Artistic Innovation and Influence

By Linda Arntzenius

Visitors to this month’s Philadelphia Flower Show (March 1 to 9) may feel as though they’ve walked into MoMA instead. Taking their lead from the legendary American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976), the designers have created an entrance garden inspired by his boldest and brightest work. Calder’s primary color palette makes “ARTiculture” the most colorful entrance garden to date and suspended elements bring to mind the artist’s famous kinetic abstracts.

Considered among the 20th century’s most original and influential artists, Calder introduced us to “mobiles” and then to the monumental outdoor abstract non-kinetic sculptures that his friend Jean Arp differentiated as “stabiles.” Two of his most important pieces were recently installed on the lawn in front of the Princeton University Art Museum. Man and The Kite That Never Flew, both from 1967 and made of painted steel, are on loan from the Fisher Family Collection and will be on view through mid-June. According to Princeton University Art Museum Director James Steward, they are among Calder’s “most lasting achievements and place him among the masters of modern art.”

Born in Pennsylvania into a family of artists, Calder was part artist and part scientist. He trained as an engineer at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken and is credited with some of the world’s first wholly abstract sculptures. His first mobiles were mechanized constructions; later he developed ingenious ways of balancing compositions of suspended sheet metal that would move in response to currents of air. Early exposure to the likes of Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró and Marcel Duchamp in Paris brought Calder into contact with the progressive art movements of the day, such as Surrealism, Dada, De Stijl and Constructivism. But Calder’s minimalist style is all his own, characterized by a use of industrial materials and a touch of whimsy. He makes you smile.

For the next few months, the two loaned pieces from the Fisher Family will bring the number of Calder sculptures at Princeton University to three. Calder created Five Disks: One Empty for the University at the request of his friend and MoMA’s Founding Director Alfred Barr. It sits on the Fine Hall Plaza in the natural sciences section of the campus, where it is part of the University’s popular Putnam Collection of outdoor sculpture. Images of this piece and other outdoor sculptures on the campus can be viewed at: http://artmuseum.princeton.edu/campus-art.

So much for what’s on view outside the Princeton University Art Museum; inside you will find a new exhibition of Italian drawings from the museum’s own collection of more than a thousand. Titled, 500 Years of Italian Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum, the exhibition features works from Michelangelo to Modigliani, with many from the Renaissance and Baroque periods and almost 100 that have rarely been on display.

And as if that’s not enough reason to visit the Art Museum this spring, Edvard Munch: Symbolism in Print, Masterworks from the Museum of Modern Art, New York provides another. Here is a different take on the artist best known for one of the most recognizable and much-parodied images in modern art. Among the world’s most valuable paintings, The Scream sold at auction in May 2012 for $120 million. But you won’t find it here. Instead, this exhibition looks at the technical innovations that make the Norwegian artist one of the greatest printmakers of the modern era. The show examines 26 etchings, lithographs and woodcuts arranged according to the techniques Munch explored, from early etchings and drypoints made in Berlin in 1893, to the Frieze of Life painting cycle that he exhibited at the 1902 Berlin Secession. “Due to the nature and immediacy of his graphic achievement, the visual intensity of these prints plumbs depths that may be even greater than Munch’s paintings” says Steward.

Not to be missed are two versions of The Kiss. One is an etching and drypoint and the other a color woodcut. In the former, the two lovers meld to become one iconic figure in contrast to the almost entirely abstract treatment of the latter, which is coarsely carved and printed from a weathered pine board. Other highlights are the lithographs Anxiety and Death in the Sick Room (both 1896) which evoke woodcut techniques fashionable in Parisian Art Nouveau circles at the time, and Madonna and Vampire II. Viewers will be entranced by the influences on Munch’s work, including Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

TRACING ARTIST INFLUENCE

Spotting influences and tracing connections is at the heart of Concentric Circles of Influence: The Birth of Artists’ Communities in Central New Jersey, a series of exhibitions supplemented by film, gallery talks, and panel discussions celebrating the creativity of central New Jersey. Focusing on art communities that developed in the area beginning in the 1930s, Concentric Circles has related shows at the Historical Society of Princeton, the Arts Council of Princeton, and the Princeton Public Library, among other venues.

Organizers Ilene Dube and Kate Somers set out to celebrate a group of women artists who came together to learn printmaking from Judith K. Brodsky in the 1960s. From this group, and other artists who established the Princeton Art Association (now ArtWorks in Trenton), other art collectives began to form. Dube and Somers’ project grew to encompass multiple groups with overlapping interests and influences. Hence Concentric Circles of Influence, which not only explores the origins of the Queenston Press and the Princeton Art Association but also those of the Trenton Artists Workshop Association and the Roosevelt Arts Project, which dates back to the 1930s.

“We discovered that not only had the women artists’ group come together at this time, but other important artists in the area were taking classes with each other, interacting and influencing each other,” says Dube. “Although the artists of Roosevelt had formed in the 1930s, many were still active in the 1960s and ’70s, and knew the artists of the Queenston Press. In addition, there were connections to artists who had taught at Mercer County Community College, as well as the artists who formed the Trenton Artists Workshop Association.”

In 1976, the Queenston Press produced The Woman Portfolio, published by Brodsky and the late Zelda Laschever. Images from the portfolio of responses to the word “woman,” including prints by Brodsky, Yvonne Burk, Trudy Glucksberg, Lonnie Sue Johnson, Margaret Johnson, Joan Needham, Helen Schwartz, Marie Sturken, and Linda White, can be seen through April 15 in Concentric Circles of Influence: The Queenston Press, The Woman Portfolio at the Princeton Public Library.

At the Historical Society of Princeton in Bainbridge House, through July 13, is another exhibition devoted to the work of the talented women of the Queenston Press and a portfolio of the prints they created for Princeton’s 1976 celebration of the American Bicentennial. Concentric Circles: The Queenston Press: The Bicentennial Portfolio charts the town’s growth and place in the nation’s history with prints of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, Nassau Hall, Morven, and the Princeton Cemetery, among others. Also through July 13, work inspired by the revolutionary war is on display in Concentric Circles: The Queenston Press Ten Crucial Days Portfolio at the Historical Society of Princeton’s Updike Farmstead.

Man and The Kite That Never Flew by Alexander Calder will be on view through mid-June in front of the Princeton University Art Museum; 500 Years of Italian Drawings from the Princeton University Art Museum runs through May 11; Edvard Munch: Symbolism in Print, Masterworks from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, through June 8. For more information and hours, visit:  artmuseum.princeton.edu. For more on the various elements of Concentric Circles of Influence, visit: princetonhistory.org and princetonlibrary.org.

AREA EXHIBITS

Grounds for Sculpture: Edwina Sandys: Provocative and Profound, paintings; William Knight: Out of Context, sculpture; also a retrospective of public and studio work by internationally acclaimed artist Athena Tacha, Sculpting With/In Nature (1975-2013). For more information, visit  www.groundsforsculpture.org.

James A. Michener Art Museum, 138 South Pine St., Doylestown, Pa: Paul Evans: Crossing Boundaries & Crafting Modernism, the first-ever retrospective of the artist’s work documents his significant role in the midcentury American studio furniture movement, through June 1. Evans achieved international acclaim for unique sculpted metal furniture. For more information, hours and admission, call 215.340.9800 or visit:  www.MichenerArtMuseum.org.

Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick: Diane Burko: Glacial Perspectives through July 31; Striking Resemblance: The Changing Art of Portraiture, through July 13. For admission and hours, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street: The Age of Sail: A New Jersey Collection. For more information, hours and admission, call 609.924.8144 ext.106 or visit: www.morven.org.

Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Del: Costumes of Downton Abbey, designs from the award-winning television series through January 4, 2015. For more information, hours and admission, visit: www.winterthur.org.

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