With this online exhibition, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum showcases important recent acquisitions to the permanent collection, highlighting new gifts of modern and contemporary art. In late 2015 and early 2016, the Museum was the fortunate recipient of four gifts, most notably an outstanding group of 114 modern and contemporary objects from the collection of Anthony and Elizabeth Enders.
Painted relatively early in the artist's career, this small canvas is typical of Gene Davis's work. An abstract artist known for painting vertical stripes in different colors, Davis gained critical attention in the 1960s and experimented with scale in the 1970s, creating "micro-paintings" and huge public installations of stripes in city streets.
Davis, who grew up and spent his career in Washington, D.C., was inspired by music and worked to create a sense of musical rhythm in his art.
Performance, video, and film have played an increasingly prominent role in art since the 1970s. This piece was produced as part of Matthew Barney’s epic Cremaster Cycle, a set of five films and related prints, photographs, and sculptures created between 1994 and 2002 and exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City in 2002.
Barney’s piece explores the early stages of human development when gender is still undetermined, which the artist sees as a rich metaphor for artistic creation. Cremaster 5, the last segment of the cycle, represents the most developed phase in sexual differentiation and features a tragic operatic love story. Here we see the female protagonist, the Queen of Chain, played by actress Ursula Andress.
Reflecting on landscape and travel, this canvas serves as an imagined bulletin board on which the artist has painted a group of postcards or photographs. The rectangular forms overlap, offering imagery that is sometimes clear—here a fencelike form, there a stretch of green grass—and other times opaque. The title “Sunsets” helps point the way, but the segments of sky feature a palette of dark grey crisscrossing lines, complicating what the viewer might expect from a sunset.
Robert Bordo studied at the Studio School in New York, working under Philip Guston (whose work is on view in this exhibit). He is currently a faculty member at Bard and also teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York.
Willie Cole has portrayed letters and words on a blackboard in several series, using poetic word puzzles to explore issues of race, power, and cultural identity. This piece uses various word associations and erasure to define and comment on art, language, and culture in a playful way.
A sculptor, painter, assemblage, and conceptual artist, Cole makes art by repurposing ordinary objects such as plastic water bottles and women’s high heels. He is best known for his use of the steam iron, imprinting canvas and other materials with scorch marks that reference African art imagery and slave ships, speaking to the African-American experience.
Some contemporary artists use photography and video art to document stories and performances. This scene shows an eerily lit suburban landscape with pieces of grass turf piled high. Like many of Gregory Crewdson's photographs, it is a moment both ordinary and surreal, leaving the viewer to guess at the circumstances surrounding its creation. A graduate of SUNY Purchase and the Yale School of Art, Crewdson has created a remarkable body of photographs over the last three decades, using filmmaking sets and equipment to capture scenes like this one that are familiar and mysterious.
David Hockney has worked with a range of media, utilizing painting, drawing, printmaking, and photography. This image is one of a series of 20 photographs from the early-to-mid 1970s that shows the artist's keen eye for composition, light, and color. The photograph portfolio also documents the artist's travels between California, New York, England, and Europe, and includes portraits of relatives, friends, and lovers.
Coming of age in the early 1960s, artist David Hockney attended the Royal College of Art and soon became associated with the British Pop Art movement. Enamored with California, where he moved in 1978, Hockney painted a series of swimming pools characterized by swaths of flat color. Hockney's style has shifted over time, but his career traces a persistent interest in exploring the conventions of viewing and picture-making.
The bright rainbow hues of these two prints contrast with the stark whiteness of Sol LeWitt’s adjacent sculpture. They reveal a shift in the artist’s interests in the late 1990s when he began exploring color and curved lines.
LeWitt was a Connecticut native, born in Hartford. Much of his long career was spent in New York City, but after nearly a decade living in Italy, LeWitt returned to the U.S. in the late 1980s and made Chester, Connecticut his primary residence.
Characteristic of Brice Marden's more recent work, this print features lively calligraphic forms in multiple colors. Such gestural, flowing bands of color recall elements of Abstract Expressionism, yet are the product of a different era, informed by minimalism and Marden's experiences in Asia and in Hydra, Greece, where the artist and his wife have a house.
Marden received his MFA from Yale in 1964, studying fine art alongside Chuck Close, Richard Serra, Nancy Graves and Robert Mangold. Early in his career, Marden created monochromatic panel paintings with oil paint and beeswax, later shifting to the vigorous lines and forms seen here.
Shirin Neshat, an Iranian expatriate artist living in the U.S., has explored gender roles and stereotypes in Islamic society. This photograph, taken from the video installation Rapture, shows a group of men walking through a walled fortress. Filmed in Morocco, Rapture consists of two video projections playing simultaneously on opposite walls; one following a group of identically dressed women chanting, praying, and exploring the landscape, while the other shows the men pictured here in a masculine space, alternately active and idle.
With beautiful imagery, the videos have a timeless feel, their open-ended narratives exploring issues of repression and freedom and the tension between collective and individual identities in Islamic culture.
Interested in the interaction between color and material surface, Kenneth Noland took up papermaking in the late 1970s and '80s, producing pieces like this one with bands of textured, colored paper. The paper pieces relate to the artist's earlier color field paintings, made of paint on untreated canvases, creating a smooth stained surface without brushstrokes. As pigment and material became one in the stain paintings, so too were they combined in handmade paper. Interested in geometric forms, Noland produced stripes, bull's-eye targets, and diamonds or chevrons, sometimes creating paintings with canvases in unusual shapes.
Over the course of a long career, Robert Rauschenberg produced art of remarkable breadth, ranging from single-color paintings to his breakthrough “combines,” which merged painting and sculpture, to innovative works on paper and set designs. Throughout, he showed a persistent willingness to experiment and collaborate, ideals first instilled in him at the progressive Black Mountain College, where he learned about the aesthetic effects of juxtaposed colors and combined materials.
One of Rauschenberg's many collaborations, the Glacial Decoy Series emerged from work with the Trisha Brown Dance Company in 1979. The artist's black-and-white photographs, taken in and around Fort Myers, Florida were projected as set designs in a dance performance of the same name. Rauschenberg created a series of five etchings and four lithographs that incorporated these photographs. This project revived Rauschenberg’s interest in photography, and from 1979 until 2002, he photographed all the images used in his work.
This image is one of a series of portraits of Ku Klux Klan members that Serrano took in 1990. An artist of Honduran and Afro-Cuban descent, Serrano took on the project as a challenge to explore otherness. Serrano noted, "when I did the portraits of the homeless, The Nomads, or the Ku Klux Klan series, I saw them as portraits of individuals and also as symbols and representations of issues and social groups that sometimes clash with each other and with the rest of society."
Known for creating controversial and provocative art, photographer Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (1987) was among the objects at the center of a controversy over art and freedom of speech in the 1990s “culture wars.”
With subtle veils of color painted over a black background, this small, lyrical painting combines exquisitely rendered imagery—butterflies, trees, the moon, and a seated figure—with drips, swirls, and splatters. These two modes seem at odds, evoking a delicate scene while simultaneously breaking the illusion and emphasizing the materiality of paint, which can be applied in many ways and is subject to chance and accident.
A painter, printmaker, and installation artist, Darren Waterston recently explored the complex history of American art and patronage in an installation that engages James McNeill Whistler’s Peacock Room (1876, Freer Art Gallery), exploring themes of money, power, art, and ownership.
This nighttime scene of a dancing couple was inspired by the landscape of Trinidad, where the British artist Chris Ofili has lived since 2005. Multiple shades of dark blue on textured paper create an unusually rich surface for a print. A related series of paintings also explores the night, influenced by German Expressionism and jazz. Ofili noted of Trinidad, "the night and twilight here enhances the imagination," evoking "a different level of consciousness that is less familiar to me, and stimulating through a degree of fear and mystery."
Ofili, a recipient of the British Turner prize, is one of the few artists of color in the "Young British Artists" group. He participated in the 1997-99 traveling exhibition Sensation, where his use of elephant dung and religious imagery stirred controversy. Engaging issues of race, identity, and sexuality, Ofili integrates humor and stereotypes, employing popular culture imagery in ways similar to African American artists Kerry James Marshall and Barkley Henricks (whose work is represented in this exhibition).
The Enders gift is one of incredible breadth, offering an overview of the contemporary art market over the last 35 or so years, with works by Matthew Barney, Nan Goldin, David Hockney, Sol LeWitt, Chris Ofili, Robert Rauschenberg, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Lorna Simpson, and Darren Waterston, among many others. The Enders gift greatly expands the Lyman Allyn’s holdings in Modern and Contemporary art, adding works by 76 artists not previously represented in the Museum’s holdings. While the Enders gift extends the breadth of the Lyman Allyn’s collection, recent gifts by donors Karen Metzger Ganz and Sheldron Seplowitz add depth with smaller, focused groups of objects.
Karen Metzger Ganz, Connecticut College Class of 1965, has donated a portfolio of contemporary photographs to the Lyman Allyn every year for over a decade, building and strengthening the Museum’s collection of contemporary photography. The 2015 gift is a portfolio of ten striking black-and-white photographs of Brazil by the New York-based photographer Kristin Capp. Drawn from Capp’s most recent project “Utopian Fragments,” the portfolio contains beautifully composed images from São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador de Bahia, photographed between 2002 and 2005 with a rolleiflex twin lens camera. Capp, the recipient of a 2007 Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (among other awards), writes that photography “is the language that best articulates how I experience light, space, and my relationship to the human condition. It is a passport which takes me to distant places and new ideas, allowing intuition and perception to work in tandem.”
Sheldron Seplowitz of Stamford, Connecticut donated five Salvador Dalí lithographs to the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in December 2015. Two colorful and evocative religious pieces comprise Dalí’s New Jerusalem suite, while three lithographs illustrate segments of the History of Don Quixote, all from 1980. Prior to this gift the Museum had only a single work by Dalí, a color block print illustrating Dante’s Divine Comedy from the early 1960s. Dalí’s Don Quixoteprints extend this literary emphasis and speak to the artist’s Spanish heritage, with the story’s absurdist elements aptly suggested by Dalí’s surrealist style.
Literary subjects and surrealism can also be seen in several objects in the Enders gift. The French surrealist André Masson, a friend and contemporary of Dalí’s, used automatic drawing and erotic imagery to evoke the story of Ariadne from Greek mythology in his 1973 print Le Fil D’Ariane. Likewise, William Kentridge’s 2010 the Nose , which illustrates a scene from Dmitri Shostakovich’s opera, connects to the absurdist strains in Don Quixote with the satirical tale of a man who has lost his own nose. Many thematic links can be made between these recent acquisitions and pieces in the Lyman Allyn’s existing collection. The Enders gift helps expand and enrich the museum’s contemporary art holdings and is particularly strong in minimal art, conceptual art, and photography. Many newly acquired objects engage issues of gender, politics, culture, race, and class, allowing the Lyman Allyn Art Museum to better reflect the complex multiplicity of our contemporary world. A photograph from Iranian artist Shirin Neshat’s 1999 installation video Rapture, for example, deals with gender politics in contemporary Islam, while objects by African-American artists Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and Willie Cole utilize text (and some images) to explore issues of race, gender, and power.
In addition to modern and contemporary art, the Museum received an important group of 18thand 19th century New London county objects from Lance Mayer and Gay Myers. Acclaimed conservators and technical art historians, Mayer and Myers retired from their long and accomplished practice (based at the Lyman Allyn) at the end of 2015. To mark this occasion, the couple generously gave the Museum objects of regional importance, including two Chippendale side chairs attributed to the Norwich maker Felix Huntington, and a Windsor side chair by the New London furniture maker William Harris, Jr., one of only two known Windsor chairs labeled by a New London maker. The gift also includes a drawing by John Warner Barber, a study for the wood engraving South View of New-London & Fort Trumbull, in Barber’s Connecticut Historical Collections (1836).
Tanya Pohrt, Special Project Curator