Last Sunday, Philbrook Museum of Art, 2727 S. Rockford Road, opened an exhibition of modern art from the collection of Edward Wales Root--an exhibition outstanding in its own right but one that also serves to preface the next two years of programming at the museum.
Out of eight scheduled exhibitions for the 2009-2011 series, five showcase works from the 20th and 21st centuries. The recent Peggy Preheim exhibit is one of those.
The current exhibit, "Auspicious Vision: Edward Wales Root and American Modernism" tells the story of one man's infatuation with modern art, and it also tells the story of how American art developed over the course of a century, positioning the country as a world leader in artistic creation.
"In addition to this being the story about one individual's collection, what's great for us here at Philbrook is it gives us an opportunity to highlight the importance of the 20th century again with these killer works," said Randal Suffolk, Philbrook's executive director.
On display are 50 works from Root's collection of about 227, donated to the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute in Utica, New York, after his death in 1956. Root was a pioneering collector in that he collected works by American artists at the time of their creation. He purchased artists' work because he believed in the power of art ownership, because he believed in supporting the artist and enabling him to continue on in his craft and because he believed in the patriotism of appreciating American artwork, rather than European.
He associated closely with many of the artists whose works he purchased. He gravitated to the group of artists known as The Eight: William Glacken, Robert Henri, George Luks, Everett Shinn, John French Sloan, Arthur B. Davies, Ernest Lawson and Maurice Prendergast--revolutionary for portraying scenes of real life in lower-class urban settings.
Root began his collection in 1909 with the acquisition of a painting by Ernest Lawson (who was destitute and for whom that purchase meant the opportunity to not only continue painting but to also continue eating and living) and continued buying work late into the 1950s.
He purchased works that moved him and encouraged his students (he taught art appreciation at Hamilton College) to do the same, inspiring other prominent collectors who succeeded him.
Root is famously quoted as saying, "New things are happening. I don't know that I understand them or that I like them. But I must find out. I must buy them and try to find out."
The exhibition at Philbrook begins in the 19-teens with two works by Arthur B. Davies, providing an example of the way American Impressionism shifted from its Eurpoean counterpart, spurring the modern movement.
As the modernism movement evolves, it's evident in the pictures on display what was happening in American history at the time.
Gradually, art moved toward abstraction, and the exhibit ends, in the 1950s, with pieces by Jackson Pollock, Theodoros Stamos and Willem De Kooning.
"These artists were among that first great wave of abstract expressionist painters," said Suffolk.
"We don't get this quality of work in Tulsa very often, to have a Jackson Pollock or a Willem De Kooning. We don't always have the chance to come face-to-face and get up close and personal with these nine artists' works), and I think this is a great exhibition to provide that opportunity," Suffolk said.
He also said he hopes the exhibition will give viewers a context for observing modern and contemporary art in the future, that the survey on display now at the museum will provide a brief education in the history of American art and a reminder that art progresses and is still progressing.
"Auspicious Vision" will hang through Nov. 29. Museum hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Admission is $7.50 for adults. More at www.philbrook.org
From Aug. 27 to Sept. 25, artists will reinvent the little black dress for an exhibit at the University of Tulsa's Alexandre Hogue Gallery called "Little Black Dress: New Takes on a Timeless Classic."
Curated by TU professor Theresa Valero, 12 female artists from Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Arizona were paired up with 12 little black dresses, all belonging to Connie Cronley, former general manager of the Tulsa Ballet.
The exhibit that resulted involves works in various media inspired by these dresses, most of which are 1970s and '80s-era.
The exhibit's reception is Sept. 10 at 5pm. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. The gallery is housed in Phillips Hall on the TU campus, 600 S. College.
The Whole (Un)Truth
Jeff Martin, a local author who just happens to be employed by Philbrook, managing the museum's social media presence (check out www.philbrookmuseum.blogspot.com for a fun and insightful addendum to museum happenings) launches his new book My Dog Ate My Nobel Prize on Sept. 1 at 7pm at Dwelling Spaces.
My Dog Ate My Nobel Prize is a quirky, humorous "made-up memoir" following in the recent trend of published lies. In it, Martin divulges short, snippet-length, made-up facts about the nearly 30 years he's been on earth, beginning from his birth and ending on his 30th birthday, which has yet to happen.
On Sept. 1, Martin, who is the co-founder of the uber popular Booksmart Tulsa, will sign copies of his book at 119 S. Detroit. From there, he'll commence on a nine-city book tour.
The event is free and open to the public. Learn more at www.jeffmartinauthor.com.
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