Modern and Contemporary Art at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art

Sculpture in the 20th Century
January 17-March 1, 2015

In addition to the Hunt Slonem exhibition I reviewed separately, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art has a couple other shows worthy of a look. The Sculpture in the 20th Century exhibition is comprised of selections from the museum’s excellent permanent collection. On display are some pieces familiar to frequent visitors, like John Newman’s Sidesplitter, 1986, and some pieces that rarely get seen.

There are a wide variety of styles, media and forms in the show. Many of the works are abstract with a few notable figurative works. The gallery is a little cramped, and I personally would have preferred to see the works spread out a little more in the museum. Here are a few highlights:

My Homies, 2005.
My Homies, 2005.

Jamie Guerrero teaches glassblowing classes to at risk youth in Los Angeles. He says of his work that it “has opened my awareness of the world around me, giving me a sense of perspective about the human experience. I am influenced by the everyday things we take for granted, the rituals we create from our routines, and the historical artifacts that inform and influence our perception. I use my work to mirror human experience and give a voice to subject matter that would normally remain mute.”

That attitude informs this work from 2005. My Homies shows detailed craftsmanship and expressive treatment of the subject matter. These figures grabbed my attention as soon as I entered the gallery. Amidst the minimalist, abstract works dominating the space, My Homies provided a welcome figurative respite.

 

Stela I, 1977-8
Stela I, 1977-8

Claire Zeisler, a contemporary fiber artist, was represented with this distinctive piece from 1977. This work features a cascade of hemp rope crowned with red wool. The intricate patterns of bright red frames the top of the piece which spills down, terminating in a tangled heap. The controlled, brightly colored top contrasts visually and thematically with the rough, organic shapes of the rest of the ropes. Truly unique in the exhibition, seeing this work made me want to see an entire show of fiber and/or minimalist works in the FWMoA main gallery. I could imagine this work alongside some Eva Hesse and Sheila Hicks pieces. As it stands in this show, like the Guerrero works, it pops out to the viewer because of the contrast in color and form. So much of the show features shining metal and glass, the natural textures of Zeisler’s work makes for an immediate focal point.

Sidesplitter, 1986
Sidesplitter, 1986

Speaking of gleaming metal, this work by John Newman is actually one of my favorite pieces owned by the museum. I remember visiting a solo exhibition of Newman’s work in the 1990s which is the first time I saw Sidesplitter, and I fell in love with the piece immediately. Characteristic of the artist’s style, it gracefully combines sharp edges with soft curves. Architectural, yet not overpowering, this work is both inviting and dominating. The interior play of negative space is balanced by the larger, sweeping “tail” of the piece, visually pulling the viewer’s gaze up to the reaching crown. It had been a while since I’d seen this work, and I was reminded right away why I’ve always enjoyed it.

Flight III #10, 1984
Flight III #10, 1984

Contemporary Indiana artist, James Uhrig, was represented with his work Flight III #10 from 1984. A beautifully balanced pieced comprised of highly polished stainless steel and wood. This piece is notable for Uhrig’s ability to create a visceral tension between volume and negative space.

This is just a sampling of what can be found in this excellent display. The really fantastic thing about this exhibition is that is demonstrates the great variety and depth of the museum’s permanent holdings. Make sure you don’t miss this show.

Also at the museum was Crossing Lines: Contemporary Art from Coast to Coast: Austin, TX, which closed in January.

Located in the front hall of the museum, the display had a wide variety of styles and subjects in prints, sculptures and paintings. The artists represented are well worth looking into.

Everything With Me, 2014
Everything With Me, 2014

Jason Eatherly was represented with a few works including Everything with Me, and Everything Past Me, both from 2014. These acrylic paintings have a great narrative. I’ll let the images speak for themselves instead of trying to describe the stories. The illustrative style is fun to examine, and as one does so, one finds great, unexpected details.

Everything Past Me, 2014
Everything Past Me, 2014

These were not my favorite works in this exhibition, but definitely worth spending some time with.

20 Hammers, 2012
20 Hammers, 2012

What was my favorite piece? Well, I really loved the works by Aleck Nimer on display. Hammers. Many, tiny, hammers. Why did I love them so much? Perhaps it was just the unexpected nature of finding them there. Perhaps it was the meticulous craftsmanship of the work.

3D Printed Hammer, 2012
3D Printed Hammer, 2012

Perhaps it was just the idea of taking the ultimate symbol of mundane, mass produced functionalism — the hammer– replicating, crafting, expanding, and shrinking it beyond practicality so one can appreciate the subtle, simple beauty in the thing itself.

He is, according to his website, exploring “a balance between academic fine art and the continuous pursuit of skilled craftsmanship.” This concept is nicely expressed in the Hammers Series. Absurd, but not directly comical, and hey, who doesn’t love tiny hammers? Am I right?

Pandemic, 2014
Pandemic, 2014

Of the 2D works in the show my favorite were a set of drawings by Jamie Spinello, Fever, Rash, and Pandemic (pictured above) all from 2014, were beautiful and poignant pieces demonstrating great mastery of the medium and a touching humanity. Focusing on hands without the rest of the subject visible, the gestures remind me of Egon Schiele’s pieces. These were small works in the hallway, which could be easily missed. They are subtle and delicate, and in my opinion, some of the best works in this exhibition. Many of Spinello’s similar drawings can be found at the artist’s website (linked above).

 

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art also has a special exhibition up related to the Dance Theater of Harlem, look forward to my comments on that exhibition in the future.

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