Campus News

"Recent Acquisitions" on View at Museum of Art

Story posted September 24, 2004

The exhibition Recent Acquisitions is on view now until October 31 at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, and features 32 significant works of art acquired by purchase or gift in the last two years. Paintings, prints, photographs, and sculpture ranging in date from antiquity to 2003 are included in the exhibition.

The oldest work in Recent Acquisitions is a Sardinian bronze figure of a man from the 8th-7th century B.C. Despite the fact that it is only seven inches tall, it is a noteworthy addition to the Museum's important collection of ancient Mediterranean sculpture. The figure, of solid-cast bronze, is detailed with incised decoration and portrays a male warrior in the act of offering. The hands, which are now missing on the figure, would have held offerings or weapons.

An extremely rare woodcut by the French artist André Dérain supplements the Museums' holdings in early 20th-century prints, an extremely prolific period in print production and one usually dominated by the Germans. The small work made in 1906 is titled Frise, Cinq personnages assis (Frieze: Five Seated Figures) and depicts a horizontal band of five female nudes in various positions dynamically squeezed into a very shallow landscape space. The bold contours of their contorting bodies create a rollicking decorative rhythm across the page.

Also from early 20th-century Europe but with a dramatically different sensibility, is Children Playing (1917) a drypoint print by German artists Max Beckman. This print depicts a large group of children, who on close inspection read actually as small adults, wielding daggers, swords and shields. Created during a critical period of social upheaval late in World War I, Children Playing snaps with the sharp contrast between white paper and dark ink recording the slashing, angry bite of the etched line and drypoint burr. An unusual Barbara Cooney print is juxtaposed with Beckman's work in Recent Acquisitions because, like the Beckman print, Cooney depicts a dark, bleak view of the world.

Seven photographs in the exhibition were made for the United States' Farm Security Administration in the 1930s. Dorothea Lange, one of the most important photographers in the 1930s, is represented in this exhibition with two photographs including FSA Migrant Camp. This work depicts a clean, orderly, and well-planned migrant camp that approximates a contemporary sub-division rather than the chaos and dirt of the shabby dwellings one frequently associates with Depression-era migrant camps. Two works by Marion Post Wolcott are famous depictions of an unemployed coal-miner's family and town in Longacre, West Virginia. These were some of the earliest photographs taken by Wolcott while she was on a three-month trial period. Their success contributed to her becoming a full-time photographer for the Administration. Jack Delano, hired late in the tenure of the FSA, was assigned to depict the positive results of the Farm Security Administration's programs. In Pumpkin Pies Lee shows a family's bountiful Thanksgiving feast, the focal point being the pies while the large family surrounding the table is reflected in the mirror over the sideboard containing the food.

Runaways (1996), one of a number of contemporary works in the exhibition, is a series of 10 photo lithographs by Glenn Ligon. Each of the works evokes the widely circulated 19th-century broadsheets that advertised for the capture of runaway slaves. In addition to incorporating schematic images resembling the stock wood engravings often plugged into these advertisements, Ligon employs their textual conventions of physical description in categorical terms of gender, height, complexion, and clothing. However, Ligon asked friends to describe him as if asked to do so by the police, descriptions that he then inserts into the works. Runaways, Ligon explains, "is broadly about how an individual's identity is inextricable from the way one is positioned in the culture, from ways people see you, from historical and political contexts."

Maine's own Sean Foley, associate professor of art at the Maine College of Art, is now represented in the Museum's collection with the painting Diderot (1998). This work brilliantly demonstrates Foley's ability to create fantastical, evocative, cheerfully foreboding amalgams. The canvas is brilliantly, even voluptuously painted. Its "inventory" is comprised of shadow puppet hand configurations, lace, a large human ear and earring, droplets of blood and miscellaneous viscera, a tightly bound hairdo, a fleshly animal tail, cartoon faces, eyeballs, a wedding band all wrapped together with abstract gestures and painterly passages.

The programs and exhibitions of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art are open to the public free of charge. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed on Mondays and national holidays. For more information call (207) 725-3275.

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