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March 15, 2012

Do you like this?

Visitors to the Hunter Museum may now view the newly arranged acquisitions in the contemporary gallery, featuring 18 glass works, African-American works in a range of styles, and some large paintings. Most impressively evident, the relations between community members and the museum have resulted in the prominent display of many favored glass works now added to the permanent collection.

Light has particular importance to glass works, which often integrate ambient light into their aesthetic effects. It’s remarkable that in this city once known for its industrial darkness, this dazzling show emphasizes light.

But before you enter the museum, take a few moments to consider the new sculpture near the entrance loop. Tennessee-born artist Red Grooms’ “The Lindy Hop” (enamel on aluminum, 2009) blends a colorful presentation with dynamic motion to recreate a peak move of this famous Harlem jazz dance.

This sculpture has been produced as one piece of an edition of two and is on long-term loan to join the intriguing Hunter sculpture garden. Originally from Nashville, Grooms has infused this work with a sense of music, both through his portrayal of musical notes on the “Savoy Ballroom” pedestal and through his sensitivity to his figures rendered as deeply involved with both the movement and with each other. This wonderful work shows such joy!

Regular visitors to the Hunter will find the first contemporary gallery much the same, overlooked by the magnificent Frank Stella painting. Still, Willem de Kooning’s abstract “Untitled 1969” contains such intense energy, producing a magnetic presence that invites deep contemplation. His colors and forms emphasize the erotic, and the total effect reaches for reference, as if this stunning abstract view was attempting to render some deeply sublime pleasure.

On the other side of this room, Tom Wesselman’s “Monica with Tulips” (silkscreen, 1989) witnesses the progression of a fine arts form that adds paradox to paradox. The central figure has been geometrically abstracted and the huge tulips seem wholly out of proportion, except, perhaps, as a sort of squashed perspective, as if a longer view were compressed or foreshortened. The background also seems paradoxical, with its geometry of diagonal and perpendicular planes in dynamic play. There is much white space, yet the figure has vitality with her surroundings uncannily present.

Heading to the next gallery, Wayne Thiebaud’s “Glassed Candy” (lithograph, 1980) seems a promise of a coming glass show. Again, much white throws into relief the blue mirror effect of a surface containing a reflection. With few colors—orange and blue predominant, with black accents—this simply elegant representation suggests a deep understanding of this medium by the artist, a “pop art” sensation.

Janet Fish’s “Orange Lamp and Oranges” (1982) fills the canvas with glass effects from small windows so that the oranges are literally drenched in direct and reflected light. Again, a deep knowledge of her medium and subject really jazzes this still life into playful drama.

Karen LaMonte’s “Reclining Dress Impression with Drapery” (cast glass, 2006) presents not only the visual dynamic of its smooth to ruffled surfaces, but its playfully ironic “invisible” figure seems to breathe a tactile presence into this cool material. Follow her “gaze” over to Kreg Kallenberger’s “Titantic Series 31887” (cast lead crystal, 1987), which resembles a piece of the poetic moon, its arc sector presenting two different surfaces. One transparent surface captures rainbow hues. This is amazing fun.

There are cast-glass pieces that present a sense of this material, like Thomas Scoon’s “Composition #4” (1995), Howard Ben Tre’s “Caryatids”  (1988) and Daniel Clayman’s “Pierced Volume” (2007) with its tapered cylinder and apertures.

There are “narrative” works, like Ginny Ruffner’s “Conceptual Narrative Series/Storms in the Art World” (mixed media, 1997) posing the whimsical question of how we see things, and Catherine Newell’s “Alone Together IX” (2008) with its poignant suggestions of memory’s persistence.

Sandy Skuglund’s “Breathing Glass” (cibachrome print, 2000) shows glass’ capability of presenting “impossible” illusions. Other examples include Richard Ritter’s “Untitled” (blown glass with murrini, 1984) and Jon Kuhn’s “Crystal Quadrille” (lead crystal and borosilicate glass, 1991).

There lacks room to enumerate such diversity and interest in glass. Go and enjoy this precious light show!

by

March 15, 2012

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