Acquisition Highlights 2014

Acquisitions last year arrived at the museum by way of many different paths. For example, the work of emerging artist Anicka Yi made its institutional debut at the Transformer Station this fall, setting the stage for the Contemporary Art Society’s generous gift of a prime example of her work that appeared in the show, The Washing Away of Wrongs. Museum trustee (and longtime Cleveland Institute of Art professor) Franny Taft donated a group of iconic Ansel Adams photographs that were given to her by the great Cleveland jeweler John Paul Miller. In another local connection, the museum acquired a recent painting by Scott Olson, a Kent, Ohio, resident who has exhibited internationally.  

Other acquisitions are from much more distant times and places. Sue Bergh writes about a trio of works from the ancient Americas: two pieces from the central Andes region made between 1,200 and 1,800 years ago and a ceramic figure made between ad 600 and 1000 in the Veracruz area of present-day Mexico. Stephen Fliegel calls out two acquisitions of medieval art that strengthen the museum’s holdings of statuary and armor.

A major work by Robert Duncanson joins the CMA’s already extraordinary collection of American landscape paintings and simultaneously bolsters our collection of important works by African American artists. A distinctive 1970s desk by Wendell Castle has enlivened the furniture collection. Two textiles, one from contemporary Japan, one from 19th-century Iran, show both the expressive range and the universal appeal of fiber arts across centuries and continents. 

A large canvas by Augustus Leopold Egg exemplifies the Victorian era’s fascination with history painting. A wooden mask from Burkina Faso is more recent but evokes the centuries-old rituals of West Africa. 

Newly arrived prints include works by Goya and Julia Wachtel—each offering a pointed social commentary of the times in which they were produced. Drawings by Meynier (artist of the suite of five monumental muses in the Neoclassical gallery) and Schuffenecker (best known as a friend of Paul Gauguin) enrich that area of the collection. And newly acquired photographs include not only the Adams landscapes, but key works by 1960s documentary photographer Danny Lyon recording the civil rights movement and a technologically sophisticated work by Maitha Demithan that layers images of multiple generations of men in her family to explore the myths and traditions of her home culture in the United Arab Emirates. Acquisitions in the contemporary art area include aforementioned works by Anicka Yi and Scott Olson as well as a formative 1980s painting by Julia Wachtel. Galleries are noted where works are currently on view.  

 

Sea Lion Pup Vessel

Sea Lion Pup Vessel about 200–850 ad. Central Andes, North Coast, Moche people. Ceramic and slip; 19.7 x 15.5 x 16 cm. Gift of John and Agneta Solomon 2014.375. Gallery 232

The Moche were one of the most important cultures to develop in the ancient Andes (today principally Peru), and Moche artists are renowned for having created one of the New World’s most sophisticated and extensive corpuses of fine ceramic vessels. The thousands of Moche ceramics that survive can be sorted into a relatively small number of thematic groups, based on imagery. Sea lion and other marine representations form one such group, the meanings of which are not well understood except that these creatures refer to the rich marine life that teems along the northern Peruvian coast, the location of the Moche heartland. The appealing Sea Lion Pup Vessel is one of the finest versions of its type, modeled with the clarity and compact simplicity for which early Moche sculptural ceramics are noted.

 

Standing Female Figure

Standing Female Figure about 600–1000 ad. Mesoamerica, Veracruz, Nopiloa style? Ceramic, pigment; 25.4 x 27.8 cm. John L. Severance Fund 2014.390. On view in Gallery 233 by late March

Clay was a major artistic medium in ancient Veracruz, which is located on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, and artists of the Classic period (300–1000 ad) used it to create thousands of figural sculptures in a wide range of sizes, styles, and types. Veracruz ceramic art is understudied both archaeologically and art historically; in consequence, it is not possible to specify the function and identity of this commanding female figure except that she appears to represent a human rather than a supernatural being. The body is formed by a flat plaque of clay, supported at the rear by a tripod; the back is unfinished, suggesting the figure was not meant to be seen in the round. 

 

Band (Headband?)

Band (Headband?) about 650–850 ad. Central Andes, Moche-Wari style. Camelid fiber (alpaca) and cotton; tapestry weave; 59 x 6.5 cm (without ties). Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2014.389. Not yet on view

Although this striking band holds much in common with other tapestry-woven textiles of the so-called Moche-Wari style, its tabbed configuration is unique and its colors are exceptionally beautiful and varied. The band’s length is divided into 24 design modules, each containing a representation of a standing warrior rendered in different color combinations. The warriors hold their bodies frontally, carry a weapon in each hand, and turn their heads to the proper left. The band is accordion-folded to form eight tabs, each stitched along three sides; small, fringed tassels are attached to the edges of each tab. Although the band’s function is not entirely clear, the tie-like cords knotted to each of the band’s short ends suggest it was worn as a headband, an important ancient Andean garment type. —Susan Bergh, Curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American Art 

 

 

Virgin and Child

Virgin and Child late 13th century. Mosan (Valley of the Meuse), Liège(?). Painted and gilded oak; h. 83.5 cm. John L. Severance Fund 2014.392. Gallery 106

This sculpture may on stylistic and technical grounds be assigned to Europe’s Mosan region and dated to the late 13th century. “Mosan” refers to the geographical area of modern-day Belgium and Holland through which the River Meuse flows, a prosperous and dominant artistic center during the 12th and 13th centuries. The region was among the key European trade routes and was noted for the presence of numerous wealthy churches, abbeys, and convents, most of which were major patrons of ecclesiastical art. All of these churches required liturgical objects such as manuscripts and sacral vessels for the altar as well as devotional sculptures to decorate their interiors. The huge demand for such works ensured that artists of the Mosan region became highly renowned for the production of ecclesiastical art. Our sculpture was made during a surge in popular devotion to the Mother of God, known to art historians as the Cult of Mary. Beginning in the 12th century, this mounting devotion to the Virgin reached its peak during the 13th century. Sculptures of Mary must have been produced in large numbers, though relatively few in wood have survived from this period.

This work is a major addition to the museum’s distinguished medieval sculpture collection. A standing representation of the Virgin and Child, she is a rare survival in wood from the Valley of the Meuse. Only eight such figures of the Virgin and Child in wood are known to be extant today from the Mosan region. Elegantly draped and with a beautiful countenance, the sculpture is remarkable for the preservation of much of its original painted decoration and gilding. This includes the gilded mantle highlighted with decorative bands of geometric patterns and the green dragon on which the Virgin stands. There are small apertures around her neck and along the border of the mantle, which would have originally been set with gems and cabochon stones. This opulence would have intentionally alluded to the richly adorned metalwork for which Mosan art was highly esteemed. The settings for these cabochons provide some hint of the original sumptuousness of this sculpture. The Virgin’s serene and refined features are noteworthy, as is the highly skilled execution of the draperies. This can be seen in the way the heavy cloth of her mantle falls in fluid and balanced folds at her feet. The carving is of the highest standards and the figure is an example of the finest Mosan sculpture of the 13th century. She would have likely been placed on a small side altar within a church or possibly used within a private chapel oratory. Her small scale and carving in the round suggest she was carried in religious processions.

The museum has but a small collection of Mosan art, mostly metalwork, and until now sculpture from this important region was not represented at all. This beautiful sculpture of the Virgin and Child is a welcome addition to our collection.

 

Visored Sallet (Helmet)

Visored Sallet (Helmet) about 1490–1500. South Germany. Steel; h. 21 cm. John L. Severance Fund 2014.393. Armor Court

A sallet is a semi-open-face helmet form common in Europe during the 15th century. Made either with or without a movable visor, such helmets were used for both equestrian and infantry purposes. Sallets with movable visors, like the museum’s newly acquired example, are considered to be more technically and visually interesting than those without, and are highly sought after by private collectors and institutions. Beautifully streamlined and with a highly sculptural teardrop shape, this sallet would originally have been part of a complete suit of Gothic plate armor and would have been worn with an element called a bevor to protect the lower face. Gothic armor was beautifully proportioned with cusped and streamlined plates of steel. It was polished “mirror bright” when new and would have looked sumptuous with associated fabrics, trappings, and colorful plumes.

The basic form of the sallet consists of a rounded skull (or bowl) streamlined at the nape of the neck with overlapping lames of steel to form a tail. The sallet became the quintessential helmet form of the late Middle Ages and is frequently represented in medieval miniatures and woodcuts. The skull of this example is forged in one piece, its midrib forming a flattened comb on the top that narrows to the front and back. This was a strengthening device. The helmet’s tailpiece, extending over the nape of the neck as it creates a V-shape, is articulated and would have flexed when worn by its owner. The movable visor is attached to the skull of the helmet with two decorative rosette fasteners. These features suggest a date of between 1490 and 1500. Like this example, the finest sallets were made in the Germanic parts of Europe such as South Germany and Austria. 

Our sallet is one of the best preserved examples to appear on the art market in recent decades. It lacks its original fabric lining, but organic liners in cloth or leather rarely survive in helmets of this period. A major gap in the museum’s collection of European arms and armor has been the absence of such a sallet to complement the Armor Court’s case of Gothic plate armor. Its acquisition now enables a more complete narrative of the development of European plate armor during the late 15th century. The sallet is also a beautiful object in its own right, as much sculptural as it was functional. —Stephen N. Fliegel, Curator of Medieval Art

 

The Life of Buckingham

The Life of Buckingham c. 1855. Augustus Leopold Egg (British, 1816–c. 1863). Oil on board; 30.5 x 40.5 cm.  
Sundry Purchase Fund 2014.373. In conservation laboratory; probably on view by fall 2015

The Life of Buckingham was a hugely popular history painting during the mid-Victorian period. Augustus Leopold Egg depicts a fictional rather than specific historical moment from the life of the notoriously profligate George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628–1687). A cast of historical characters who would have been familiar to Victorian audiences is toasting the health of the duke. Additional portraits include King Charles II on his right, and several court ladies including Barbara Villiers, Nell Gwyn, and Louise de Kéroualle. The artist probably consulted a range of sources, from literary accounts of the duke’s decadent life to Peter Lely’s painted series of Windsor Beauties and Samuel Cooper’s miniature portraits of the ladies and gentlemen of the court of Charles II. In Hogarthian fashion the picture mocks the splendor of the duke while invoking the Last Supper (there are twelve dinner guests).

Egg was among the most important narrative history painters of the Victorian age. His academic technique and sensitivity to historical models, combined with a social agenda and tone that was simultaneously titillating and moralizing, strongly appealed to Victorian audiences. The primary version is at the Yale Center for British Art and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1855, where it met with critical acclaim. The fact that Egg produced this replica shortly thereafter is a testament to the popularity of the work, and a practice that the artist repeated for his most well-known pictures. Life of Buckingham is an important example of the 19th-century “domestication” of history during an intense period of nationalism, industrialism, and scrutiny of the fine art academy system. —Cory Korkow, Associate Curator of European Art

 

Face Mask

Face Mask 20th century. Burkina Faso, Mossi people. Wood; h. 34 cm. Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 2014.1. Gallery 108

We owe much of what we know about Mossi art to Christopher D. Roy, professor of art history at the University of Iowa, who obtained his PhD from Indiana University in 1979 with a dissertation, “Mossi Masks and Crests.” The history of the Mossi, who live in central Burkina Faso, goes back to the foundation by a group of equestrians of the first Mossi state at the end of the 15th century. To this day, political leaders are chosen from the equestrians and their descendants, while religious leaders stem from the subjected autochthonous groups. Masks are used only by the farmers, called Nyonyose, who belong to the “children of the earth,” as the first inhabitants are locally called.

Masqueraders appear on the occasion of the funeral of a male or female elder, serving as guardians of the corpse and escorting it to the grave. They also participate in annual memorials during the dry season, often occurring months after the actual burial, when all the deceased of the past year are commemorated. Dancing in honor of the ancestral spirits to the accompaniment of various percussion and wind instruments, the masqueraders imitate the movements and gestures of the animal or human they portray. Mossi masqueraders also participate in an annual ritual called suku or sigim-dam before the start of the rains.

Mossi mask types are classified according to five styles named after the five Mossi kingdoms. The Cleveland Museum of Art’s face mask belongs to the Ouagadougou style. While there also exist zoomorphic masks in this style, ours, with its trefoil headpiece and goatee, represents a woman of the Fula people, also called Fulani or Fulbe—the world’s largest pastoral nomadic group, comprising more than 40 million members and occupying a territory larger than the United States and Western Europe combined. The mask’s proper name, wan-balinga, evokes a mythical figure named “Bearded Woman” who was the mother of the first Mossi ruler.

The arts of Burkina Faso are generally underrepresented in American art museums, and Cleveland’s collection is no exception in this regard. However, our new Mossi mask not only fills a geographic gap in our African collection, it is arguably one of the finest surviving exponents of the Ouagadougou style. That it was reportedly owned by the famous Parisian dealer and collector Charles Ratton before it entered the collection of Evelyn Annenberg Hall and William Jaffe in 1967, adds to the mask’s value. It should therefore be noted that it will be featured on the cover of Roy’s forthcoming monograph on Mossi art in the “Visions of Africa” series for 5 Continents Editions, scheduled to appear this fall. —Constantine Petridis, Curator of African Art

 

Vale of Kashmir

Vale of Kashmir 1867. Robert S. Duncanson (American, 1821–1872). Oil on canvas; 73 x 132.5 cm. Sundry Purchase Fund 2014.12. Gallery 206

Widely regarded as one of Robert S. Duncanson’s finest creations, Vale of Kashmir recently joined the Cleveland Museum of Art’s enviable collection of 19th-century American landscape painting. Inspired by an episode in Thomas Moore’s epic poem Lalla Rookh (1817), which describes a Persian princess’s journey into the Indian subcontinent to be married, the canvas is a panoramic scene replete with palm trees, ferns, and other tropical vegetation. A distant range of mountains, bathed in atmospheric haze, provides a magnificent backdrop; occupying the middle-ground is a calm lake on whose far shore stands a quasi-Islamic palace. An ornate barque has traversed the water to deposit members of the courtly wedding entourage—attired in gowns and robes with several sporting turbans—on a scrim of land. They join earlier arrivals in ascending a grand staircase to a plaza with an impressive fountain. Yet despite this pronounced storytelling conceit, the human elements in the composition are decidedly subordinate to the sheer visual splendor of the natural landscape.

The first African American artist to attain both national and international renown, Duncanson specialized in idyllic scenes that found patronage on both sides of the Atlantic. The grandson of a former slave from Virginia, he was born into a free black family and raised on the western shores of Lake Erie in Monroe, a thriving town in a territory that later became part of Michigan. He practiced the bulk of his career in Cincinnati, a major transportation and trading hub as well as cultural metropolis; in fact, the city’s art academy rivaled its more established counterparts on the East Coast. As part of his self-education, Duncanson made three trips to Europe, traveling through the United Kingdom, France, and Italy, where he viewed old master paintings and sketched sites that were staples on Grand Tours. He exhibited not only throughout his homeland in cities such as New York, Boston, and Washington, DC, but also in Canada, England, and Scotland; one of his canvases was acquired by the King of Sweden. Regrettably, the artist’s trajectories of accomplishment and success were cut short by his untimely death at age 51. In his final months he suffered from dementia, likely caused by a youthful exposure to toxic lead-based pigments while apprenticing in the house painting and decorating trades.

Our new acquisition is a celebrity of sorts in American art circles, having been frequently published and exhibited. Formerly in a distinguished private collection, the canvas has graced the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, and most recently the Yale University Art Gallery, where it was displayed on extended loan to celebrate that institution’s newly renovated facility. A photographic detail of the painting adorns the cover of the artist’s definitive monograph, The Emergence of the African-American Artist: Robert S. Duncanson 1821–1872, by Joseph D. Ketner. Making its debut at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vale of Kashmir is on view in gallery 206. —Mark Cole, Curator of American Painting and Sculpture

 

Desk

Desk 1979. Wendell Castle (American, b. 1932). Maple stack lamination; 765.1 x 96.5 x 177.8 cm. Gift of Susan L. Hanna in Honor of Marvin A. Feldstein 2014.376.1. Gallery 224

A gift from the estate of longtime Mentor physician Dr. Marvin Feldstein and his wife Susan L. Hanna of a rare desk in stacked maple by Wendell Castle has added an important work by one of America’s most iconic furniture sculptors of the 20th century to the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Feldstein’s fascination with creating furniture and sculpture in wood led him to visit Castle’s studio in the 1970s where he struck up a close friendship lasting the remainder of his life. Castle’s career had begun in the 1950s amid a wave of studio craft production in response to the prevalence of industrially manufactured furniture. His work from these early years shows the influence of Wharton Esherick, whose biomorphic forms from the late 1930s inspired a new generation of postwar furniture makers, chief among them Wendell Castle.

This desk, with its accompanying armchair, was commissioned by Feldstein in the late seventies and completed in 1979. Feldstein, who lived in a virtual treehouse of his own making on vast wooded acreage in Ohio’s Western Reserve, shared a love of figured wood and its sensuous beauty with Castle. The result was an idea for a desk that would rise like a tree itself from the ground spreading outward in a cantilevered branch. It was destined for the doctor’s private office, where he met patients across it for the next 30-plus years. Now it joins a prototype of Castle’s calamari bench in molded plastic from his more recent body of work, and likewise a recent gift to the Cleveland collection from the renowned New York art dealer Barry Friedman and Castle himself.

The unadorned surface of the top (later examples were clad in leather) makes the Feldstein desk by Castle both rare and especially pure in form. The surface is not unlike that of a great 18th-century desk and bookcase—alive with depth, color, and just a few stains of ink. The incredible fluidity of the form is achieved through an innovative stacking of small “bricks” of wood, which are then fused together to form an incredibly dense and powerfully strong block of wood of immense proportion, from which the form is carved and sanded into shape. The result is a lyrical work perhaps reminiscent of the Art Nouveau yet thoroughly modern and abstract. This masterwork by Wendell Castle is currently on view in the Ratner Gallery adjacent to the contemporary art wing.  —Stephen Harrison, Curator of Decorative Art and Design

 

Elliptical Orbit—“Zodiac”

Elliptical Orbit—“Zodiac” 1999. Fukumoto Shihoko (Japanese, b. 1945). Plain weave, cotton; oritatami-nui, shibori, stitch shibori, bleach; 230.1 x 499.9 cm. Gift of the Textile Art Alliance 2014.385. Not yet on view

The acclaimed artist Fukumoto Shihoko considers this version of Zodiac to be her masterpiece. As an example of the spiritual space she seeks, it excels in its composition, balance, and precision, each of which illustrates Fukumoto’s refined artistic sensibility and superior technical skill. She transformed a huge white cotton cloth via the Japanese technique of oritatamishibori, a form of binding-resist-dyeing that includes folding, pleating, and sewing before the fabric is dipped into the indigo dye vat. The perfectly rendered oval was stitched tightly around a special wooden block.

Once Fukumoto found this exceptionally wide cotton fabric, woven in Malaysia for the Western king-size sheet market, she had to figure out how to dye it. “I drew vertical and horizontal grid lines over it,” she says, “sewing it together on the axes where the lines touched, then folded it and sewed it together into a long thin shape and dyed this a deep indigo.” Since the color was less intense in areas not exposed to air, she “reversed the folds, re-sewing through the same needle holes, and dyed the cloth again. Some parts were sewn twice vertically, others were sewn four times, twice along both axes vertically and horizontally. After repeated failures, I succeeded in dyeing rows of dots that looked like stars in the heavens, but I felt that the result had not yet achieved artistic completion.”

Two years later, after learning that planets move in elliptical orbits owing to the Kepler effect, Fukumoto returned to the fabric and drew a large oval on it. “I stitched along this line and drew the thread tight so the oval formed the top edge,” she explains. “I then placed the fabric over a specially ordered block of wood 20 centimeters in diameter and 10 centimeters tall, leaving only about 1 centimeter of the stitched-and-gathered oval at the top and stuffing the rest into a plastic bag, which I bound tightly. I immersed the exposed edge of the fabric in water overnight. After it had fully absorbed the water, I bleached out the color, and a white oval-shaped line floated against the background like the elliptical track of a planet: the work was finally complete.”

Fukumoto was born in Osaka in 1945 and lives in Kyoto. She studied Western painting at Kyoto City University of Fine Arts (BFA 1968, MA 1969), experimented with sculpture, and adopted indigo dyeing for her art. She has had solo shows in New York, Sweden, and Japan and has participated in group shows, including the Lausanne International Tapestry Biennial. Her work has won numerous prizes, including the Grand Prix and first prize at Kyoto Crafts.

 

Large Chintz Door Curtain

Large Chintz Door Curtain 1800s. Iran, Isfahan, Qajar period. Plain weave, cotton; hand drawn, block printed, bleach, mordant, dyes; 210 x 144 cm. Sundry Purchase Fund 2014.20. Previously on view summer–fall 2014

A complex process transformed lightweight white cotton cloth into this beautiful chintz, admired for its vibrant and durable colors, stunning pattern, fine quality, and rarity. Peacocks and a variety of birds appear amid vines with fanciful blossoms under a leaf-contoured arch in the field and small niches in the main border. Additional striking borders across each end feature large blossoms in leaf-outlined diamonds on alternating ground colors (white, mustard, red, and blue). This door curtain retains original loops on the sides to keep it in place, Iranian trimming band, Russian lining, and a cherished glossy sheen.

The labor-intensive chintz technique, involving hand drawing, block printing, bleach, mordant, and dyes, was developed in India and widely exported by the 1600s and 1700s to Europe and east Asia where it was treasured for its colorfastness and used for furnishing fabrics and items of dress. Chintz, known in Persian as qalamka¯r (pen drawing) or chit (block printed), was also made in Iran by the 1400s; however, this stunning door curtain is among the oldest known examples. —Louise W. Mackie, Curator of Textiles and Islamic Art

 

Landscape with Figure and Houses

Landscape with Figure and Houses about 1891. Claude-Emile Schuffenecker (French, 1851–1934). Pastel; 63 x 78.5 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2014.2. Not yet on view

Claude-Emile Schuffenecker was a French Post-Impressionist painter perhaps best known as a friend and supporter of Paul Gauguin, with whom he exhibited in late 19th-century Paris. The artist’s early, academic approach evolved to a more impressionistic idiom, and ultimately his style culminated in an idiosyncratic, mystical symbolism. It was in pastel that he achieved his most innovative, ethereal expressions. One of his contemporaries, the novelist Joris-Karl Huysmans, lauded Schuffenecker’s expertise as a pastelist: “His light touch barely scratches the sheet; his elusive shades are diaphanous and fluid.”

Landscape with Figure and Houses exemplifies the work that Schuffenecker’s contemporaries praised. In the composition, a tiny figure pauses beside a fence to contemplate a golden field of wheat. Massive lichen-covered rocks, highlighted by mauve and pale rose tones, dominate the foreground, and a cottage in the distance is framed by a dense screen of trees. The tonal harmonies that progress across the composition—applied in a network of parallel strokes—attest to Schuffenecker’s understanding of contemporary color theory, based upon the idea that the juxtaposition of complementary colors resulted in greater vibrancy in the observer’s eye. The landscape is related to the artist’s excursions throughout the 1890s into the countryside near Meudon, southwest of Paris; but rather than seeking to create a topographically accurate view, Schuffenecker strove to capture nature’s shifting moods and his own highly subjective response to his surroundings.

 

Telemachus, Urged by Mentor, Leaving the Island of  Calypso

Telemachus, Urged by Mentor, Leaving the Island of Calypso 1800. Charles Meynier (French, 1763–1832). Pen and black ink and brown wash with black chalk on laid paper; 47.5 x 61.5 cm. Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund 2014.14. Not yet on view

A celebrated painter of allegorical and historical subjects, Charles Meynier was one of the most important Neoclassical artists working in Paris at the turn of the 18th century. The subject of this recently acquired drawing references Homer’s Odyssey, but drew directly from François Fénelon’s popular novel, Les Aventures de Télémaque, first published anonymously in 1699 and reprinted numerous times throughout the 1700s. Fénelon’s novel was an embellished account of Telemachus’s travels in search of his father, Odysseus, whose return to Ithaca following the Trojan War was delayed for ten years.

In the scene depicted in the drawing, Telemachus bids farewell to the nymph Eucharis, with whom he has fallen in love. His guide, Mentor, attempts to hasten Telemachus away from the island of Calypso and, using his cloak, tries to shield the young man’s eyes from the seductive nymph. In the center to the right, Calypso, with three other nymphs, responds with anger at losing Telemachus, clenching her left hand in a fist and raising her right arm as if to block the scene of the lovers’ parting. The drawing was a study for Meynier’s painting of the parting of Telemachus and Eucharis (now lost and known only from a reproductive etching), considered one of the masterpieces of the Salon of 1800. —Heather Lemonedes, Curator of Drawings

 

Ajyal (Generations)

Ajyal (Generations) 2012. Maitha Demithan (Emirati, b. 1989). Inkjet print made from scans processed through Photoshop; 120 x 101 cm. Jo Hershey Selden Fund 2014.374. Gallery 116

Maitha Demithan uses cutting-edge technology to explore the historic rituals and symbolism of her country, the United Arab Emirates. Her photographic portraits are created with multiple passes of a handheld scanner in front of her subjects. The individual files are then stitched together in Photoshop. This portrait of the artist’s father and brother is from the series Ajyal, Arabic for “generations.” “The falcon symbolizes the [Emirati] nation,” Demithan explains, “and the quail its food—a metaphor for elders passing along, or ‘feeding’ heritage to the future.” The presence of multiple limbs, compositional references to Mughal miniature painting, and the ceremonial grandeur of the black background emphasize the image’s metaphorical function.

 

Stokely Carmichael and the Maryland National Guard, from Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement

Stokely Carmichael and the Maryland National Guard, from Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement 1964 (printed 2010). Danny Lyon (American, b. 1942). Gelatin silver print; 22.1 x 32.6 cm. Gift of George Stephanopoulos 2014.500. Not yet on view

Among the many notable gifts to the photography collection last year were 170 photographs donated by George Stephanopoulos, who grew up in northeast Ohio. They include ten images from Danny Lyon’s series Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. Lyon was a 20-year-old college student when he hitchhiked south to join the civil rights movement. As staff photographer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he covered some of the most intense confrontations in the struggle for equal rights. His images of the protesters’ bravery in the face of threats and brutality helped sway public opinion toward support of integration. An insider in the movement, Lyon helped pioneer a new form of documentary in which the photographer is not an impartial observer but instead a participant in the culture he documents.

 

Winter Storm, from Yosemite Valley Portfolio III

Winter Storm, from Yosemite Valley Portfolio III 1944 (printed 1960) (detail page 11). Ansel Adams (American, 1902–1984). Gelatin silver print; 18.9 x 22.9 cm. Gift of Frances P. Taft 2014.419. Not yet on view

In 2014 Frances P. Taft, longtime museum supporter and life trustee, donated eight works by the indisputable master of American landscape photography, Ansel Adams. These images of the Yosemite Valley comprise half of his noted Portfolio III, which he considered an autobiography in pictures. “I know of no sculpture, painting, or music that exceeds the compelling spiritual command of the soaring shape of granite cliff and dome, of patina of light on rock and forest, and of the thunder and whispering of the falling, flowing waters,” Adams said. The prints were given to Taft by the Cleveland goldsmith John Paul Miller, who studied photography with Adams. —Barbara Tannenbaum, Curator of Photography

 

The Caprichos: They Spin Finely (Los Caprichos: Hilan Delgado)

The Caprichos: They Spin Finely (Los Caprichos: Hilan Delgado) 1799. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746–1828). Etching, aquatint, drypoint, and engraving; platemark: 21.8 x 15.3 cm. Sundry Purchase Fund 2014.15. Not yet on view

In 1799 Goya published The Caprichos, 80 plates that satirize the vices and follies of contemporary Spanish society in an attempt by liberals to bring the Enlightenment to Spain. With vigor and wit Goya explores the themes of superstition, sensuality, greed, immorality, and violence. Plate 43, The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (El sueno de la razon produce monstruos), which depicts the artist asleep at a worktable while night creatures fly in the darkness behind him, introduces new subjects. Unlike the caricatures of everyday life that precede it, the fantastic images that follow derive from the realms of dream and nightmare. Witches, demons, spirits, and phantoms now appear in scenes that criticize irrationality and unethical behavior.

They Spin Finely, plate 44, is a monumental image of three scrawny hags who are undoubtedly witches as well as the three Fates. On a manuscript attributed to Goya, the commentary for this subject is, “They spin finely and the devil himself will not be able to undo the warp which they contrive.” Their demonic purpose is indicated by the broomstick at the left and the group of infants suspended by threads in the upper right corner. The ancient profession of spinning relates to a very long visual and literary association of witches with sexuality based around wordplay, since the terms hilar (to spin) and hilado (yarn) were colloquial expressions for prostitution.

The diabolical quality of the scene is enhanced by the artist’s skill as a draftsman and by the varying tones achieved by aquatint, a new etching technique that mimicked the effect of watercolor or wash. Goya, an innovative and experimental printmaker, was the first artist to exploit the medium using a range of tones to express opposing forces of knowledge and ignorance, of reason and the irrational world, and to create an atmosphere of violence and doom.

In this extremely rare, early proof of They Spin Finely, the aquatint, which wears as the plate is printed, is perfect. Goya also used drypoint, a medium that produces a velvety, blurred line, to emphasize the threads between the distaff and the spindle, and that too is still fresh and rich.

 

precariously close to 5 billion points of confusion: Cape Town, South Africa (February 11, 1990)

precariously close to 5 billion points of confusion: Cape Town, South Africa (February 11, 1990) 1990. Julia Wachtel (American, b. 1956). Lithograph and screenprint; 55.9 x 74.8 cm. Dorothea Wright Hamilton Fund 2014.395.9. Not yet on view

Julia Wachtel appropriates imagery from popular publications and greeting cards and then uses the visual language of mass culture to critique an increasingly media-saturated society and current events. The late 1980s was a particularly unstable period in a world filled with revolutions and public demonstrations. Wachtel documented these events by enlarging photographs from contemporary newspapers, emphasizing the pixelation and source of the images. A small photograph or cartoon editorializes on the content. A brightly colored tearful girl, for example, is inserted into the scene in Cape Town, South Africa, where thousands await the arrival of newly released African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela after 27 years of detention. Cape Town, South Africa (February 11, 1990) is one of nine scenes that together make up precariously close to 5 billion points of confusion. The others document important events in Beijing, Ankara, Moscow, Tehran, Prague, and East Berlin that took place between 1989 and 1990 when the work was published. —Jane Glaubinger, Curator of Prints

 

 

The Washing Away of Wrongs

The Washing Away of Wrongs 2014. Anicka Yi. Two stainless steel dryer doors, Plexiglas, diffuser, two fragrances designed by Christophe Laudamiel; 304.8 x 332.7 x 67.3 cm. Gift of the Contemporary Art Society 2014.403. © Anicka Yi. Not yet on view

Anicka Yi’s The Washing Away of Wrongs is an experiential installation as much as it is a sculpture. As seen in a related work on view in her institutional debut at the Transformer Station, two vintage dryer doors are installed flush onto a gallery wall. One door contains an original scent crafted by perfumer Christophe Laudamiel—it is made up of notes that are spicy, animalistic, and slightly pungent, perhaps evoking an argument while slightly intoxicated. The other, plainly, is a readymade scent of a bullfrog sitting in mud, an apt metaphor for the experience of attempting to ignore your world when everything stinks.

As the CMA continues to collect works made in the decade, this acquisition is significant for challenging the traditional notions of sculpture and painting. Much like Martin Soto Climent’s photo-installation and Martin Creed’s Work No. 965, Half the Air in a Given Space (2008), Yi updates how we experience artworks, not just through vision, but also through the senses of scent and tactility. 

 

Untitled

Untitled 2014. Scott Olson (American, b. 1976). Oil, wax, marble dust on wood, maple frame; 52.1 x 80 cm. Judith and James Saks in Memory of Lynn and Dr. Joseph Tomarkin Endowment 2014.372. © Scott Olson. Not yet on view

Scott Olsonis a young artist who lives and works in Kent, Ohio. Olson is known for his small-scale abstract paintings. He creates his preferred and most distinctive grounds by mixing rabbit skin glue and marble dust, producing white, fresco-like surfaces that he frames with thin bands of locally sourced wood. The musical, abstract forms are painted with oil (some of the colors are mixed from natural pigments, such as pollen), wax, and sometimes marker pens in an intuitive process that includes staining, layering, scraping, sanding, polishing, and glazing. The monochromatic, slightly “dusted” border of Untitled that frames the inner composition of soft, organic forms of blue, yellow, turquoise, and orange, creates a vibrating effect that intensifies the organic, almost ethereal composition. At the same time the frame can be read as a playful way of separating the work from more traditional approaches towards abstract contemporary painting. Through the generous support of Mr. and Mrs. James A. Saks, the CMA is the first institution to collect Scott Olson’s work.

 

Just the Two of Us

Just the Two of Us 1982. Julia Wachtel (American, b. 1956). Acrylic on canvas; 188 x 198 cm. Dorothea Wright Hamilton Fund 2014.394. © Julia Wachtel. Not yet on view

Emerging in the 1980s, Julia Wachtel became known for her paintings employing cartoon characters appropriated from greeting cards and magazines, deliberately commenting upon our quickly evolving visual culture.In Just the Two of Us we see a young woman reading a letter. Her black hair is pinned up, and she wears a fantastic dress befitting either a princess or an aristocratic lady. This idealized picture of a woman pining for the love of her man—reminiscent of Romanticism—is contrasted with another feminine archetype: the innocent young girl who still believes in the power of wishes. Both of these images were originally printed on greeting cards in the 1960s, which Wachtel found in the 1980s and appropriated to her own ends. Just the Two of Us is an early example of artworks that address the ways we receive and comprehend images. It muses upon how prescribed ideals influence our view and opinions as individuals and a culture. —Beau Rutland, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art and Reto Thüring, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art

 


Cleveland Art, March/April 2015