Happy birthday, Will Barnet 

Arts Center exhibits 85 works by the artist and friend of Townsend Wolfe.

click to enlarge 'SILENT SEASONS, WINTER': In the Will Barnet exhibition opening Friday at the Arkansas Arts Center.
  • 'SILENT SEASONS, WINTER': In the Will Barnet exhibition opening Friday at the Arkansas Arts Center.

Will Barnet turned 100 years old in May, which means his friendship with Townsend Wolfe has lasted more than half a century. The affection between the artist and former Arkansas Arts Center director has had a salutary effect on the Arts Center, making possible exhibitions of Barnet's elegant figurative works — including the New York artist's first retrospective. On Friday, the Arts Center opens "Will Barnet at the Arkansas Arts Center: A Centennial Exhibition," 80 drawings and five prints from the former Arts Student League graphics instructor, including 71 drawings that Barnet donated to the Arts Center in honor of Wolfe.

The works on paper include some of Barnet's forays into abstraction, sketches for paintings and watercolors. His space is flat and his line is both fluid and angular, a perfect hand for his drawings of, for example, languid women and their cats.

Barnet won't be at this exhibition — his mind is sharp, but travel would be risky — but he was here for his 1991 retrospective. It's the rare important museum in the United States that doesn't include a Barnet in its collection — his works are in the Metropolitan, MOMA, the National Gallery, for starters — and his personal connection to the Arts Center is a happy matter.

A catalog of the show, which will run through Jan. 15, will be for sale in the Museum Shop. It is dedicated to Wolfe. Sponsoring the exhibition are Chucki and Curt Bradbury; Harriet and Warren Stephens; Jackye and Curtis Finch Jr.; Dianne and Bobby Tucker; Nancy and Larry Lichty; Belinda Shults; Helen Porter and James T. Dyke; Jane and Bob Wilson; and Brooks and Townsend Wolfe.

The Barnet drawings will be complemented by the three dimensional — a show of contemporary metalcraft from the collection of John and Robyn Horn. The show includes work by Elizabeth Brim, Hoss Hayley, Tom Joyce, Albert Paley, Rick Smith and 20 more and was chosen to illustrate the variety of technique in making metal objects. "Cast, Cut, Forged and Crushed: Selections in Metal from the John & Robyn Horn Collection," also opens Friday and runs through Jan. 15.

The Baum Gallery at the University of Central Arkansas is celebrating its 15th year with an artists' reception from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7; the show features work by the Times' own Bryan Moats and other art representative of all studio courses taught at UCA. The reception for "Connections: The Fifteenth Year" will include wine and cheese, live music and a contest for most creative party hat.

This Friday is Gallery Walk evening in Hot Springs, when galleries will stay open until 9 p.m. so art lovers and artists can mingle. Blue Moon Gallery, 718 Central Ave., is featuring "Vision Re-Visited: Ten Years After," hand-tinted photographs by David Rackley; Gallery Central, 800 Central Ave., is featuring the abstract paintings of Michael Ethridge, and the Hot Springs Fine Arts Center, 626 Central, hosts an exhibition of oils and mixed media by Jeri Hillis, "This is not a window. This is not a door." At Justus Fine Art, 827 A Central, the show "Kindred Spirits" highlights Native American-inspired carved fetishes by Robert Zunick and paintings by Rene Hein.

Columbia University artist Mark Dion, featured in the PBS series "art:21" and who has exhibited at the MOMA, is showing conceptual art at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, including drawings of a proposal for a public art piece for the U of A campus. Dion visited campus last year as a guest of the Public Art Oversight Advisory Committee, which includes campus and community members and which asked him to create a site-specific piece. "Mark Dion: Process and Inquiry," which runs Oct. 8-Nov. 18, is also meant to mark the 60th anniversary of the Fine Arts Center. Here's what Dion does, according to the U of A: "With an artistic research process that regularly synthesizes visual and textual information from journals, diaries, and other primary documents, Dion presents us with a keen sense of our contemporary moment. Not allowing us to accept any visual conclusions idly, however, Dion's work challenges the depths and breadth of our own areas of interest and supposed expertise, including our own particular ethics of learning, teaching, and living." Pretty heady stuff about a guy whose own description of his process is pretty blunt: "Some artists paint, some sculpt, some take photographs, and I shop."


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