Compelling Questions and a Commitment to Art: Phillip Cox, ’16

Phil CoxIn Fall 2014, Phillip Cox (’16) enrolled in the Research Methods seminar for UNC Art History majors in their junior year. The course topic was “The Nude in Renaissance Art” and each student in the class chose a print from the Ackland’s collection from a group pre-selected by Dr. Tania String, who taught the course. Each student’s print was to be the focus of their semester-long research project. Phil found many of the prints intriguing. He decided to let other students in the course choose their prints first, and when his turn came there was only one print left: Hercules and Antaeus by Agostino Veneziano. It was not one of the prints he’d hoped for, but as he proceeded with his research, he realized there were compelling questions to investigate.

By the end of that fall semester, he had decided to write his Senior Honors Thesis on Veneziano’s Hercules and Antaeus. Phil took several opportunities to share his thesis research and he invited feedback on it: he presented his research at the Ackland’s Student Showcase, at UNC’s annual Undergraduate Research Celebration, and at the ACC Meeting of the Minds Conference, held this year at Syracuse University and featuring outstanding undergraduate research at ACC universities. Continue reading

Kehinde Wiley and Glenn Ligon at the Ackland

In conjunction with Dr. John Bowles’ ARTH 287 and ARTH 387 classes, six works by contemporary African-American artists are on view now through Sunday, May 10th, in the Study Gallery on the second floor of the Ackland. Perhaps the most eye-popping in its resoluteness and arresting color is Idrissa Ndiaye, a study in oil on paper by Kehinde Wiley.

WileyUndoubtedly, Wiley is having a cultural moment: the 37-year-old artist is enjoying his first retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, and numerous examples of his work can be spotted on the set of Fox’s breakout new show “Empire.” Figurative, dramatic, and bombastically colorful, his art has all the necessary ingredients to be readily accessible to modern audiences.

Yet despite its immediate vivacity, below the surface Wiley’s art is deeply confrontational. He deals directly with stereotypical conceptions of African and African-American identity, both in modern culture and the history of art. His works usually follow a similar formula: a black figure, dressed in modern street clothes, stands heroically against a sumptuously decorative background. The figure gazes directly down at the viewer with an air of impassiveness and regality as baroque ornamentation swirls around him. Continue reading

Picasso at the Ackland

Pablo Picasso once said, “I must keep on trying, just to keep the experiment going until I get tired of it all. Even if the last result is not necessarily the best, I stop when my interest in the problem wanes.”

2010.64_Picassoplate

Perhaps it is this enthusiasm for experimentation that makes Picasso so infinitely intriguing to modern audiences. While most known for his pioneering Cubist works, Picasso’s full oeuvre reflects an extraordinary diversity of artistic styles. He was an artistic alchemist, continuously testing the possibilities of form, abstraction, composition, and color.

As an extension of the recent PICASSO^3 exhibition (2 Jan – 8 March 2015), which presented works from the collection of Julian H. Robertson Jr., the Ackland has put many works by Picasso from its own collection on view. Stretching over decades and media, these pieces invite comparison and conversation about this incredibly versatile artist. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: Reading All Night Long

The Bookworm, 1920In honor of staying up way-way-way too late yet again to finish a book, I give you The Bookworm by Arthur Paunzen. Something about the enormous stacks of books crowding the figure just speaks to me. Also his complete disregard for the huge spider over his head. Now that I would likely notice.

I will endeavor to go to sleep earlier from now on, but I’m sure some book will inevitably keep me up.

Arthur Paunzen, Austrian, 1890-1940: The Bookworm, 1920; drypoint. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.1774.

Glimpse into the Collection: Old Well in the Spring? (We say, “Yes!”)

Old Well

Edward Carrick, British, 1905-1998: “Christmas Greeting Card,” 1930; wood engraving. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2389.

Diane Davis is the project photographer for the Ackland Art Museum’s IMLS Digitization Project Grant. Since 2010, she has been producing master image files to digitally archive all of the Ackland’s collections. After having a commercial business in Charlotte for 25 years, she finds working on this important project a very satisfying extension of her career.

As each of us on the digitization team has discovered this print, we’ve imagined it was made in Chapel Hill and depicts the Old Well on UNC campus in the spring.

It seems equally fitting for Easter, with the little bunny in silhouette in the foreground, doesn’t it?  It took me a number of viewings to even notice that there is a second bunny in the middle of the “valley”. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that the viewers eye is compelled to travel in the circular spiral of this composition…full of new growth bursting from the grass to the tree tops. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “A Hint of Spring”

Dana Brand is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She’s a self-described “Army brat” who landed longest in Winston-Salem, NC, before coming to UNC-Chapel Hill for both her Bachelor’s (English and Media Studies) and Master’s (Information Science) degrees. Dana first got into digitization, and metadata in particular, as an intern at the Digital Production Center in Wilson Library while in graduate school. 

This small series of prints just lifts my spirits and I wanted to share!

Bleriot

Ghislain Bleriot, French, born 1951: “Herbal: Impatiens” (“Herbier: Impatientes”), n.d.; drypoint and sulfur tint, printed in color. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Joseph F. McCrindle Collection, 2010.3.50.

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Mapping Armin Landeck

Megan Williams is an intern in the Ackland Art Museum’s Education and Curatorial departments and an MS Library Science / MA Art History candidate at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Artists often turn to their city for creative inspiration. Sometimes they represent exactly what they see down to each minute detail, other times, they produce a barely recognizable impression. Some of the prints in the exhibition America Seen are images of real things and places that still exist today. While researching these prints, I was eager to find the locations depicted. Like photographs, prints can be used as historical records, and they are capable of showing us a vision of an unknown or forgotten past.

York Avenue, Sunday Morning

Armin Landeck, American, 1905-1984: “York Avenue, Sunday Morning,” 1939; drypoint. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
The Hunter and Cathy Allen Collection, 2013.21.26

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Glimpse into the Collection: “Creatures of Poictesme”

Abigail Wickes is a digital image technician at the Ackland Art Museum, and is part of the three-person team working to make digital images and metadata for all 17,000+ objects in the Ackland’s collection available to the public online. She became interested in digital image cataloging during an internship at the North Carolina Biotechnology Center while she was working towards her Master’s in Library Science at UNC-Chapel Hill (2012).

Poictesme: the Map of Philip Borsdale, 1674, 1920s

Frank Cheyne Papé, British, 1878-1972: Poictesme: the Map of Philip Borsdale, 1674, 1920s, color line block.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.2254

I found this beautiful map in my queue a few weeks ago, and I love all of the fantastic creatures it depicts. The Wikipedia page for Poictesme describes it as “a fictional country or province…roughly in the south of France” in which many of the fantasy works of James Branch Cabell take place. I’ve never read any Cabell, but apparently his work in fantasy fiction was a tremendous influence on many authors I love, including Neil Gaiman. Wherever Poictesme may be, it evidently has oceans with mermaids and sea serpents and forests with unicorns and hags. Continue reading

Glimpse into the Collection: “In the Fields”

Diane Davis is project photographer for the IMLS Digitization Project Grant. Beginning in 2010, she produces master image files to digitally archive all of the Ackland’s collections.  Previously, Diane was a professional photographer in Charlotte, NC who served on boards at The Light Factory Contemporary Museum of Photography & Film, Women in Communications-NC Chapter, and NC Chapter of the American Society of Media Photographers. After having a commercial business in Charlotte for 25 years,  she finds working on this important project a very satisfying extension of her career.

Since I’ve been on the Ackland’s digitization project the longest of our team of three, I’d like to kick off with an image that inspired me to start putting images into my “favorites” folder.  It was on November 24, 2010, and I had been photographing works on paper at the Ackland for less than a month. I came across a print by Wharton Esherick entitled Harvesting. I remember thinking, “This print is too fabulous not to save somewhere! How will I ever remember it after five months, a year, or two years of viewing such quantities of artwork?”

Esherick_Harvesting_whole_with_signature

Wharton Esherick, American, 1887-1970: “Harvesting,” 1927; wood engraving.
Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Burton Emmett Collection, 58.1.1669.

And so it began. Esherick’s print started my “In the Fields” folder. That phase of the project included a lot of artworks that depicted agrarian activities — different cultures, different mediums, and different views of what it meant to the artists to reflect on their surroundings. But this one — how spectacular is this!?!

Note the writing below the image (click it to enlarge). The collector, Burton Emmett, often made notations about his purchases directly on the pieces themselves. This one indicates that he bought the print from the Weyhe Gallery in New York for $10 in 1929. The piece was part of the “50 Prints of the Year” exhibit sponsored by the American Art Dealers Association.

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“America Seen”: Sneak Preview (the intern’s favorite)

This semester at the Ackland, I’ve been conducting research and writing interpretative text for the exhibition America Seen: The Hunter and Cathy Allen of Social Realist PrintsThrough this process I’ve become very familiar with the prints in the show and wanted to share one as a first impression and in advance of the opening reception this evening.

Subway

Fritz Eichenberg, American, born in Germany, 1901–1990: Subway (Sleep), 1935; wood engraving. Ackland Art Museum, The Hunter and Cathy Allen Collection, 2013.21.13.

America Seen features 38 prints from the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s by American artists. The majority of the artists represented in the exhibition lived and worked in New York City. They were inspired by the scenes of everyday urban life they witnessed around them and the subway was a popular theme. One of my favorites prints, Subway (Sleep), falls into this category. Although the print depicts a rather unremarkable moment in the daily life of any New York City subway rider, I’m drawn into the composition through Eichenberg’s use of strong contrasts between light and dark, as well as his careful attention to realistic details inside the subway car, such as the straps, signage, and advertisements.

I can empathize with the occupants of this train car, from the weary, young couple at the far end to the child sleeping in her mother’s lap. I have also been on the subway, tired after a long day, and eager to get home. But where are these people going? What were they doing before? Perhaps the proud and poised woman in a stylish hat is headed to a party or to church. Is the man to her left her companion or a stranger? With a souvenir balloon as a clue, I suspect the collapsed child is returning home from a fun day at the park. While it is impossible to know for sure, the artist, Fritz Eichenberg, invites us to look and speculate about the lives of those pictured. Continue reading