Sunday, May 15, 2011

Collection Highlights: North Carolina Museum of Art

Me and Albert with Vollis Simpson

I spent the best $3 of my life when I bought the Roadside America app (that link takes you to the app on itunes) for my iPhone before our trip began last week. Now, a just a few days over a week and some amazing experiences later, I am back from our Outer Banks trip and I am ready to blog! I saw some really cool things and met some really cool people and now I get to share it with the world!

If it weren't for the app, Albert and I wouldn't have found Vollis Simpson's little workshop in Lucama, NC. Not only did we get to meet the artist, we bought a piece of his work, AND we got to take our photo with him! (See above!) One of Vollis Simpson's whirligigs is in the art park at the North Carolina Museum of Art and crowns the outside of the American Visionary Art Museum. I'll post all about our experience with Vollis later!

Before I get to this and the other really good stuff, I wanted to post about the NCMA...


I love art museums.

I wanted to begin today by focusing on the North Carolina Museum of Art's wonderful permanent collection. Fortunately, they allow photography, so this little guide is illustrated! All of the images were visual notes on artists that I enjoyed, meaning that if I liked a work, I took a picture.

The museum had a very diverse collection ranging from all over the art map/world. They had a lot of African art, contemporary art, Egyptian sculpture, Renaissance paintings, you name it. I only had 5 hours to spend there, but could've easily taken an extra 5. Each artist is linked to either a site where you can learn more about the artist or another post on The Daily Telecraft about that artist.


Here's the collection highlights:

In the African art section, they had an installation called Congregation by Ledelle Moe (who you might remember from the NCMA art park post). She made these using local materials (like dirt and sand), depending on where she was sculpting, mixed with concrete to create the heads. From far away, it is difficult to assess what the sculpture is, a congregation, but close up, you can see that each head has individual features and is unique. I wonder what she is trying to say about culture, and what the museum was alluding to by putting these in African art (though Moe was born in South Africa):



Next up is another South African artist, named Mustafa Maluka. He paints people he doesn't know, setting them up as a kind of fictitious hero. I love the use of color and line in this painting, and it instantly caught my eye:


In the 50s, Malian Seydou Keita took photographs of people wanting to send portraits of themselves to loved ones. This photograph was so inspiring to me, as it marked beauty at the time, and I still find it beautiful. The plaque next to the frame said that this was one of Keita's signature poses:


The next piece is a meticulous, time-consuming work made from cans that once contained alcoholic drinks. El Anatsui (a Ghanaian artist) punched each can into a shape, hole punched those pieces, then wove them all together with copper wire. The result is an awe-inspiring wall of what appears to be fabric, but once you edge closer you realize it isn't. Not only is this piece massive in size, it's commentary on what connects us all creates a dialogue between control and responsibility. The artist actually collaborated with the NCMA to create this piece:


The next thing that caught my eye was a colorful oil painting from 1955 by Stanton Macdonald-Wright, called Flight of the Butterfly No. 1. Sadly, it had no information about it:


The museum had an entire wall dedicated to a massive Frank Stella creation. These are always a treat for me:


The museum had a surprising number of North Carolinian artists featured in the collection, including this large print by Carla Gannis. They're not supposed to look completely realistic, especially considering that the work is a mashup of lots of photographs that she's taken in all sorts of places. The gaussian blur effect creates interesting and impossible focal points in the composition. Love it!


Alex Prager's print caught my eye, too. It reminded me of a Hitchcock movie still, similar to Nichola Kuperus. Maybe I see a blog post theme developing?


North Carolina artist Paige Laughlin takes images from home magazines and paints them a little abstractly. I fell in love with this painting, and one of the guards told me that she was saving up to buy a Laughlin because she loved this painting so much, too:


Easily one of the coolest works in the museum was this wall with an upside down Mona Lisa on it. Upon closer inspection, you realize that the work is made from 5, 184 thread spools. Not only that, but the artist (Devorah Sperber) provided a little glass orb on a microphone stand in the middle of the room, so when you hold it to your eye, it distorts it enough to look like the real thing. Awesome!



One of the biggest surprises was walking into one of the galleries and seeing a familiar face. If any of you have ever taken an art history course, you will recognize Pieter Aertsen's The Butcher's Stall. Apparently, there are 5 versions, and the NCMA bought this one under the impression that it was one of the dud versions, then later found out that it was the best version. The guard told me that they had to put glass on it because people kept touching it to see if the cow was really real. There's also a flaw in the painting, too. Look closely at the pretzels at the top left corner of the painting and you will realize that they are floating in midair:


I loved learning about Cycladic artwork in art history class, so I was instantly drawn to this Cycladic sculpture. Something about the texture of the marble and the curved, stylized shapes have really been an aesthetic inspiration for me:



This reclining bull is an Ancient Egyptian artwork:


The next artwork caught my eye just because it was so creepy. It's Roger Brown's American Landscape with Revolutionary Heroes. From left to right, the "heroes" are: Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, and John Marshall. His work has a comic book style narrative, which is why this work seems more "low art" than it does "high art":


The museum had a small exhibition about James Audubon which was interesting. Maybe it was because I was prepared by the exhibition, but this painting by Hans Thoma caught my eye (also, it was painted on cardboard, which I found interesting, too)-


Easily, one of my favorite paintings in the entire museum was Pierre-Jacques Volaire's 1777 painting of The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This picture doesn't do it justice; the beautiful oranges painted softly into the sky. These paintings were made for people on their Grand Tour, and Vesuvius erupted multiple times in that century, so Volaire made a lot of money by creating these souvenir paintings:


Admission to the museum was free, though it cost $10 to get into the temporary exhibit, 30 Americans, which was well worth the charge. I'll have to post about it soon. Other notable items at the museum was a Rodin collection on view (literally, a room full of them)


& Rodin's The Thinker was in the courtyard in front of the museum (I think only 15 exist from the original cast... NCMA owns a lot of Rodin's casting molds, but there are only a certain number allowed to be created so they can't really make any with them unless they jump through a bunch of hoops)


If you haven't seen it already, I strongly suggest you view my post about the Art Park at the museum. This museum and it's grounds were such a treat, I can't wait to go back and visit again!

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