Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Jill Hooper: Contemporary Realist

Portraits have always played a significant role in the art of Charleston, and the Gibbes collection. The very first work of art accessioned into the collection was a portrait of Benjamin Smith by Jeremiah Theus, an important artist working during the mid eighteenth century. Fast forward some 250 years, and the portrait tradition remains very much alive in Charleston, thanks in part to another artist in our collection, Jill Hooper.

This winter, the Gibbes is showcasing Hooper’s extraordinary talent with the solo exhibition Jill Hooper: Contemporary Realist. On view in the Rotunda through April 22, the show includes landscape and still-life paintings, but primarily focuses on portraiture. Each likeness is beautifully painted, and conveys powerful emotion. A number of the paintings are paired with preparatory drawings that reveal Hooper’s working process, and her mastery of charcoal. The drawings are simply breathtaking. Another highlight is the group of five self-portraits included in the exhibition. Painted over a span of eleven years, they shed light on her development as an artist and tackle her own struggles and insecurities. Hooper’s work is honest and full of life and beautifully expresses what it means to be human.

If you want to learn more about Hooper’s work, please join me for a tour of the exhibition on February 16 or March 15 at 2:30pm.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Artist Spotlight: Corrie McCallum (American, 1914–2009)

Our current exhibition, Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art, features over 30 groundbreaking women artists, each with their own compelling story and artistic vision. Included among this group is Charleston’s own Corrie McCallum. Throughout her long and productive career, McCallum was a fixture in the Charleston art community. As a result, the Gibbes collection includes many of her works, a selection of which are featured above.

McCallum was born in Sumter, South Carolina in 1914. She attended the University of South Carolina and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Following an extended period of study in Mexico with her husband, fellow artist William Halsey (American, 1915–1999), McCallum and her family settled in Charleston in 1942. Though she chose to live in Charleston, McCallum stayed current with the New York art scene. She followed the development of Abstract Expressionism and incorporated the style into her work, as demonstrated by paintings such as View of Toledo and Boats of Nazare that feature gestural brushwork and reduction of forms.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

Under the guidance of Corrie McCallum, the Gibbes created and conducted the first comprehensive art appreciation program for Charleston County public school students.

In addition to her vast body of work, McCallum made significant contributions to the Charleston art community as an educator. She held education positions at several institutions, including the Telfair Museum of Art, Gibbes Museum of Art, College of Charleston, and Newberry College, and throughout her life remained an outspoken advocate for the visual arts.

McCallum’s painting View of Toledo will remain on view in Breaking Down Barriers through January 8, 2012—don’t miss this great exhibition! Have you already seen Breaking Down Barriers? Leave a comment here to share your experience with us.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art

Today, the Gibbes opened a new exhibition called Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art. The exhibition takes a hard look at the history of art, exploring why there were so few early female artists, and how the tide has changed over the past century. The subject matter is compelling, and every object in the show is from the Gibbes collection. The fact that the Gibbes can tell the story of 300 years of women in art is noteworthy. Our collection is vast and includes many treasures of American art, including the largest public collection of portraits by Henrietta Johnston, the first female professional artist in America. The Johnston portraits are a real point of pride for the Gibbes, and five of her beautiful pastels will be included in this exhibition—a rare treat for our museum visitors! But this exhibition offers so much more. From miniature portraits to photography, sculpture, and abstract paintings, the exhibition highlights a wide variety of work, culminating with the stellar contributions of female artists working in Charleston today.

Want to hear more about these groundbreaking women? Join me on November 3 or December 1 at 2:30pm for an exhibition tour, free with museum admission.

Pam Wall, curator of exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Check the Gibbes calendar for related events.

Read more about the exhibition in Pam Wall’s article in the Autumn/Winter 2011 issue of Antiques & Fine Art Magazine.

Join in the fun with Women in Art Wednesdays on the Gibbes’ Facebook page. Test your knowledge of women in art with our weekly trivia questions. Hint: you might find some answers in this post and related article.

Artist Spotlight: Margaret Bourke-White

Piston Rods, ca. 1927, by Margaret Bourke-White

Since Margaret Bourke-White’s iconic images will be featured in both of the Gibbes’ upcoming exhibitions—Breaking Down Barriers: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography—we thought her groundbreaking career worthy of the spotlight!

Margaret Bourke-White studied photography at Columbia University under renowned photographer Clarence H. White. She opened her own studio in Cleveland in the 1920s and found early artistic success creating images in factories and other industrial environments. She was conscious of modernist compositional techniques, and had a unique ability to find beauty in the raw materials associated with machinery—as is exemplified in her 1927 image, Piston Rods. However, from the outset of her career, Bourke-White was interested in using photography to examine social issues and she quickly broke into the male-dominated field of photojournalism.

She was a woman of many firsts. In 1929, Bourke-White was hired as the first staff photographer for Fortune magazine. She was also one of the first of four photojournalist hired by Life magazine and one of her photographs appeared on the magazine’s first cover in 1936. Bourke-White traveled throughout the world and was the first-ever Western photographer allowed in the Soviet Union. She photographed some of the twentieth century’s most notable moments, including the liberation of German concentration camps in 1945, and the release of Mahatma Gandhi from prison in 1946.

Two Old Women, 1937, By Margaret Bourke-White

Bourke-White traveled through the American south in the 1930s. Like many of the famed photographers of the era—such as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Peter Sekaer—she worked to capture the devastating effects of the Great Depression. Many of her images from this experience were included in the publication, You Have Seen Their Faces, a collaborative project with her future husband, author Erskine Caldwell.

Sara Arnold, curator of collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Breaking Down Barrier: 300 Years of Women in Art and Camera Works: Masters in Photography both open on October 28, 2011

Artist Spotlight: Sam Doyle (American, 1906–1985)

The Gibbes has an amazing collection of 10,000 objects. With so many objects and only so much gallery space, at any given time, the vast majority of our collection remains safely tucked away in storage. But that doesn’t mean we can’t share it online! This post is one in what will be a series of artist spotlights, highlighting a variety of treasures from the Gibbes collection.

In honor of this summer’s focus on vernacular art (see my last post from July), I have chosen to spotlight South Carolina artist Sam Doyle (1906–1985). Doyle was an African-American vernacular artist from St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, and he found artistic inspiration within his community. Settled by the descendants of African American slaves after the Civil War, the residents of St. Helena Island remained largely secluded from the mainland through the mid-twentieth century. This isolation allowed residents to preserve many of the folk traditions rooted in their African heritage. Elements of Gullah culture, oral histories of Southern slavery, and Christian iconography greatly influence Doyle’s work. He is best known for his portraits which most frequently portray significant figures living on St. Helena Island. Using found objects, such as sheets of tin roofing or wood paneling as his canvas, Doyle created full-body portraits that often include text describing the subject’s importance to local culture. The Gibbes owns four paintings by Doyle, three of which you can see above.

And if you like Sam Doyle’s work, you should also check out our current exhibition in the Main Gallery, The Creative Spirit: Vernacular Art from the Gadsden Arts Center. It features work by artists who, like Doyle, are self-taught and live in the rural south. The exhibition closes on October 16, so you have a few more weeks to get here. Godzilla will be waiting!

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Outgoing Loans: Collaboration, Consideration, Negotiation

Charleston Runner, by Mary Edna Fraser

Many museums organize the artwork in their galleries according to “permanent collection” and “special exhibition” themes. The permanent collection galleries display works of art that belong to the museum, while special exhibitions often include art on loan from another institution or private collectors. The Gibbes Museum regularly receives requests from museums across the country to borrow artwork for special exhibitions. Museums constantly lend works back and forth and are involved in an on-going cooperative dialogue about sharing art to enhance an exhibition or highlight a period of regional, national, or global art history. While the outgoing loan process follows a standard protocol, each instance is full of negotiation and nuance.

Most loan requests begin with a conversation between two curators to discuss an exhibition being organized and to inquire about borrowing works. The borrowing curator will provide exhibition details including themes, a check list of confirmed works, exhibition dates, information about scholarly research and publication initiatives, and any possibility of the exhibition traveling to multiple venues. Informal correspondence between curators is followed by a letter from the borrower to the Gibbes Executive Director, formally requesting the loan. In order to process a request, the Gibbes Museum asks that loan requests are submitted no later than three months before the date the artwork is needed—larger museums often require six months to one year lead time! Last minute requests are discouraged due to the amount of preparatory work required of collections and curatorial staff.

Zinnia Willits and Sara Arnold assess the condition of an outgoing loan object.

Zinnia Willits and Sara Arnold assess the condition of an outgoing loan object.

Once the formal application has been received, a series of internal questions must be addressed. Our collections and curatorial staff must determine if the object is needed for upcoming exhibitions at the Gibbes, if its condition is stable enough for travel, and if the borrowing institution’s facility meets standard requirements of security and climate control as defined by the American Association of Museums. These are just a few items on the lengthy checklist we use when considering outgoing loans. If the request passes the staff vetting process, it is brought before the Gibbes Museum Collections Committee for final approval.

The Collections Committee, a sub-Committee of the Carolina Art Association Board of Directors, meets quarterly with the Executive Director, Curator of Collections, and Director of Collections Administration to monitor the direction of the permanent collection and must review all outgoing loan requests. If the loan is approved by the Collections Committee, the borrowing institution is given the good news and work continues with the often complicated details of conservation, packing, and shipping. Each museum has specific requirements that must be accepted by the borrower for the loan to move forward. For example, the Gibbes maintains a document that outlines standard requirements for all outgoing loans. This document is provided to the borrowing museum as soon as a request is received and covers all matters of shipping, couriers, photography, insurance, and installation. The costs to conserve, pack, and ship outgoing loans can be enormous and is outlined in the agreement. Negotiation regarding lender requirements can be challenging for both parties, but in the end, safety and integrity of artwork always prevails.

Mama, You Know I Never Paid Matisse No Never Mind, by Sigmund Abeles

Currently the Gibbes has works on loan to several regional institutions. The work, Mama You Know I Never Paid Matisse No Never Mind, 2000, by Sigmund Abeles (American, b. 1934) can be found at the Columbia Museum of Art in the exhibition It Figures: The Work of Sigmund Abeles, until October 23, 2011.

The Exchange, by Edward Rice

Slightly farther west you will find two works by Edward Rice (American, b. 1953), The Exchange, 2011 and 502 Lucerne, 1983–1986, at the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia. These paintings are prominently featured in the exhibition, Preservation of Place: the Art of Edward Rice, on view through November 20, 2011. Travel north a few hours to see the beautiful work titled Charleston Runner, 1996, by local artist Mary Edna Fraser (American, b. 1952). This batik is on view at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences through November 6, 2011, in the compelling exhibition Our Expanding Oceans, a study of the science behind sea level rise.

502 Lucerne Street, 1983–1986, by Edward Rice

The outgoing loan process for these exhibitions began back in 2010! As I write this, there are several new outgoing loan requests under consideration. Stay tuned to find out where works from the Gibbes collection might travel next.

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration, Gibbes Museum of Art

New Faces Don the Walls of the Rotunda Galleries

Portraits by one of America’s earliest-known painters of African descent will adorn gallery walls when the newest exhibition, In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre–Civil War New Orleans, opens this month. Portraiture plays a major role in art history and is a significant part of the Gibbes permanent collection; the portrait paintings in this exhibition by Julien Hudson and his New Orleans counterparts illuminate a fascinating era in New Orleans cultural history.

Many of the portraits in the exhibition portray the free men and women of color who were part of the early Creole population of New Orleans. This community took shape in the eighteenth century, first under French, and later Spanish, rule. Julien Hudson (1811–44)—himself a free person of color—was the son of a mixed race granddaughter of a former slave and a British merchant.

Prior to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the free people of color, or gens de couleur libres were considered a third caste, placed socially between the enslaved and the free white populations. They were afforded many of the same rights that whites enjoyed; they could own property, marry legally, enter contracts, and work in many industries. However, where they lived and traveled was restricted, and free women of color were required to wear a tignon or head scarf to indicate their status (see Portrait of Besty). After the city became part of the United States, the freedoms enjoyed by New Orleans free people of color slowly began to erode, and after the Civil War, their standing as a separate class from other people of African heritage was nullified.

Organized by The Historic New Orleans Collection and Worcester Art Museum, In Search of Julien Hudson: Free Artist of Color in Pre–Civil War New Orleans opens July 22, 2011, and is accompanied by an excellent catalog with essays by William Keyes Rudolf and Patricia Brady.

Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections, Gibbes Museum of Art

Curatorial Perspective: The Creative Spirit

The Gibbes staff members are making preparations for the opening of our next Main Gallery exhibition The Creative Spirit: Vernacular Art from the Gadsden Arts Center Permanent Collection. Logistical planning has gone on for months, but now the real hands-on work begins. There are crates to unpack, walls to patch and paint, condition reports to write, and Godzilla to install. That’s right, Godzilla is coming to the Gibbes. Don’t worry, he won’t eat the museum, but he does stand an impressive seven feet tall.

An installation of vernacular art (also called self-taught, outsider, or folk art) will be a nice change of pace for the summer season. I love vernacular art because it is stripped of any pretense. It is art made out of an intense desire to create. Many of the artists included in this exhibition are motivated by very personal reasons—be it their religious beliefs, a personal tragedy, or simply a desire to express themselves in a tangible way. Much of the art in the exhibition is raw and a bit rough around the edges, but sincere nonetheless.

One of the most moving stories is that of Lonnie Holley. In 1979, two of Holley’s nieces died tragically in a house fire. Overcome by grief and unable to afford tombstones for their graves, Holley found discarded sandstone at a nearby foundry and carved the tombstones himself. He found comfort in the act of creating, and so began his career as an artist. Holley continued to carve sandstone sculptures and later branched out to mixed-media sculpture and eventually painting. His work attests to the great power of art as a means of personal expression.

The Creative Spirit opens to the public on Friday, July 22. Join me on August 12 or September 9 at 1pm for a gallery talk and tour of the exhibition (free with museum admission).

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

It’s a Small World After All

This past April, my husband Bob and I enjoyed a stopover in Prague, Czech Republic, prior to boarding our Viking River Cruise along the Danube. In the hotel lobby introductions were being made among the passengers and we met Nancy and Tom from Connecticut, who asked where we lived. When we announced we lived in Charleston, they became quite animated and told us how much they loved visiting our fair city and that they had been several times. They visited the Gibbes Museum of Art during their last visit in October 2010, and recalled touring an exhibit entitled Face Lift with “the most wonderful docent!”

Mrs. Johnson (Estelle), 1972

I told them that I worked as a docent at the Gibbes, and agreed that Face Lift was a really excellent exhibition. At that moment Nancy looked at me and said, “I think you were our docent!!!” Oh my gosh, my goodness, how startling!!! In the middle of Prague, the Gibbes had made a connection for us. Nancy jumped up and gave me a great big hug. When I asked her if I made her pose, hand on hip with a great deal of ‘tude in front of the portrait of Mrs. Estelle Johnson, she shrieked “Yes, you did!” And that is how we became friends and laughed together for the rest of the trip—agreeing that yes indeed, it is a small world.

—Susan Wallen, Gibbes Museum Docent

Susan Wallen

Susan Wallen is a docent at the Gibbes Museum of Art.

Docent-led tours are offered free with admission at the Gibbes Museum of Art every Friday at 2:30pm.

A version of this story was published in Charleston Currents on May 26, 2011.

Layers of History—Passage on the Underground Railroad

Untitled from the Passage on the Underground Railroad Series, 2005, by Stephen Marc (American, b. 1954)

Last Friday, the Gibbes opened the exhibition Stephen Marc: Passage on the Underground Railroad, featuring the digital montages of contemporary photographer Stephen Marc. The exhibition is a timely one, as it coincides with the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. Any discussion of the Civil War must address slavery, and Marc’s work does so in a very powerful way.

Over the past decade, Marc has traveled throughout the United States and Canada photographing and researching sites connected with the Underground Railroad. His work conveys the stories of slaves who traveled the Underground Railroad in pursuit of freedom and those who helped them along their journey. To accomplish this, Marc conducted primary research in archives and historical societies throughout the United States. He gathered documents, artifacts, and ephemera from his research and digitally combined the material with contemporary photographs of the Underground Railroad sites. The resulting montages elegantly weave together the past and present and challenge viewers to contemplate the legacy of the Civil War today.

Viewing Marc’s exhibition requires some time, as each work contains a great deal of information. The stories of the Underground Railroad are fascinating, but also devastating. One montage in particular stops me dead in my tracks each time I walk through the gallery. It is an untitled work from 2006 that includes the figure of a woman shown from behind, her back covered with markings intended to mimic the keloid scars that resulted from whipping. But what really gets me is the illustration on the right, taken from an 1850 slave narrative autobiography. It depicts an enslaved woman being whipped while her infant is ripped from her hands. It is utterly devastating.

Stephen Marc’s work is challenging, but so is the history of the Civil War. It is my hope that this exhibition will help foster honest dialogue about all aspects of our nation’s history—both the good and the bad.

Pam Wall, Curator of Exhibitions, Gibbes Museum of Art

Stephen Marc: Passage on the Underground Railroad is on view at the Gibbes Museum of Art from April 7–July 10, 2011.

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