While we're on the subject (I know, you're saying I'm ALWAYS on this subject), here's what the main pond at Crystal Bridges looked like the day after Christmas. Culturgrrl reports that the pond sprang a leak (and on other subjects).
So you’ve got a museum, it’s in Arkansas, it’s got a name that people widely agree sounds like a meth rehab facility and it’s funded with Wal Mart’s filthy lucre. Crystal Bridges, like many of us from The Natural State, has a lot to overcome.
That's part of a funny, but perceptive, piece by Kelly Klaasmeyer, formerly of Conway and now writing for Texas art publication glasstire, on Crystal Bridges Museum. (Thanks to Fayetteville art maven Shannon Dillard Mitchell for pointing this article out!)
The piece is about how others see us and the snobbery that has been transferred to the museum by its connection with Alice Walton's Walmart dollars. Here's one of the greatest observations about the Walmart factor I've read to date:
But I also understand that a portion of the disdain Wal Mart engenders isn’t just because brings in cheap crap from China, it’s because it brings in cheap, TACKY crap from China. Let me offer an anecdotal example. When Target moved into the hipster yuppiedom of the Houston Heights, it was essentially greeted with Cries of Hosanna. When Wal Mart announced its plans to move in as well, you would have thought an open pit nuclear waste dump had been proposed. Target brings in crap from China too, albeit better designed. And Target has had its own controversial practices, although nowhere near the level of the Wal Mart leviathan. But no one can tell me that beneath the outrage, there isn’t some hiss of socioeconomic prejudice: poor people shop at Wal Mart — poor, fat, tacky people (you’ve seen the website, right?). And all that art that Alice Walton was snatching up for her Arkansas museum would be pearls before the Wal Mart shopper swine.
2012 Small Works on Paper
Opening Jan. 5 at William F. Laman Library in North Little Rock.
The Laman Library (2801 Orange St., North Little Rock) will be the first venue to show the 2012 "Small Works on Paper" exhibition, which opens there Jan. 5. Juror Marcia Goldenstein, professor of drawing and painting at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, chose 40 works from 246 entries for the touring exhibit, now in its 25th year and destined for 10 galleries across Arkansas.
Purchase award winners were William Barksdale of Cotter; Ginger Grahn of Paragould; Neal Harrington of Russellville; Dennis McCann of Maumelle, Jason McCann of Maumelle and Mike Means of El Dorado.
Helen Frankenthaler, the abstract expressionist stain painter whose lyrical style and translucent and free application of paint inspired more than one generation of aspiring artists (including mine), died today. The New York Times' obituary details her privileged life, her marriage to the artist Robert Motherwell and how her work was critically received.
It has worried me that Frankenthaler's paintings, on raw canvas, will not survive many years. The canvas yellows and the paints lose their luminosity after a while. But they're beautiful things, and criticism that they are too beautiful to be considered high art rolls off my back like water off oil paint ... and I'm sure Frankenthaler didn't give a damn, either.
I once made dinner for Frankenthaler with a classmate at a small apartment in North Bennington, Vt. She was a bit intimidating, but she ate the first chicken I ever cut up and cooked myself, and I'm sure it was awful but she didn't discuss it. I wish I could remember more about the meal, but I was too shy and silly and awed to engage her in conversation, though I'm sure my classmate said something intelligent. Frankenthaler was with Andrew Heiskell, chairman of Time Inc., at the dinner and with him at least I could come up with a question — was he related to John N. Heiskell, the long-time publisher of the Arkansas Gazette? He said he was.
Another classmate, Sigrid Burton, wasn't so shy and just went right up to Frankenthaler and asked her for a job. Frankenthaler said yes. The job entailed putting Vaseline on the lids of Frankenthaler's jars of paint, as I recall.
Earlier this year, New York Times writer Roberta Smith (who also wrote the Crystal Bridges review mentioned here yesterday), said this about Frankenthaler:
Helen Frankenthaler, the doyenne of Color Field painting, might also be described as contemporary art’s answer to James McNeill Whistler. Whistler was, after all, the first American painter to act decisively on the principle that less can indeed be more, especially if delivered with the proper quotient of improvisatory aplomb. Throughout her career Ms. Frankenthaler, who turned 82 in December, has pursued a stripped-down bravura across expanses of unprimed canvas, evolving a gestural Minimalism of floating lines and radiant floods of color, working wet-on-wet in a manner that tolerates few corrections. Like Whistler, she learned a great deal from Asian art, including Chinese ink painting and calligraphy and Japanese screens.
“It has been an honor and privilege to have helped launch what is already among America’s best and most respected museums of American art and getting to know the many wonderful people, most especially the Walton family, who call Arkansas home. I did what I came to do and it is time to return to Maine where our family and deepest roots beckon.”
CBMAA spokesperson Laura Jacobs said that Crosman's last day is the "conclusion of the 5-year assignment to build the inaugural museum collection."
Crosman came to Crystal Bridges from the William A. Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine, in 2005, when Princeton art professor and collector John A. Wilmerding was Walton's closest advisor. Once referred to as chief curator, his title shifted to curator of collections when the March hirings of David Houston as director of curatorial and Kevin Murphy as curator of American art were announced. In the book "Celebrating the American Spirit: Masterworks from the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art," which went to press some time ago, Crosman was described as "founding curator."
If he returns a call I made to his home in Bella Vista, I'll update this post.
Depictions of our clan by Thomas Nast, Al Capp ('Lil Abner), Walt Kelly (POGO), Doug Marlette (Kudzu), Jim Scancarelli (Gasoline Alley) and Marcus Hamilton (Dennis the Menace) are on exhibit at the Rogers Historical Museum in "Comic Stripped: A Revealing Look at Southern Stereotypes in Cartoons."
We haven't been up to see it, so we'll rely on Creative Loafing's review to give you some idea of what's in the show, developed by Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, N.C.
Of POGO, the finest of these strips, Creative Loafing includes this perhaps forgotten fact:
In 1953, [artist Walt] Kelly got some heat with the appearance of his character Simple J. McCarthy, a spoof of Senator Joseph McCarthy, the fearsome blowhard senator tracking phantom Commies with his Un-American Activities Committee. Kelly later lampooned Nixon and his minions, including FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. The Director of the FBI suspected coded messages might be included in the Southernisms and nonsense poetry printed in the Pogo strip. Attempts at deciphering the crypts proved fruitless.
The exhibition runs through March 24.
In case you make Eye Candy your first stop on the Arkansas Times home page, note: Max has an item on his Arkansas Blog about the New York Times' rave review of Crystal Bridges, which it describes as a "a big, serious, confident new institution."
The article describes Copley's "Portrait of Mrs. H" as "shimmering," and goes on to single out other important works. The writer, Roberta Smith, says the museum needs to fill a particular hole:
There is one huge blind spot in the collection up to 1900, and it is a very serious one in my book: the almost complete lack of paintings by largely self-taught or folk artists. This country’s folk art is as great and as original as any other art it has produced; its uncanny fusion of abstraction and representation, and of primitive and modern makes it the American equivalent of Sienese painting in the early Italian Renaissance. Leaving it out is like looking at the story of American art with only one eye.
In one of Eye Candy's many helpful posts for Crystal Bridges, I wrote about Sotheby's "American Paintings, Silver, Folk Art and Sculpture" auction in September, and there suggested she might want to pick up William Edmondson's "Angel with Cape Surround" in case she needed Eye Candy's assistance in collecting outsider art. Someone bought it, for $98,000; perhaps AW has it stashed somewhere for future exhibition. Alas, the whirligig I also suggested did not sell at all.
What's up at CBMAA in January:
Starting Jan. 4, visitors to Crystal Bridges won't need to reserve a time to visit the Bentonville museum. Also that day, a free, hour-long guided tour, "Strong Women," starts at 2:30 p.m.; meet in the main lobby about 15 minutes before tour time. The tour will focus on women as artists and subjects.
The museum will offer guided tours at 2:30 p.m. every Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On Jan. 5, the tour will focus on the permanent collection; the Jan. 7 tour will focus on the themes of the work in the "Wonder World" contemporary exhibit (meet in south lobby).
"Skyspace Discussions" at the James Turrell sculpture "The Way of Color" on the grounds continue Jan. 4, 6, 11, 13, 18 and 20 just before sunset. Discussions last about 40 minutes. The seats inside the sculpture are heated.
And at 11:30 a.m. Jan. 9, horticulturist Cody George and education director Niki Stewart will give a talk, "Shifting Perspectives With Nature," in front of Asher Durand's "Kindred Spirits" in the colonial gallery.
Read more about the museum in Arkansas Business' "Top 10 Business Stories for 2011."
Jeff Goldberg's attack last week in Bloomberg Views on Alice Walton for building Crystal Bridges, which he calls a "moral tragedy," has gotten blowback from the futureofcapitalism.com ("Remind me if I ever get rich not to start an art museum. It seems to be just an invitation for attacks from the press," writes editor Ira Stoll, earning a "bravo" from freelance journalist Judith Dobryznski) and Lee Rosenbaum (culturgrrl) ("Jeffrey Goldberg has gone off the deep end.")
Like culturgrrl, I don't think Walmart's treatment of its employees (which Ira Stoll defends) is something the family can be particularly proud of, as lawsuits over gender discrimination and other issues attest. And the philanthropy of the Walton Foundation includes dollars to class-dividing charter schools, whose uneven education and promotion of segregation supporters turn a blind eye to.
You can't blame Goldberg for pointing out the obscenity in the Walton wealth and desire that Walmart would pay its employees enough that they didn't have to be on the public dole to make ends meet. But hey, those of us who love the museum are conflicted enough, already!
Here's the deal: This "moral tragedy" has brought a lot of joy to the people of Bentonville and Arkansas. It will bring more, as Pat and Willard Walker largesse brings in the kiddos to see Thomas Eakins, Alexander Calder and Dan Flavin. It was even the attitude of two women I spoke to at the opening that the Crystal Bridges is their museum, because they shop at Walmart. "We built it," they told me, without a trace of resentment. Are they slaves talking about the pyramids? If the slaves were proud of their handiwork and brought their kids to see it, maybe so. But should you shake a finger at them and tell them to they ought to know better than enjoy a museum built by ubercapitalists?
Goldberg blasts Crystal Bridges as "a compelling symbol of the chasm between the richest Americans and everyone else." I see it, instead, as "a compelling symbol" of the benefits of making our nation's cultural riches available to all...including Wal-Mart's workers, should they ever choose to make a visit.
So weigh in here, Candy fans.
Shea Hembrey, whom you've read about here, was featured in the New York Times Magazine published yesterday. The Times looked at Hembrey's book "Seek," which purports to be a biennial catalog of work by 100 artists — including "the artist Mart Meyer, who lives in Dallas and photographs what he sees almost moment by moment" and "Chinese artist Ju Hu, who created a large-scale work examining the “malleable flow of time” as he camped out in an autumnal forest and tried to tape every fallen leaf back onto its tree" — all of whom are a creation of Hembrey. The Times describes the artist, who now lives in New Jersey, thusly:
Hembrey is a gentle presence. He speaks in a soft Southern drawl and tells looping stories involving things like tornadoes, all-terrain vehicles and wandering armadillos, mostly originating in his hometown, Hickory Grove, Ark., which at last count had a population of 129. He will, when the moment calls for it, shout a thoroughly unironic “Go-llleee!” His mother is a hairdresser, his sister an Army wife and his father recently retired after a long career as a factory worker. Hembrey, who has two master’s degrees in studio art and keeps his toenails painted a glimmering shade of silver, can seem both folksy and ethereal at the same time.
Hembrey, 37, explained his work on the "biennial" on TED in March; see the video here.
California-based and Little Rock-born artist Jill Storthz is showing woodblock prints on Saturday night at 1300 Main St., in first floor of the building formerly occupied by Juanita's and on the verge of being occupied by the Oxford American Magazine.
Storthz, 33, is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The above example of her work is from her website; not promising you'll be able to grab it up at tomorrow night's show.
An Arkansas-style disclosure: Jill is the daughter of my former sister-in-law's brother. But that's not why I'm blogging her! Hers is a unique style: Check out more of it here.
Continuing at Greg Thompson Fine Art: Wood sculpture and painting by Robyn Horn and new paintings by Dolores Justus, fine artists who are experimenting with new ways of making art. Argenta ArtWalk reception tonight from 5-8 p.m.
Ketz Gallery opens an exhibition of 20 recent paintings by the uninominated artist Sulac at the Argenta ArtWalk reception from 5-8 p.m. The artist, who works in paint and collage, will be at the reception.
Along with Sulac's will be work by the 30 gallery artists. Holiday desserts and beverages tonight at the gallery, 705 Main St. in North Little Rock.
The best of the best Arkansas League of Artists works, as judged by sculptor Bryan Massey Sr., will be on exhibit tomorrow night at Thea and Audrey Dean Kelley will perform holiday music.
Also on tap: the release of "A Rain Falling Star: Thea's Journal," writings by the Thea Leopoulos, the young woman whose tragic death in a car accident inspired her family to create the Thea Foundation. All proceeds from sale of the book benefit the Thea Foundation (paper $15, cloth $30).
The event runs 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. as part of Argenta ArtWalk.
UALR's department of applied design — the woodworkers, silversmiths, etc. — are having a silent auction and sale today at the department next to Big Lots in the shopping center at the intersection of Asher and University. There will also be a raffle for items by Mia Hall and David Clemons. Here's the flyer, for a little visual stimulation:
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