Today at the Museum
Friday, May 7, 2021
Moralizing fables involving animal characters traversed the Indo-Iranian world for centuries. At times, they were written down and collected into volumes; when made for a wealthy patron, the manuscripts were illustrated.
Bruce Davidson, one of the most highly respected and influential American documentary photographers of the past half century, offered an independent look at America in the age of visual and social homogenization presented by Life and Look magazines. Davidson’s 1959 series Brooklyn Gang—his first major project—was the fruit of several months spent photographing the daily lives of the Jokers, one of the many teenage street gangs worrying New York City officials at the time. Bruce Davidson features 50 photographs from that series, which are part of a recent anonymous gift to the museum of extensive selections from the artist’s archives. Included are several sets of variant images, affording a rare glimpse into Davidson’s working process.
Davidson approached the Jokers after reading a newspaper article detailing their fight with a Puerto Rican gang. The Jokers’ home turf was a block in Park Slope, Brooklyn, now one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods but then an impoverished, mostly Irish area. While many officials and commentators at the time saw the gangs as evidence of social deterioration resulting from poverty, others regarded them as the most visible manifestations of a socially disengaged generation of males—rebels without a cause.
Davidson’s subjects were mostly Catholic school students or dropouts. “I was 26 and they were 15, but I could see my own repression in them and I began to feel a connection to their desperation. I began to feel their isolation and even my own.” Davidson’s black-and-white images reflect the teens’ alienation but also their camaraderie. He hung out with them on street corners and in the local candy store, and accompanied them to the beach at Coney Island with their girlfriends. Describing his process, the artist says, “I stay a long time. . . . I am an outsider on the inside.”
The mola is a key component of traditional dress among the Indigenous Guna (formerly Kuna) women of Panamá. Guna women have been sewing mola blouses since the turn of the 20th century, and they have become powerful symbols of their culture and identity.
Like many Chicago artists in the first years of the 20th century, Gustave Baumann discovered the beauty of rural Brown County in Indiana. While living in Nashville from 1910 to 1916, he produced his first important set of color woodcuts.
Due to its remarkable malleability and durability, gold has been widely used in artifacts for the wealthy and for royalty since the fifth millennium BC. In Korean art, this precious mineral was the main material for luxury goods during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC−668).
This permanent collection rotation features paintings, porcelain, and textiles with depictions of China’s rich flora and fauna. Artists and craftspeople chose themes to celebrate the beauty of nature, convey auspicious wishes and good fortune, or to express political or philosophical thoughts.
Rinpa is a style of Japanese art focused on abstracted natural motifs and allusions to classical literature. Coined in the early 1900s, Rinpa means “Rin School,” after painter Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716), whose work was critical to the later transmission of the tradition.
More than 4,000 artworks from the Cleveland Museum of Art’s permanent collection are on view in the galleries. However, many works remain in storage for various reasons: some are light sensitive, some have condition issues, some have contested attributions, or others simply do not fit into the narratives or finite spaces of the galleries. Stories from Storage reveals approximately 300 works of art from storage. Visitors will encounter 20 stories—told by the museum’s 17 curators, as well as the director, the chief curator, and the assistant director of academic affairs—that highlight works seldom on view, spanning the museum’s encyclopedic collection, from the ancient world to today. The unifying thread is the glimpse into storage that each story provides.