The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced the schedule of its upcoming spring and summer seasons. Highlights of the upcoming 2018 exhibition season are:
Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism
Exhibition Dates: January 17–July 15, 2018
Exhibition Location: Gallery 851
William Wegman, Before/On/After (detail), 1972. Gelatin silver prints. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2016. © William Wegman, Courtesy the artist
Opening at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on January 17, the exhibition Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism will survey Conceptual Art as it developed in Southern California in the 1970s. The show is occasioned by the artist William Wegman’s extraordinary recent gift to the Museum of 174 short videos that he made between 1970 and 1999—his entire career in the medium. A 90-minute selection of videos from this gift will be shown along with photographs and drawings by Wegman as well as drawings, prints, and photographs by his contemporaries in Southern California—John Baldessari, Vija Celmins, Douglas Huebler, Ed Ruscha, and others.
Wegman took up video while teaching painting at the University of Illinois in the mid-1960s. Like many artists using the then-new medium, Wegman appreciated video—like photography—for its lo-fi reproducibility and anti-artistic qualities. Also, unlike film, where the negative must be developed and processed before viewing, video was like a sketchbook that allowed revision in real time.
It wasn’t until Wegman moved to Southern California in 1970 that his video production took off. Although he lived in Los Angeles for only three years, the artist found his method: short, staged vignettes using everyday items in which expectations are reversed and puns and homonyms pursued to absurd conclusions.
The artist’s key early collaborator for most of these short videos was his dog, a Weimaraner called Man Ray, who enthusiastically participates in the goings-on. In contrast to other early adopters of video, Wegman eschewed an aesthetic of boredom to focus on humorous, improvised scenarios in which he deflated the pretensions of painting and sculpture while also lampooning the pieties and self-seriousness of Conceptual Art—at a time when it was being codified and institutionalized. Beneath the slacker humor, however, are poignant points about failure and the reversal of expectations that resonate with work by other West Coast Conceptualists—the friends and fellow travelers also featured in the exhibition.
Before/On/After: William Wegman and California Conceptualism is organized by Doug Eklund, Curator in the Department of Photographs at The Met.
Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell’s Homage to Juan Gris
Exhibition Dates: January 23–April 15, 2018
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 918, Lila Acheson Wallace Wing
Joseph Cornell (American, 1903-1972). Homage to Juan Gris, 1953-54. Box construction. Philadelphia Museum of Art, Purchased: John D. McIlhenny Fund. Art © The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
On October 22, 1953, Joseph Cornell wrote in his diary: “Juan Gris/Janis Yesterday.” He was referring to the previous day’s outing, when, on one of his frequent trips to the gallery district in midtown Manhattan, Cornell visited the Sidney Janis Gallery on East 57th Street. Among a presentation of approximately 30 works by modern artists, one alone captivated Cornell—Juan Gris’s celebrated collage The Man at the Café (1914), which is now a promised gift to the Museum as part of the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection.
This shadowy profile of a fedora-topped man immediately inspired Cornell to begin a new series: some 18 boxes, two collages and one sandtray created in homage to Juan Gris, whom he called a “warm fraternal spirit.”
When he began the Gris series in 1953, Cornell was an established artist, two decades into his career. His shadow box assemblages —a genre he is credited with pioneering—were exhibited regularly in major galleries and museums, and acquired by collectors and museums for their permanent collections. Cornell gathered his banal yet evocative materials during his forays in New York City or Long Island. His sources were many and varied; he made his assemblages from old journals and French history textbooks, postage stamps, fishing tackle, cordial glasses, clay pipes, and “flotsam and jetsam” to use his words. From these disparate fragments, Cornell wove together concepts, subjects, and lives that fascinated him. The complex network of references contained in each box often obscures, if not conceals, the artist’s intended theme or subject. For instance, in his Gris series, Cornell incorporated reproductions of Gris’s works into only one box, as well as in two collages and the one sandtray. Without these reproductions and the inscriptions Cornell made on some of the constructions, most of the works in his Gris series would be indistinguishable from those in his Aviary and Hotel series from around the same time – although for his homages to Gris he used the great white-crested cockatoo exclusively. Few viewers would have known about Cornell’s extensive notes found in his diaries and his Gris dossier, a working source file in which he stored materials for inspiration or later use. Cornell’s research on Gris included the acquisition of biographical publications and reviews on the Spanish-born artist, and he bolstered his knowledge of Gris and his art through conversations with artist friends such as Marcel Duchamp and Robert Motherwell.
In The Man at the Café, Gris worked in oil paint and pasted newsprint to present a mysterious male figure reading a newspaper, which obscures his face. The shapes of the man’s stylized fedora and its prominent black shadow cast against the café wall held a particular fascination for Cornell. For the central figure of his Gris series, Cornell selected a white cockatoo to contrast with the dramatic blacks, but he also embedded a reference to Gris’s shadow play and the fedora’s silhouette. Indeed, the bird, or its distinctive silhouette, appears in all but two of the boxes, with Cornell mimicking the relationship between positive and negative space by pasting the bird print to a wood cutout, outlining it, or echoing its contours with black paper.
Although Gris remained the initial catalyst for the series, Cornell also incorporated allusions to his own passions and pastimes as revealed in the foreign language texts, hotel advertisements, and maps. An aficionado of ballet and opera, Cornell attended performances in New York City and contributed illustrations to the Dance Index, a periodical edited by New York City Ballet co-founder Lincoln Kirstein in the 1940s. The white, feathered and tulle costumes of the principals dancing Swan Lake and La Sylphide reminded him of birds. Cornell was also enamored with the nineteenth century, the era of the romantic ballet and bel canto singing, and wove these birds of song and stage into the Gris series as well.
Completed over a period of 13 years, Cornell’s series of Gris shadow boxes is more extensive in number than any other that the artist openly dedicated to one of his admired luminaries of stage, screen, literature, or the visual arts. The main protagonist of Cornell’s Juan Gris series is a bird—the great white-crested cockatoo—specifically, an image taken from a 19th-century print of the species that Cornell repeatedly used along with Photostats or silhouettes of the bird’s form to explore the fascinating shadows that Gris produced in his own practice. At The Met, the exhibition Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell’s Homage to Juan Gris will reunite for the first time nearly a dozen boxes from Cornell’s Gris series together with the Cubist masterpiece, The Man at the Café.
The exhibition is made possible by the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Charitable Trust.
Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell’s Homage to Juan Gris inaugurates a series of dossier exhibitions under the auspices of the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As part of its mission to ensure the ongoing study of modern art with a particular focus on Cubism, the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center offers fellowships, lectures, and other programs to support new scholarship on the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection and other 20th-century art. Each dossier exhibition will be related to a work or group of works from the Collection. Birds of a Feather: Joseph Cornell’s Homage to Juan Gris and future projects in the series are intended to provide a deeper context for understanding Cubism, its protagonists, and greater influences, to contribute exceptional scholarship, and to offer a fresh approach to the subject of looking and thinking about modern art.
The exhibition is curated by Mary Clare McKinley, an independent art historian based in London and former Assistant Curator in the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A catalog, made possible by the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, accompanies the exhibition and contains a major essay, written by McKinley, and the first-ever documentary catalog of Cornell’s Gris series.
Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings
Exhibition Dates: January 30–May 13, 2018
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Floor 1, Gallery 746, The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery
Thomas Cole (American, 1801-1848). View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm-The Oxbow (detail), 1836. Oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 76 in. (130.8 x 193 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1908
Met Museum to Explore Transatlantic Career of Renowned Painter Thomas Cole
Exhibition Marks 200th Anniversary of the Artist’s Arrival in America
Celebrated as one of America’s preeminent landscape painters, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) was born in northern England at the start of the Industrial Revolution, emigrated to the United States in his youth, and traveled extensively throughout England and Italy as a young artist. He returned to America to create some of his most ambitious works and inspire a new generation of American artists, launching a national school of landscape art. Opening January 30, the exhibition Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings will examine, for the first time, the artist’s transatlantic career and engagement with European art. With Cole’s masterwork The Oxbow (1836) as its centerpiece, the exhibition will feature more than three dozen examples of his large-scale landscape paintings, oil studies, and works on paper. Consummate paintings by Cole will be juxtaposed with works by European masters including J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, among others, highlighting the dialogue between American and European artists and establishing Cole as a major figure in 19th-century landscape art within a global context. The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of Cole’s arrival in America.
The exhibition was organized by Elizabeth Kornhauser, the Alice Pratt Brown Curator of American Painting and Sculpture at The Met, and Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, with Chris Riopelle, Curator of Post-1800 Paintings at the National Gallery, London.
The exhibition follows the chronology of Cole’s life, beginning with his origins in recently industrialized northern England, his arrival in the United States in 1818, and his embrace of the American wilderness as a novel subject for landscape art of the New World. Early works by Cole will reveal his prodigious talent. After establishing himself as the premier landscape painter of the young United States, he traveled back to Europe.
The next section will explore in depth Cole’s return to England in 1829–31 and his travels in Italy in 1831–32, revealing the development of his artistic processes. He embraced the on-site landscape oil study and adopted elements of the European landscape tradition reaching back to Claude Lorrain. He learned from contemporary painters in England, including Turner, Constable, and John Martin, and furthered his studies in landscape and figure painting in Italy. By exploring this formative period in Cole’s life, the exhibition will offer a significant revision of existing accounts of his work, which have, until now, emphasized the American aspects of his formation and identity. The exhibition will also provide new interpretations of Cole’s work within the expanded contexts of the history of the British Empire, the rise of the United States, the Industrial Revolution, and the American wilderness, and Romantic theories of history.
Upon his return to America, Cole applied the lessons he had learned abroad to create the five-part series The Course of Empire (1834–36). These works reveal a definition of the new American Sublime that comes to its fullest expression in The Oxbow (1836). Finally, the exhibition concludes with an examination of Cole’s legacy in the works of the next generation of American landscape painters whom Cole personally mentored, notably Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church.
Exhibition design is by Brian Butterfield, Senior Exhibition Designer; graphics are by Ria Roberts, Graphic Designer; and lighting is by Clint Ross Coller and Richard Lichte, Lighting Design Managers, all of The Met Design Department. After the presentation at The Met, the exhibition will be shown at The National Gallery, London (June 11–October 7, 2018).
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog suitable for both scholars and the general public. With new information on Cole’s life and revisionist interpretations of his major work, the publication will also feature research by The Met’s conservation team into Cole’s methods as a painter, illuminating this previously neglected area. The catalog will be available for purchase in The Met Store (hardcover, $65). The catalog is made possible by the William Cullen Bryant Fellows of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A series of Education programs will complement the exhibition. MetLiveArts will feature a 40-minute acoustic performance by Sting in the Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on April 24, 25, and 26 (7:30 p.m.). Prior to each concert, ticket holders will enjoy a special viewing of the exhibition with curators Elizabeth Kornhauser and Tim Barringer. The April 24 performance of “Sting: Atlantic Crossings” is for Members only. Tickets will be available for purchase in early 2018.
On April 8 (2 p.m.), as part of MetSpeaks, American artist Ed Ruscha will discuss his seminal five-part Course of Empire series (1992 and 2003–5) with his friend, the author, and artist Tom McCarthy, who resides in London. Tickets for this event will be available for purchase.
Met curator Elizabeth Kornhauser and paintings conservator Dorothy Mahon will explore Cole’s work methods and techniques with artist Stephen Hannock on February 7 (6:00 p.m.), revealing the layers of meaning in Cole’s iconic painting, The Oxbow. This program is part of the Conversations With… series.
Elizabeth Kornhauser will moderate a Sunday at The Met discussion on April 15 (2 p.m.) on Cole’s role as a proto-environmental artist with scholars Alan Braddock and Rebecca Bedell and artist Michel Auder. (Auder’s 2017 work The Course of Empire was shown at the Documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany.) These programs are free with Museum admission.
In a Gallery Performance on April 27 (6:00 p.m.), exhibition co-curator Tim Barringer will explore the musical and literary references that inspired Cole. This program is free with Museum admission, advance registration is required.
Education programs are made possible in part by the Clara Lloyd-Smith Weber Fund and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.
The exhibition, organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The National Gallery, London, is made possible by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, White & Case LLP, the Enterprise Holdings Endowment, and the Terra Foundation for American Art. It is also supported by an Indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
Leon Golub: Raw Nerve
Exhibition Dates: February 6–May 27, 2018
Exhibition Location: The Met Breuer, Floor 2
Leon Golub (American, 1922-2004). Gigantomachy II (detail), 1966. Acrylic on linen, 9 ft. 11 1/2 in. x 24 ft. 10 1/2 in. (303.5 x 758.2 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts and Stephen, Philip, and Paul Golub, 2016 (2016.696). © The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Opening February 6, 2018 at The Met Breuer, Leon Golub: Raw Nerve will present a selective survey of this groundbreaking artist’s work. Timed to celebrate the 2016 gift to The Met of the monumental painting Gigantomachy II (1966) from The Nancy Spero and Leon Golub Foundation for the Arts and Stephen, Philip, and Paul Golub, the exhibition will present highlights from Golub’s long, eminent career, drawn from distinguished private collections as well as the artist’s estate. Golub’s unflinching portrayals of power and brutality have profound relevance today, as does his belief in the ethical responsibility of the artist.
Born in Chicago, Golub (1922-2004) occupies a singular position in the history of mid to late 20th-century art. His devotion to the figure, his embrace of expressionism, his amalgamation of modern and classical sources, and his commitment to social justice distinguish his practice as an artist. The centerpiece of Leon Golub: Raw Nerve is Gigantomachy II, a commanding, epic work measuring nearly 10 by 25 feet. Created in 1966, two years after Golub joined the Artists and Writers Protest Group and began to lobby actively against the Vietnam War, this political allegory recounts the story of a mythic battle between the Olympian gods and a race of giants. In Golub’s contemporary retelling, there are no heroes, only anonymous men in various states of distress, their bodies riven by scars and wounds. Alongside this powerful and terrifying work, Leon Golub: Raw Nerve will feature paintings from all of the artist’s most important series, including Pylon, White Squad, Riot, and Horsing Around. These will be accompanied by a 1970 painting of a victim of the Vietnam War, as well as a suite of early paintings that reflect Golub’s study of antiquity, and a group of unsettling portraits of the Brazilian dictator Ernesto Geisel. Also on view will be works on paper that represent subjects of longstanding interest to the artist, from mercenaries, interrogators, and the victims of violence to political figures, nudes, and animals, all of them rendered in the raw, visceral style for which he is justly celebrated. Taken together, the works in Leon Golub: Raw Nerve, which spans the entire arc of Golub’s career, attest to his incisive perspective on the catastrophes that afflict human civilization as well as his critique of violence and belligerent masculinity.
Leon Golub: Raw Nerve is organized by Kelly Baum, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art in The Met’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. Continue reading