The Cleveland Museum of Art Announces New Acquisitions
Highlights include masterpieces realized in Cleveland by Rose Iron Works and the acquisition of numerous works by women and artists of color
Cleveland, OH (December 21, 2020)—Recent acquisitions by the Cleveland Museum of Art include Paul Fehér’s Muse with Violin Screen, a masterpiece in metalwork realized in 1930 by one of the most acclaimed foundries in the U.S.; a 17th-century Japanese handscroll depicting Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers that augments the museum’s renowned collection of Asian paintings; a modernist embroidery by Marguerite Zorach that reinforces the CMA’s commitment to collecting work by women artists; and 10 contemporary videos that significantly enhance the museum’s representation of this important time-based medium.
Muse with Violin Screen, Console and Mirror, and Railing for the Cleveland Play House Masterpieces in metalwork from the late 1920s and early 1930s exemplify the work of one of the most acclaimed foundries in the United States
The monumental Muse with Violin Screen is celebrated as one of the most significant works ever produced by craftsmen at the Cleveland foundry Rose Iron Works. Designed on the eve of the Great Depression by the Hungarian-born Paul Fehér, the screen epitomizes the whimsy and romance of the Jazz Age while foreshadowing the streamlined modernity of the Machine Age. In the central panel of the screen, a gold-plated female nude reminiscent of stage sensation Josephine Baker is surrounded by cascades of Viennese-inspired decorative motifs. The screen exemplifies the most sophisticated techniques in metalwork available in the early 20th century and is considered by experts today as a quintessential masterpiece in metalwork of the period.
Along with the screen, the museum has acquired Console and Mirror designed by Paul Fehér and realized by Rose Iron Works in 1931. The stylized figures and natural motifs in the mirror’s decoration contrast with the geometric abstraction and machine aesthetic seen in the console, which became the hallmark of American design in the 1930s.
The museum also acquired Railing from the Cleveland Play House, designed by Martin Rose, the founder of Rose Iron Works. The graceful, lyrical lines of the railing diverge from Paul Fehér’s bold, modernist designs, and demonstrate the strong influence of historicist styles such as Art Nouveau on the decorative arts in the 1920s. All four works were reunited at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2017 in the exhibition The Jazz Age: American Style in the 1920s. Muse with Violin Screen is on view in the American modernism gallery (226A) and the Console and Mirror are on view in the Cleveland artists gallery (228B).
Poems and Pictures of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers
Japanese ink-painted scroll builds on the CMA’s renowned collection of Asian art
Unkoku Tōgan (1547–1618) executed the paintings of Poems and Pictures of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers in the splashed-ink mode in the early 1600s. Drawing on a centuries-old Chinese literary and painting theme, each of Tōgan’s paintings masterfully captures the qualities of dim light and mist typical of the Xiao-Xiang region in China’s modern Hunan Province and suggests a time of day, a season, or specific atmospheric conditions described in an accompanying poem.
The poems appearing in Poems and Pictures of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers were composed by the Chinese Buddhist monk Yujian Ruofen (active late 1200s). They are inscribed by Japanese Buddhist monk Inkei Gentetsu (1562–1612) in black ink on dyed papers in blue, green, or tea color, decorated with gold and silver flecks. The colophon at the end of the scroll is also by Gentetsu. It indicates that the poems are by Yujian and that Unkoku Tōgan was the stylistic descendent of Sesshū Tōyō (1420–1506), Japan’s most famous painter. Recently conserved and remounted, the scroll complements a pair of screens in the museum’s collection by Unkoku Tōgan on the theme of famed Chinese poets (2006.135), and another Xiao-Xiang scroll by mid- to late-16th-century painter Sesson Shūkei (1979.77). Together, the two scrolls illustrate the centrality of this Chinese subject to the visual vocabulary of two of Japan’s most eminent ink painters who operated on opposite sides of the country within a few decades of one another.
The Family (In Memory of a Summer in the White Mountains)
Large-scale embroidery is a masterpiece of early American modernism and reinforces the museum’s commitment to collecting work by diverse artists
A large-scale wool embroidery on silk, Marguerite Zorach’s The Family (In Memory of a Summer in the White Mountains) is a visually stunning and technically sophisticated masterpiece of early American modernism. The work is a celebration of domestic life in harmony with nature, depicting the artist herself, her husband, William—a sculptor who was raised in Cleveland and studied at the Cleveland School (now Institute) of Art—and their two-year-old son, Tessim. These nude figures surround an evergreen tree within a circle bordered with an inscription recounting details of the embroidery’s inspiration and creation. Pairs of gracefully stylized animals appear in the corners of the composition.
Zorach’s embroidered works are heralded as the finest contributions to the Modern Embroidery Movement, an understudied aspect of early American modernism that has witnessed increasing scholarly attention in recent decades. This important acquisition by the CMA is its first to represent this movement and will be installed in the museum’s early American modern gallery in fall 2021.
Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece)
Ana Mendieta’s 1976 film, together with nine contemporary videos, enhance the CMA’s representation of time-based media
Anima, Silueta de Cohetes (Firework Piece), is a 1976 video by Cuban-born artist Ana Mendieta. Mendieta explored issues of the body, earth, and place throughout her brief but influential career. The Silueta series, Mendieta’s best-known body of work, includes photography, film, video, sculpture, and performance. Nearly 80 films comprise the Silueta series that Mendieta began in 1973. This series established her as one of the most prolific artists to take up the medium at that time.
In Firework Piece, Mendieta creates a monumental figure from lit fireworks and films the burning silhouette until it extinguishes, a poetic metaphor for the passage of time. This film is set in Oaxaca, Mexico, and the piece was partly inspired by Mexican religious traditions that incorporate fireworks.
In other works in the Silueta series, Mendieta alternates between featuring her actual body in various landscapes and impressions or outlines of her body. These “earth body” works were an intervention in the land art movement, which was largely dominated by male artists at the time.
The two-and-a-half-minute Firework Piece is singular in the Silueta series in that it is the only film to feature a monumentally scaled silhouette rather than one scaled to the artist’s own body. It was also one of the few works filmed in Mexico, a country whose history and culture inspired her.
The nine foundational video works, largely from the 1960s and 70s, complement the most significant contemporary works of art in the CMA collection, the strength of which are paintings and sculpture from the 1960s and ’70s. The group includes works by pioneering feminist video artists like Eleanor Antin, Dara Birnbaum, Joan Jonas, and Martha Rosler as well global practitioners of the medium, such as Korean artist Nam June Paik and Swiss artist Pipolotti Rist. It also includes video works that intersected with the experimental performances of artists Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci as well as a video counterpart to Robert Smithson’s iconic earth work Spiral Jetty. The CMA is committed to collecting and displaying video and film to more fully represent this time-based media.
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