Art Complex Museum

Exhibitions - 2014

19 on Paper: Hidden Worlds

August 24 – November 9, 2014


Joan Hausrath, Fragile Remains, 2012, collagraph and trace monotype print

19 on Paper, founded in 1986, is an organization of Rhode Island artists who make works of art of or on paper. Members are painters, collage artists, printmakers, book-makers, photographers and sculptors who also exhibit individually.

In the spring of 1986, two artists decided to form a Rhode Island based artists’ group whose purpose was “to provide a cohesive structure for the presentation of works on paper by Rhode Island artists.” When nineteen professional exhibiting artists responded to the call for colleagues, the name of the group became “19 on Paper”. In the ensuing years the membership has been maintained at approximately nineteen, although at times it has consisted of fewer than or more than nineteen.

Feeling strongly that the integrity of the individual’s point of view should not be imposed upon, 19 on Paper believes that encouraging a diversity of approaches to works on paper energizes and enriches aesthetic expression. Not only are different mediums and techniques pursued, but also a variety of imagery, from realism to non-objective abstraction. The artists of 19 on Paper have exhibited worldwide in galleries and museums with several having been published in a variety of media.

Asian Connections

September 21, 2014 – January 18, 2015

Asian art is one of the four collecting areas of The Art Complex Museum. The other strengths of the collection are American paintings, Shaker objects and Works on Paper. The Asian collection includes over 1,450 works which span more than five thousand years. Carl and Edith Weyerhaeuser personally selected many of them. Their friends, Kojiro and Harriet Tomita, bequeathed a number of objects. Purchase of the Leland C. and Paula Wyman Collection added significant works of Indian and Persian art. Almost every Asian country is represented in the museum’s collection. The majority of objects are from Japan, China, India and Persia. The remainder are from Tibet, Kashmir, Nepal, Thailand, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka.

This exhibition is the first time Bengtz Gallery has been filled with the finest examples of Asian art from our collection since Tribute to Kojiro Tomita: Asian art from the permanent collection was displayed in 1990. We will show all of our Chinese paintings. We will highlight the variety of materials: painting, calligraphy, ceramics, bronze, prints, lacquer, jade, glass and textiles. We will explore different themes: the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Shinto and Confucianism, as well as Kabuki theater and secular imagery of landscape and poets. This show will address many pertinent questions: What do the works of art from these various places teach us about similarities and differences within Asia?; How do these cultures connect to one another?; How do they relate to the past or reflect the present?; How has the museum chosen to acquire works of art in recent years?

The majority of the museum’s Chinese paintings depict the landscape, the most popular subject understanding of their predecessors by naming them in the inscription. Ru Wenshu refers to the great Northern Song (960 – 1127) painter, Guo Xi, circa 1000-circa 1090. Guo Xi specialized in winter scenes emphasizing the bare branches of the trees. The tall, narrow composition begins in the lower left with a traveler and servant proceeding to visit a friend in his pavilion midway up the right side of the painting. Mountain peaks punctuated by a water fall tower above and are silhouetted against a gloomy, grey winter sky. She handles the ink deftly, adding a few subtle washes of color.

Most of Indian art is devoted to religious themes, especially Hindu ones focusing on a particular deity. The three main Hindu deities are Brahma, the Creator, Vishnu, the Preserver, and Shiva, the Destroyer. Vishnu manifests himself as ten avatars or re-incarnations who appear when the world is in need of help. The most compelling is the eighth, Krishna, who was raised by a cowherd and his wife. Krishna grew up to become a model lover having many liaisons with the wives and daughters of the cowherds (gopis), especially his favorite, Radha. Her intense passion for Krishna symbolizes a devotee’s desire for union with god. Women Yearning for Krishna was painted around 1635 – 1645 in Mewar in Rajasthan to illustrate the Kavipriya written by Kesava Das. The vigorous drawing and limited palette with blocks of primary colors are typical of Rajput style. The Sanscrit script identifies the theme. The overall effect is flat and two-dimensional because there is no variation in the colors from light to dark.

Ceramics, particularly those of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, are a focus of our Japanese collection. Many of them were created for use in the Tea Ceremony. Edith Weyerhaeuser believed that understanding the Tea Ceremony was one of the best ways to learn about Japanese culture. The curatorial staff is always on the lookout for pieces which would enhance the collection in a substantive manner. The stoneware Vase with salt glaze by Tomoo Hamada (born 1967) is a recent acquisition. It will add to our group of tea ceremony vases as well as document the continuation of the Mingei (Folk Craft) ceramic tradition founded by Tomoo’s grandfather Shoji Hamada (1894 – 1977) in Mashiko, Japan. When possible, we build on our existing holdings by purchasing works made by other generations of a family. We will display this Vase with the Tea Bowl in our collection by Shoji Hamada. Tomoo was trained not only by his grandfather, but also by his father, Shinsaku, born 1929. Tomoo values combining a free spirit with impeccable technique. The shape of this Vase is reminiscent of the Japanese folding screen. Its diagonals set up dynamic rhythms and the contrast between the brown and blue vertical striations create fascinating textural interest.

These examples show the range in time, style, theme and materials from the three most important areas within our Asian collection. The exhibition will explore these concepts in greater depth and variety to demonstrate what our collection can teach us about the enticing connections to be found in Asian art at The Art Complex Museum.

Moving Right Along. . . Kinetic Sculpture by David A. Lang

November 16, 2014 – February 15, 2015


David A. Lang, Horse Play, kinetic sculpture, 2007, welded steel wire and rod, sea horses

Sculptor David A. Lang has a deep and diverse well to draw from as an artist. With a background including more than thirty years as Chairman of the Art Department of the Middlesex School in Concord, Massachusetts as well as founder of the Department of Scientific Illustration and Graphic Arts at Harvard University, and a part time flight instructor, Lang understands better than most people the way seemingly unrelated things connect.

A visit to his studio, which has been called, “a cross between Geppetto’s workshop and the Unabomber’s cabin,” is a visit into the mind of the artist where finished and partially finished contraptions and ideas lay alongside bed pans and wooden crutches and a soon to be restored British roadster. Lang says of his work, “I build interactive kinetic sculpture that is narrative in nature. It is both whimsical and serious, graceful and awkward, understated and, at the same time. conspicuously complex.”

“The work is,” he explains, “by and large, gas welded from steel wire, rods, fabricated into something often resembling vehicles, portrayed on very delicate wheels, some large and some quite small. The wheels themselves represent the passage of time. The work requires a great deal of patience, both to figure out how to make it kinetic and how to reduce the physical object to as refined and minimal a presence as possible. Motion and movements are very subtle and elegant. Virtually every piece has different visual interactions taking place, depending on your vantage point. There are visual harmonies that often work against subtle interferences. And yet everything does interact smoothly, if not by very small margins. Everything in this work is slow and understated. I use miniature motors, handmade gears, levers, pulleys and almost any material that could heighten the visual sense of unlikelihood.”

“The work seems to give the impression that the rules are often in flux,” he concludes, “but if you observe for long enough and allow yourself to become drawn in, everything comes into alignment. There is a balancing point between the machine and the observer, who in fact becomes an active participant in its existence.”

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