Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Scenic Overlook, Next Turn


scenic_overlook_arrow_sign
As the holidays approach, many of us will get into our cars and hit the road for a long drive. Before the road trip even begins, there is a lot of planning and anticipation containing mixed emotions of excitement, anxiety, or dread. The day of, the car is loaded up with suitcases packed frantically the night before. As a family member waits for others to pile into the car, he kicks the tires, making sure they have enough air. Right as the engine turns on, there is a shout from the backseat, “Wait! I forgot something!” Finally, the doors are shut, the heat is turned on, and Siri states that she has found the best route. While the car pulls out of the driveway, questions float in the car, “Is there enough gas?” “Will we get there on time?” “Where will we stop?”

The pieces in the exhibition Road Trip: A Journey through the GW Collection, record the moment when the music is turned on and the monotony of the road begins. It is during this time, no longer in the panic mode of preparing and anticipating, that the mind is at rest and open to contemplate and wander. The surrounding landscape begins to reveal its beauty, and there is a desire to capture these moments often through photography, paintings, songs, poems, or literature.



Karen Margo Lee, Winter Sunrise, 1989. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. GW 
Permanent Collection. MFA Thesis Acquisition, 1989.
Winter Sunrise (1989), painted by Karen Margo Lee, depicts a quiet scene on an empty back road. The hard lines of man-made objects associated with the road – a light post, a street sign, and power lines – are often omitted from a landscape painting, but here they are elevated. These objects, often seen as commonplace and ugly, make the landscape interesting. 
John Baeder, Chicken Chops, 1980. Silkscreen, ed. 219/
250, 16-1/4 x 24-1/2 inches. GW Permanent Collection.
Gift of Jayson D. Pankin, 1994.
In the print Chicken Chops (1980) by John Baeder, the photographer appreciates a diner and its setting. The scene is nostalgic for a time without drive-thrus and corporate chain restaurants. Often along the road, there are moments that the past reveals itself, and we are connected with all those who have driven the same road.


N. Jay Jaffee, Tire Store, n.d. Gelatin silver print. GW 
Permanent Collection. Gift of Gary Granoff, 1985.

The photograph Tire Store by N. Jay Jaffee, shows a worn down building that looks as if it may be on the verge of going out of business. But even here, the photographer stopped, taking a moment to appreciate the odd and kitschy tire shop.










Although often quoted, Ursula K. Le Guin’s words ring true –“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” During the holidays, take a moment to look at this exhibition and discover what artists have found important enough to record during their road trips but also, look, and find pleasure in your own road trip.

Maria Gorbaty, Gallery AssistantRoad Trip: A Journey through the GW Collection is on view through January 31, 2017 on the first floor of GW's Media and Public Affairs Building, 805 21st Street NW.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Brief History of Ando Hiroshige

          Often considered the last of the great Edo period (1603-1868) landscape print designers, Ando Hiroshige, also known as Utagawa Hiroshige, lived a relatively quiet life. He was the son of Ando Genemon a fire warden in Edo castle. Ando Hiroshige exhibited talent in art and was often seen practicing around the castle. At the tender age of 12, Hiroshige lost both of his parents and subsequently accepted the hereditary title of fire warden. Soon after, he applied for an apprenticeship at the Toyokuni School and Toyohiro School. The founders of both schools were students of the Utagawa Toyoharu. Hiroshige was only accepted at the Toyohiro School. Hiroshige progressed very quickly in the Toyohiro school and was later accepted into the Utagawa fraternity where he adopted the name Utagawa Hiroshige.

          While studying at the Toyohiro School, Hiroshige studied Kano and Shijo painting styles and created traditional ukiyo-e prints such as prints of kabuki actors and bijinga (beautiful women). He practiced print design part-time until his son was old enough to accept his position as fire warden at the castle. After his sensei (Toyohiro) died in 1830, Hiroshige started creating landscape paintings. In 1832, Hiroshige was invited on a convoy to escort a gift (a group of horses) to the emperor in Kyoto from the Shogun in Edo (now Tokyo). It was during this trip that Hiroshige created his most popular prints Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road. In these prints, Hiroshige “combined a lyrical view of the countryside throughout the course of the four seasons with charmingly humorous depictions of the people and the local customs of each post stations” (Mason, 292). 

          Hiroshige wanted to bring something different to the world of ukiyo-e prints. Instead of focusing on traditional theme like bijinga (beautiful women) and kabuki actors, Hiroshige used landscape as his muse. Unlike Hokusai, Hiroshige presented nature in a simple, honest, straightforward, and emotional manner. He was able to harmoniously blend man with nature, creating prints that still capture audiences today (Strange, 130-134).

          It was only after his death in 1858 that Hiroshige received notoriety for his life’s work.  The forced opening of the Japanese borders by U.S. ships in 1853 and the signing of unequal treaties with foreign European nations caused the leaders of Edo to reevaluate Japanese foreign policy and led to the end of the Edo period in 1868.  Just as the Western countries were affecting Japan, Japan was also leaving its mark on the West most notably in the art world. Japanese culture inspired Western art so much that the term Japonisme was created in 1872 by Philippe Burty to describe the phenomenon. Hiroshige’s prints (along with many other designers) were distributed in Europe. Vincent Van Gogh was so inspired by Hiroshige’s prints, he made replicas of the scenes. Here is an example of one of Van Gogh replicas. On the left is Hiroshige’s print and on the right is Van Gogh’s painting of the print.
 

The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is hosting an exhibit of first edition woodblock prints designed by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858). The exhibit, Along the Eastern Road: Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido was organized by the Reading Public Museum and will be at the Brady Art Gallery until December 2.

- Denisha Phipps, GW Graduate Student in Exhibition Design and Public Engagement

Bibliography:
Ives, Colta. “Japonisme.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jpon/hd_jpon.htm (October 2004)
Department of Asian Art. “Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm (October 2003)
Strange, Edward. Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints: A Guide. New York: Dover Publications, 1983. Print.
Mason, Penelope E. History of Japanese Art. New York: Abrams, 1993. Print.



  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints

          The word ukiyo stemmed from Buddhist origins, it means “floating world”. It was used to describe the impermanence of the human world and the belief that all things are short lived. During the Edo period (1600-1868) the word ukiyo changed; it was used to express that the fleeting nature of life was to be enjoyed to the fullest because of its ephemeral nature. The word became synonymous with the pleasure and theater districts of Edo (now Tokyo, Japan) that were constantly changing. Ukiyo-e literally translates to “floating world pictures”. Woodblock prints are the most representative art form of ukiyo-e and the Edo period.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858), 13th Station: Hara, circa 1833-4 from Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, woodblock print, courtesy of Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania
          Without the urbanization of Edo and the rise of the financial power of the chōnin (merchant class) ukiyo-e might not have gained as much popularity as it did. The chōnin class were subjected to sumptuary laws (ken'yakurei: laws regulating expenditures) created by the samurai class to keep up the illusions of the social system. The Japanese social structure was of a Confucian design (Samurai-Farmers-Artisans-Merchants) with samurai on the top of the social structure and merchants at the bottom. Many samurai families were going bankrupt while the chōnin class, the lowest social class, flourished financially. The sumptuary edicts restricted any display of wealth, including what chōnin could and could not wear. These laws created tension between the samurai elite and chōnin, so the chōnin class found ways around these laws by funding the arts and creating a place where they could enjoy themselves and spend their hard earned money, hence the “floating world” became a place where rich merchants could show and experience artistic pleasures.

          Ukiyo-e prints also served as very important pieces of print media. Traditional ukiyo-e prints showed images from the pleasure districts (such as Yoshiwara) of the urban cities like Edo. The images were of the beautiful courtesans (bijinga) and famous kabuki actors of the theater district. Similar to magazines of today, ukiyo-e prints during the Edo period provided fashion and culture tips for the wives of wealthy merchant and samurai families. They were also used for advertising and commerce. During the late Edo period a successful effort to bring landscape woodblock print into the world of ukiyo-e was made by Hokusai and Hiroshige. 

          The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is hosting an exhibit of first edition woodblock prints designed by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858).  The exhibit, Along the Eastern Road: Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido was organized by the Reading Public Museum and will be at the Brady Art Gallery until December 2.

Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858), 10th Station: Hakone, circa 1833-4 from Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, woodblock print, courtesy of Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania

- Denisha Phipps, GW Graduate Student in Exhibition Design and Public Engagement

Bibliography:
Strange, Edward. Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints: A Guide. New York: Dover Publications, 1983.                     Print.

Mason, Penelope E. History of Japanese Art. New York: Abrams, 1993. Print.

Slade, Toby. Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History. Oxford: Berg, 2009. Print.

Department of Asian Art. “Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm (October 2003)


Department of Asian Art. “Art of the Pleasure Quarters and the Ukiyo-e Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/plea/hd_plea.htm (October 2004)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Revisiting "Generations of the Washington Color School"

A lot has been written about the Washington Color School, by us and by others.  Some of the best known modern Washington artists were members or associated with the group - ames such as Gene Davis, Tom Downing, and Paul Reed. As important as they are to the history of art in Washington, D.C., it’s no surprise that their work is heavily represented in the GW Collection, shown in a number of exhibitions in the Dimock Gallery and the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, and some of our favorites to highlight.

Installation view of "Generations of the Washington Color School"

Generations of the Washington Color School (June 7 - August 10, 1984) sought to show the continuation of the movement twenty years down the road, exhibiting works by the original members with their artistic protégés who were continuing in an exploration of color.  
Consisting of works from the GW Collection and others borrowed from artists and collectors, the exhibition in the Dimock Gallery included such highly regarded artists as Howard Mehring, Leon Berkowitz, Kenneth Noland, Sheila Isham, Willem de Looper, Michael Clark and others.  

Installation view of "Generations of the Washington Color School"

Now on view as part of Expansive Visions: GW Collection Past, Present, Future in the GW Museum and The Textile Museum are some familiar names and some familiar pieces. Isham’s Kuai and Alma Thomas’s Nature’s Red Impressions make repeat performances, sharing walls with more recent acquisitions by Susan Roth and Robin Rose. Sam Gilliam and Gene Davis are represented by newer works to the collection, the Untitled painting by Davis is more compact physically and visually than the ones included in Generations, while Gilliam’s Uguisu is the largest work in the collection!

Not to be forgotten, Michael Clark’s Beaux-Arts Windows is making a surprise appearance in our Pop-up display in 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue.  On view with three other works by DC artists, the arrangement aims to interrupt passers-by with an unexpected glimpse at the GW Collection while going about their day.  

See Expansive Visions, on view at the GW Museum and The Textile Museum, and visit our Pop-up in 2000 Penn through the end of the summer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Makonde Tree of Life: Update #4

UPDATE #4: Lost and Found


Have you ever had to make a phone call and start it with “Please bear with me, this will make sense in a minute.”  After repeatedly explaining to the woman who answered my phone call at Morehouse College that I was trying to reach the President of that college, I was finally directed to his assistant who patiently listened to my story again.  


“I understand, that sounds like something Dr. Wilson owns.”  I was asked to email a picture and the story again and she would check for me.  


Two days later I got an email from Morehouse.  “Dr. Wilson would like to speak with you today, are you available?”  I wasn’t, but I made time.  


“Hello? Olivia?  You found my piece!”  


We had found the owner of the Makonde Tree of Life!  Turns out it wasn’t a Found In Collection after all, but an artwork accidentally left behind.  He didn’t have much time but I was able to get a bit of the story on the work from Dr. Wilson before he had to go.


On a trip to Tanzania, Dr. Wilson saw examples of Makonde carvings and bought a few on that trip to be shipped back to the United States.  He kept in touch with one of the carvers who came to the U.S. every few years and he believes our piece was purchased from the artist in New York.  He has several other Makonde works, a few that are very large, but none quite like this one.  


Confirming that the work was made of ebony root wood, Dr. Wilson said it symbolizes how “As we cooperate and work together, the community grows.”  


The work had been in his office at GW and when he left to work for the White House in 2009 he had asked that it be moved with the rest of his things, but it somehow got left behind. He thought it had been lost in the move and was overjoyed when he got the email from us. I told him that a few offices had expressed an interest in showing the work and he got quiet. “Olivia, I wish I could give it to you but for sentimental reasons I can’t. It was in my office at MIT. It was in my office at GW. I would love to have it here in my office at Morehouse.”  


Although we’ve solved the mystery of where this piece came from, who it belongs to, and where it’s going, we still have more questions to be answered - and only a few short weeks to find out.

Makonde Tree of Life: Update #3

UPDATE #3: Questions, questions


We frequently host classes from School Without Walls high school nearby.  Known for their energetic and inquisitive students I thought they would be a great fit to help me with our Makonde research project.  

Using the Project Zero Thinking Routine “See, Think, Wonder” we explored the Makonde Tree of Life.  Each student had a Post-it for each category and we put them up on the cases at the end to discuss.  I saved all of the “Wonder” Post-its to guide my inquiries.  This photo includes just a few of them.  As you can see, we’ve got a lot to do!


Some of the questions that came up over and over:

  • What does it mean?  
  • What does it represent?  
  • Is there a message?  
  • What is the story it’s telling?
  • When was it made?  
  • Who made it?  
  • How many people did it take to make?  
  • How did they make it?
  • Why was it left?
  • Is it completed?
  • Why was it created?
  • What is the inspiration?
  • Who was the intended audience?


Here’s hoping we can find out the answers to some of our questions!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Other 90%: Alice Neel

We’re spotlighting some of the artists included in The Other 90%: Works from the GW Permanent Collection, on view now through June 3, 2016 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.


Life & Career


Alice Neel (1900-1984) was one of the most prolific American portrait painters of the twentieth century. Although abstraction was popular during the 1940s and 50s, she continued to paint in a style that depicted real people from celebrities of the art world like Andy Warhol to impoverish Neighbors in Spanish Harlem. Her gift was being able to reveal something of her sitters’ inner selves through depictions of their outer appearance.[1]

Neel was born in Merion Square, Pennsylvania and began her art education at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now known as Moore College of Art and Design), enrolled from 1921-25 Her early life was turbulent and her marriage to the artist Carlos Enriquez took her from Pennsylvania to Cuba to New York. With the death of a child and a disintegrating marriage, she suffered from anxiety and depression, which led to several suicide attempts. By 1932 she had returned to painting and to New York, where she participated in the First Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit that year. Like many artists living in New York during the 1930s, Neel joined the Public Works of Art Project (which would later become the Works Progress Administration, WPA), a government-funded program run under the Whitney Museum of American Art; she worked with the program on and off again until its termination in 1943.[2]

While she was included in a number group shows and small exhibitions during the 1940s and 50s, Neel only began to see increased recognition in the 1960s. By 1974 the Whitney Museum of American Art was holding a retrospective of her work, which many considered to be ‘too little, too late’ although she considered it a triumph. In 1984, the year of her death, she appeared twice on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, offering to paint his portrait.[3]


Activism


Neel was an activist throughout her life. She was investigated in 1955 by the FBI who had been looking into her activities with the Communist Party since 1951. Their file described her as a “romantic Bohemian type communist.” [4] In 1959, she appeared in the Beat film Pull My Daisy with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, among others. In 1968 she participated in a protest of the Whitney Museum of American Art over the exhibition 1930s Painting and Sculpture in America, because of its lack of women and African American artists, and again over the exhibition, Contemporary Black Artists in America, which was accused of being hastily organized by its curator, Robert Doty. 

She participated in a demonstration against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Harlem on My Mind, in 1969; she, Raphael Soyer, John Dobbs, and Mel Roman were the only white artists to attend the demonstration, organized by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. She also stood with the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam opposing Governor Nelson rockefeller's handling of the Attica prison riot in 1971. Her portrait of Kate Millet appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1970 in an issue dedicated to the “Politics of Sex.” Between 1973 and 1975 she participated in at least eight exhibitions exclusively devoted to the work of women artists.


Connections


As a major figure in the art world during the last decades of her life, she had connections to a number of other artists exhibited in The Other 90 Percent. In 1970 she painted a portrait of Andy Warhol, and Warhol attended and photographed a dinner held in honor of Neel by NYC Mayor Ed Koch at Gracie Mansion in 1982. [5] She protested with Raphael Soyer, and also painted a portrait of the artist and his twin brother, the artist Moses Soyer, in 1973. In 1972 she participated in the “Conference of Women in the Visual Arts,” held at the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C., taking the opportunity to present slides of her work.

Alice Neel, Family, 1982, lithograph, ed. 68/175, 
31-1/4 x 27 inches. The George Washington 
University Permanent Collection. Gift of James 
M. Kearns, 1993. 



Artistic Style


Although, she had numerous illustrations printed in the magazine Masses and Mainstream during the forties and fifties, Neel did not begin making prints, like the one shown here, until later in her career. She worked with Judith Solodkin at Rutgers University in 1977 to produce Nancy, a lithograph, and an etching, Young Man. [6] The lithograph in the GW Permanent Collection, Family (1982), is representative of her style of portraiture: strong outlines, bold brushstrokes, and tilted perspectives create a flatness against the picture plane and often suggests the uneasiness and personal struggles of many of her sitters.






[1] National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Alice Neel, 1900-1984,” <http://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/alice-neel> Accessed 14 March, 2016.
[2] Sarah Powers, “Chronology,” in Alice Neel, exhibition catalog, June 29, 2000–December 30, 2001, Philadelphia Museum of Art and four other institutions, 159-176.
[3] Powers, 176.
[4] Powers, 169.
[5] Powers, 175.
[6] Powers, 174.

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Covering exhibits at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery and giving you a peek into the Permanent Collection of the George Washington University.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Scenic Overlook, Next Turn


scenic_overlook_arrow_sign
As the holidays approach, many of us will get into our cars and hit the road for a long drive. Before the road trip even begins, there is a lot of planning and anticipation containing mixed emotions of excitement, anxiety, or dread. The day of, the car is loaded up with suitcases packed frantically the night before. As a family member waits for others to pile into the car, he kicks the tires, making sure they have enough air. Right as the engine turns on, there is a shout from the backseat, “Wait! I forgot something!” Finally, the doors are shut, the heat is turned on, and Siri states that she has found the best route. While the car pulls out of the driveway, questions float in the car, “Is there enough gas?” “Will we get there on time?” “Where will we stop?”

The pieces in the exhibition Road Trip: A Journey through the GW Collection, record the moment when the music is turned on and the monotony of the road begins. It is during this time, no longer in the panic mode of preparing and anticipating, that the mind is at rest and open to contemplate and wander. The surrounding landscape begins to reveal its beauty, and there is a desire to capture these moments often through photography, paintings, songs, poems, or literature.



Karen Margo Lee, Winter Sunrise, 1989. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches. GW 
Permanent Collection. MFA Thesis Acquisition, 1989.
Winter Sunrise (1989), painted by Karen Margo Lee, depicts a quiet scene on an empty back road. The hard lines of man-made objects associated with the road – a light post, a street sign, and power lines – are often omitted from a landscape painting, but here they are elevated. These objects, often seen as commonplace and ugly, make the landscape interesting. 
John Baeder, Chicken Chops, 1980. Silkscreen, ed. 219/
250, 16-1/4 x 24-1/2 inches. GW Permanent Collection.
Gift of Jayson D. Pankin, 1994.
In the print Chicken Chops (1980) by John Baeder, the photographer appreciates a diner and its setting. The scene is nostalgic for a time without drive-thrus and corporate chain restaurants. Often along the road, there are moments that the past reveals itself, and we are connected with all those who have driven the same road.


N. Jay Jaffee, Tire Store, n.d. Gelatin silver print. GW 
Permanent Collection. Gift of Gary Granoff, 1985.

The photograph Tire Store by N. Jay Jaffee, shows a worn down building that looks as if it may be on the verge of going out of business. But even here, the photographer stopped, taking a moment to appreciate the odd and kitschy tire shop.










Although often quoted, Ursula K. Le Guin’s words ring true –“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” During the holidays, take a moment to look at this exhibition and discover what artists have found important enough to record during their road trips but also, look, and find pleasure in your own road trip.

Maria Gorbaty, Gallery AssistantRoad Trip: A Journey through the GW Collection is on view through January 31, 2017 on the first floor of GW's Media and Public Affairs Building, 805 21st Street NW.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Brief History of Ando Hiroshige

          Often considered the last of the great Edo period (1603-1868) landscape print designers, Ando Hiroshige, also known as Utagawa Hiroshige, lived a relatively quiet life. He was the son of Ando Genemon a fire warden in Edo castle. Ando Hiroshige exhibited talent in art and was often seen practicing around the castle. At the tender age of 12, Hiroshige lost both of his parents and subsequently accepted the hereditary title of fire warden. Soon after, he applied for an apprenticeship at the Toyokuni School and Toyohiro School. The founders of both schools were students of the Utagawa Toyoharu. Hiroshige was only accepted at the Toyohiro School. Hiroshige progressed very quickly in the Toyohiro school and was later accepted into the Utagawa fraternity where he adopted the name Utagawa Hiroshige.

          While studying at the Toyohiro School, Hiroshige studied Kano and Shijo painting styles and created traditional ukiyo-e prints such as prints of kabuki actors and bijinga (beautiful women). He practiced print design part-time until his son was old enough to accept his position as fire warden at the castle. After his sensei (Toyohiro) died in 1830, Hiroshige started creating landscape paintings. In 1832, Hiroshige was invited on a convoy to escort a gift (a group of horses) to the emperor in Kyoto from the Shogun in Edo (now Tokyo). It was during this trip that Hiroshige created his most popular prints Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido Road. In these prints, Hiroshige “combined a lyrical view of the countryside throughout the course of the four seasons with charmingly humorous depictions of the people and the local customs of each post stations” (Mason, 292). 

          Hiroshige wanted to bring something different to the world of ukiyo-e prints. Instead of focusing on traditional theme like bijinga (beautiful women) and kabuki actors, Hiroshige used landscape as his muse. Unlike Hokusai, Hiroshige presented nature in a simple, honest, straightforward, and emotional manner. He was able to harmoniously blend man with nature, creating prints that still capture audiences today (Strange, 130-134).

          It was only after his death in 1858 that Hiroshige received notoriety for his life’s work.  The forced opening of the Japanese borders by U.S. ships in 1853 and the signing of unequal treaties with foreign European nations caused the leaders of Edo to reevaluate Japanese foreign policy and led to the end of the Edo period in 1868.  Just as the Western countries were affecting Japan, Japan was also leaving its mark on the West most notably in the art world. Japanese culture inspired Western art so much that the term Japonisme was created in 1872 by Philippe Burty to describe the phenomenon. Hiroshige’s prints (along with many other designers) were distributed in Europe. Vincent Van Gogh was so inspired by Hiroshige’s prints, he made replicas of the scenes. Here is an example of one of Van Gogh replicas. On the left is Hiroshige’s print and on the right is Van Gogh’s painting of the print.
 

The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is hosting an exhibit of first edition woodblock prints designed by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858). The exhibit, Along the Eastern Road: Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido was organized by the Reading Public Museum and will be at the Brady Art Gallery until December 2.

- Denisha Phipps, GW Graduate Student in Exhibition Design and Public Engagement

Bibliography:
Ives, Colta. “Japonisme.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jpon/hd_jpon.htm (October 2004)
Department of Asian Art. “Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm (October 2003)
Strange, Edward. Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints: A Guide. New York: Dover Publications, 1983. Print.
Mason, Penelope E. History of Japanese Art. New York: Abrams, 1993. Print.



  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ukiyo-e Woodblock Prints

          The word ukiyo stemmed from Buddhist origins, it means “floating world”. It was used to describe the impermanence of the human world and the belief that all things are short lived. During the Edo period (1600-1868) the word ukiyo changed; it was used to express that the fleeting nature of life was to be enjoyed to the fullest because of its ephemeral nature. The word became synonymous with the pleasure and theater districts of Edo (now Tokyo, Japan) that were constantly changing. Ukiyo-e literally translates to “floating world pictures”. Woodblock prints are the most representative art form of ukiyo-e and the Edo period.
Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858), 13th Station: Hara, circa 1833-4 from Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, woodblock print, courtesy of Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania
          Without the urbanization of Edo and the rise of the financial power of the chōnin (merchant class) ukiyo-e might not have gained as much popularity as it did. The chōnin class were subjected to sumptuary laws (ken'yakurei: laws regulating expenditures) created by the samurai class to keep up the illusions of the social system. The Japanese social structure was of a Confucian design (Samurai-Farmers-Artisans-Merchants) with samurai on the top of the social structure and merchants at the bottom. Many samurai families were going bankrupt while the chōnin class, the lowest social class, flourished financially. The sumptuary edicts restricted any display of wealth, including what chōnin could and could not wear. These laws created tension between the samurai elite and chōnin, so the chōnin class found ways around these laws by funding the arts and creating a place where they could enjoy themselves and spend their hard earned money, hence the “floating world” became a place where rich merchants could show and experience artistic pleasures.

          Ukiyo-e prints also served as very important pieces of print media. Traditional ukiyo-e prints showed images from the pleasure districts (such as Yoshiwara) of the urban cities like Edo. The images were of the beautiful courtesans (bijinga) and famous kabuki actors of the theater district. Similar to magazines of today, ukiyo-e prints during the Edo period provided fashion and culture tips for the wives of wealthy merchant and samurai families. They were also used for advertising and commerce. During the late Edo period a successful effort to bring landscape woodblock print into the world of ukiyo-e was made by Hokusai and Hiroshige. 

          The Luther W. Brady Art Gallery is hosting an exhibit of first edition woodblock prints designed by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858).  The exhibit, Along the Eastern Road: Hiroshige’s Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido was organized by the Reading Public Museum and will be at the Brady Art Gallery until December 2.

Utagawa Hiroshige (Japanese, 1797-1858), 10th Station: Hakone, circa 1833-4 from Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road, woodblock print, courtesy of Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania

- Denisha Phipps, GW Graduate Student in Exhibition Design and Public Engagement

Bibliography:
Strange, Edward. Hiroshige's Woodblock Prints: A Guide. New York: Dover Publications, 1983.                     Print.

Mason, Penelope E. History of Japanese Art. New York: Abrams, 1993. Print.

Slade, Toby. Japanese Fashion: A Cultural History. Oxford: Berg, 2009. Print.

Department of Asian Art. “Woodblock Prints in the Ukiyo-e Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ukiy/hd_ukiy.htm (October 2003)


Department of Asian Art. “Art of the Pleasure Quarters and the Ukiyo-e Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/plea/hd_plea.htm (October 2004)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Revisiting "Generations of the Washington Color School"

A lot has been written about the Washington Color School, by us and by others.  Some of the best known modern Washington artists were members or associated with the group - ames such as Gene Davis, Tom Downing, and Paul Reed. As important as they are to the history of art in Washington, D.C., it’s no surprise that their work is heavily represented in the GW Collection, shown in a number of exhibitions in the Dimock Gallery and the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, and some of our favorites to highlight.

Installation view of "Generations of the Washington Color School"

Generations of the Washington Color School (June 7 - August 10, 1984) sought to show the continuation of the movement twenty years down the road, exhibiting works by the original members with their artistic protégés who were continuing in an exploration of color.  
Consisting of works from the GW Collection and others borrowed from artists and collectors, the exhibition in the Dimock Gallery included such highly regarded artists as Howard Mehring, Leon Berkowitz, Kenneth Noland, Sheila Isham, Willem de Looper, Michael Clark and others.  

Installation view of "Generations of the Washington Color School"

Now on view as part of Expansive Visions: GW Collection Past, Present, Future in the GW Museum and The Textile Museum are some familiar names and some familiar pieces. Isham’s Kuai and Alma Thomas’s Nature’s Red Impressions make repeat performances, sharing walls with more recent acquisitions by Susan Roth and Robin Rose. Sam Gilliam and Gene Davis are represented by newer works to the collection, the Untitled painting by Davis is more compact physically and visually than the ones included in Generations, while Gilliam’s Uguisu is the largest work in the collection!

Not to be forgotten, Michael Clark’s Beaux-Arts Windows is making a surprise appearance in our Pop-up display in 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue.  On view with three other works by DC artists, the arrangement aims to interrupt passers-by with an unexpected glimpse at the GW Collection while going about their day.  

See Expansive Visions, on view at the GW Museum and The Textile Museum, and visit our Pop-up in 2000 Penn through the end of the summer.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Makonde Tree of Life: Update #4

UPDATE #4: Lost and Found


Have you ever had to make a phone call and start it with “Please bear with me, this will make sense in a minute.”  After repeatedly explaining to the woman who answered my phone call at Morehouse College that I was trying to reach the President of that college, I was finally directed to his assistant who patiently listened to my story again.  


“I understand, that sounds like something Dr. Wilson owns.”  I was asked to email a picture and the story again and she would check for me.  


Two days later I got an email from Morehouse.  “Dr. Wilson would like to speak with you today, are you available?”  I wasn’t, but I made time.  


“Hello? Olivia?  You found my piece!”  


We had found the owner of the Makonde Tree of Life!  Turns out it wasn’t a Found In Collection after all, but an artwork accidentally left behind.  He didn’t have much time but I was able to get a bit of the story on the work from Dr. Wilson before he had to go.


On a trip to Tanzania, Dr. Wilson saw examples of Makonde carvings and bought a few on that trip to be shipped back to the United States.  He kept in touch with one of the carvers who came to the U.S. every few years and he believes our piece was purchased from the artist in New York.  He has several other Makonde works, a few that are very large, but none quite like this one.  


Confirming that the work was made of ebony root wood, Dr. Wilson said it symbolizes how “As we cooperate and work together, the community grows.”  


The work had been in his office at GW and when he left to work for the White House in 2009 he had asked that it be moved with the rest of his things, but it somehow got left behind. He thought it had been lost in the move and was overjoyed when he got the email from us. I told him that a few offices had expressed an interest in showing the work and he got quiet. “Olivia, I wish I could give it to you but for sentimental reasons I can’t. It was in my office at MIT. It was in my office at GW. I would love to have it here in my office at Morehouse.”  


Although we’ve solved the mystery of where this piece came from, who it belongs to, and where it’s going, we still have more questions to be answered - and only a few short weeks to find out.

Makonde Tree of Life: Update #3

UPDATE #3: Questions, questions


We frequently host classes from School Without Walls high school nearby.  Known for their energetic and inquisitive students I thought they would be a great fit to help me with our Makonde research project.  

Using the Project Zero Thinking Routine “See, Think, Wonder” we explored the Makonde Tree of Life.  Each student had a Post-it for each category and we put them up on the cases at the end to discuss.  I saved all of the “Wonder” Post-its to guide my inquiries.  This photo includes just a few of them.  As you can see, we’ve got a lot to do!


Some of the questions that came up over and over:

  • What does it mean?  
  • What does it represent?  
  • Is there a message?  
  • What is the story it’s telling?
  • When was it made?  
  • Who made it?  
  • How many people did it take to make?  
  • How did they make it?
  • Why was it left?
  • Is it completed?
  • Why was it created?
  • What is the inspiration?
  • Who was the intended audience?


Here’s hoping we can find out the answers to some of our questions!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Other 90%: Alice Neel

We’re spotlighting some of the artists included in The Other 90%: Works from the GW Permanent Collection, on view now through June 3, 2016 at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery.


Life & Career


Alice Neel (1900-1984) was one of the most prolific American portrait painters of the twentieth century. Although abstraction was popular during the 1940s and 50s, she continued to paint in a style that depicted real people from celebrities of the art world like Andy Warhol to impoverish Neighbors in Spanish Harlem. Her gift was being able to reveal something of her sitters’ inner selves through depictions of their outer appearance.[1]

Neel was born in Merion Square, Pennsylvania and began her art education at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now known as Moore College of Art and Design), enrolled from 1921-25 Her early life was turbulent and her marriage to the artist Carlos Enriquez took her from Pennsylvania to Cuba to New York. With the death of a child and a disintegrating marriage, she suffered from anxiety and depression, which led to several suicide attempts. By 1932 she had returned to painting and to New York, where she participated in the First Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit that year. Like many artists living in New York during the 1930s, Neel joined the Public Works of Art Project (which would later become the Works Progress Administration, WPA), a government-funded program run under the Whitney Museum of American Art; she worked with the program on and off again until its termination in 1943.[2]

While she was included in a number group shows and small exhibitions during the 1940s and 50s, Neel only began to see increased recognition in the 1960s. By 1974 the Whitney Museum of American Art was holding a retrospective of her work, which many considered to be ‘too little, too late’ although she considered it a triumph. In 1984, the year of her death, she appeared twice on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, offering to paint his portrait.[3]


Activism


Neel was an activist throughout her life. She was investigated in 1955 by the FBI who had been looking into her activities with the Communist Party since 1951. Their file described her as a “romantic Bohemian type communist.” [4] In 1959, she appeared in the Beat film Pull My Daisy with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, among others. In 1968 she participated in a protest of the Whitney Museum of American Art over the exhibition 1930s Painting and Sculpture in America, because of its lack of women and African American artists, and again over the exhibition, Contemporary Black Artists in America, which was accused of being hastily organized by its curator, Robert Doty. 

She participated in a demonstration against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Harlem on My Mind, in 1969; she, Raphael Soyer, John Dobbs, and Mel Roman were the only white artists to attend the demonstration, organized by the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition. She also stood with the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Artists and Writers Protest Against the War in Vietnam opposing Governor Nelson rockefeller's handling of the Attica prison riot in 1971. Her portrait of Kate Millet appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1970 in an issue dedicated to the “Politics of Sex.” Between 1973 and 1975 she participated in at least eight exhibitions exclusively devoted to the work of women artists.


Connections


As a major figure in the art world during the last decades of her life, she had connections to a number of other artists exhibited in The Other 90 Percent. In 1970 she painted a portrait of Andy Warhol, and Warhol attended and photographed a dinner held in honor of Neel by NYC Mayor Ed Koch at Gracie Mansion in 1982. [5] She protested with Raphael Soyer, and also painted a portrait of the artist and his twin brother, the artist Moses Soyer, in 1973. In 1972 she participated in the “Conference of Women in the Visual Arts,” held at the Corcoran School of Art, in Washington, D.C., taking the opportunity to present slides of her work.

Alice Neel, Family, 1982, lithograph, ed. 68/175, 
31-1/4 x 27 inches. The George Washington 
University Permanent Collection. Gift of James 
M. Kearns, 1993. 



Artistic Style


Although, she had numerous illustrations printed in the magazine Masses and Mainstream during the forties and fifties, Neel did not begin making prints, like the one shown here, until later in her career. She worked with Judith Solodkin at Rutgers University in 1977 to produce Nancy, a lithograph, and an etching, Young Man. [6] The lithograph in the GW Permanent Collection, Family (1982), is representative of her style of portraiture: strong outlines, bold brushstrokes, and tilted perspectives create a flatness against the picture plane and often suggests the uneasiness and personal struggles of many of her sitters.






[1] National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Alice Neel, 1900-1984,” <http://nmwa.org/explore/artist-profiles/alice-neel> Accessed 14 March, 2016.
[2] Sarah Powers, “Chronology,” in Alice Neel, exhibition catalog, June 29, 2000–December 30, 2001, Philadelphia Museum of Art and four other institutions, 159-176.
[3] Powers, 176.
[4] Powers, 169.
[5] Powers, 175.
[6] Powers, 174.

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Washington, District of Columbia, United States
"Found In Collection" or simply "FIC" is the way many museums classify the more mysterious items in their possession that have little or no documentation. Here at the Luther W. Brady Art Gallery of the George Washington University, we do keep extensive records of our collection, but some of the items we come across in academic buildings or our own storage can leave us wondering. This blog is an effort to showcase some of the more curious examples and their stories, and to provide a glimpse of the great variety of art pieces within the collection. To learn more about the Brady Gallery's history, recent exhibitions, or the George Washington University, take a look at the links below.

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