at us “to show another point of view and maybe strike empathy upon the audience—to make them think about how they would react in the similar situation.” Although this was not meant to be a continuing series, he explains that it has now become a never-ending and daunting task. He has recently added Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor to the series.

From the Artist

"On a daily basis, every moment, black folks are being bombarded with images of our death and after a while that does something to your psyche. It's literally saying, ‘black people, you might be next. You will be next.’ But in hindsight it will be better for our nation, the less of our kind, the more safe it will be - Patrisse Kahn-Cullors, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter

The intention of this series grew out of the pain he felt hearing, seeing, and reading about the unnecessary brutal force enacted on to these victims. To peer into their eyes was to show another point of view—to maybe strike empathy in the audience—and to allow them to think about how they would react in a similar situation. The title of the series, Shooting Targets, came from the reckless abandon that has been shown and addressed to black people, in both the interactions and then the aftermath, as an afterthought. Black people have become target practice, thrown away, and erased when the next news cycle hits. There is a repetition in the process of killing us without any repercussions for doing so, and sometimes being rewarded to do so. 

This was not meant to be a continuing series—it has now become a never-ending and daunting task. While this is meant to serve from the perspective of the artist, his statement is to look into the eyes of Black queer, trans, and all Black lives that are subjugated and brutalized under a system that was meant to protect them. Unfortunately, there are countless examples that could be included in this series—never to completion—and seems that it will never end in our lifetimes.

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Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Swiss. The Way Things Go, 1987. 30 minutes. Image courtesy of the artists

The Way Things Go

July 6, 2020 - July 31, 2020

Media Arts Gallery

In a warehouse, artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss build a structure made out of common household items. Then, with fire, water, gravity, and chemistry, they create a self-destructing performance of physical interactions, chemical reactions, and precisely crafted chaos.

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Viola Frey, American, 1933-2004. The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, 1992. Ceramic and glazes. 95 x 202 x 66 inches. Artists’ Legacy Foundation, Oakland, CA. 2019 © Artists’ Legacy Foundation / Licensed by ARS, New York.

Monumental: The Art of Viola Frey

March 14, 2020 - October 25, 2020

Harris - Burger Gallery

Over the course of her 50-year career, Viola Frey (1933–2004) produced an impressive body of artwork, including sculpture, paintings, and drawings, but she is best known for her brilliantly colored, monumental ceramic figures. Frey belonged to a generation of California artists who pushed the boundaries of clay as a craft to produce sculptural artworks, which elevated ceramics as a medium for fine art as we know it today. 

Frey’s multi-faceted approach and training as a painter and sculptor taught her to experiment using contemporary materials, art historical and pop culture references, and personal iconography, which she gathered from her surroundings. These deep sources of imagery allowed Frey to reflect on culture, power, gender dynamics, and in one particular series, the broad topic of Western Civilization.

Monumental: The Art of Viola Frey features artwork from her Western Civilization series, which Frey explored within the last 15 years of her life. The exhibition presents of a variety of media highlighting her interest not only in clay, but also painting and drawing. Widely considered Frey’s masterpiece, The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization, which measures nearly 17 feet long and 9 feet high, will be on view for the first time outside of the Western United States.

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Installation

Installation of The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization

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Auguste Jean, French. Vase, ca. 1880. Blown and engraved glass with gilt, enamel and iridized decoration. Private collection.

Useful and Beautiful: Decorative Arts Highlights

November 16, 2019 - July 26, 2020

Ann K. Walch-Chan Gallery

Artfully crafted but functional items like vases, teacups, and flatware are often called decorative arts. The term was created in Europe after the Renaissance to distinguish these items from painting and sculpture. This exhibition explores an array of decorative arts including glass by Auguste Jean and Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Prior to the 19th century, most glass manufacturers were aiming for pristine, almost machine-made, objects. However, some artists were seeking a different, more handcrafted, quality. In the 1870s, Auguste Jean gained attention by abstracting traditional vessel forms. While the glass was still malleable, he used tools to create protrusions and ripples in the glass. He later decorated the surface with enameled and engraved designs. Louis Comfort Tiffany applied innovative glassmaking techniques to his nature-inspired designs. Favrile glass—a term coined by Tiffany in 1894—was made to resemble ancient vessels, which, when excavated from archeological sites, had an iridescent surface. Tiffany achieved a similar look by spraying metallic salts on hot glass, a new technique that created a lustrous finish.

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Clichy, French, 1837–1885. Scrambled millefiori, ca. 1859. Glass, 3 3/16 inches diameter. Private collection.

Postscript

November 16, 2019 - September 13, 2020

Decorative Arts Corridor

Postscript features 68 weights from a local private collector and highlights major works by classical paperweight manufacturers as well as contemporary artists. This exhibition includes two extremely rare weights made by French manufacturer Pantin. Founded in 1850, Pantin produced paperweights until 1890. Although Pantin did not create as many weights as manufacturers such as Baccarat and Clichy, those it did were­—and remain—some of the most desirable weights for collectors. The two Pantin weights in this exhibition are among less than 15 in existence. In addition to their rarity, these weights are notable because they are considered magnum weights, measuring more than 3½ inches wide.

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