Press Room » Archives » January 2016

The Portage Path: Returning to Our History

Author: Gina Costa

The Snite Museum of Art commissioned artist Kay Westhues to document some aspect of the local area as part of South Bend’s 150th anniversary.  She selected the St. Joseph River to Kankakee River portage.  This four-to five-mile-walking trail was the only overland segment of an ancient water route between the Great Lakes region and the Gulf of Mexico.  Native Americans first utilized the portage and then French explorers and fur traders used it to travel from Detroit to New Orleans.  While now largely forgotten, the portage was a primary reason why a city grew at the “south bend” of the St. Joseph River.

Artist Kay Westhues describes her project, “as there was no actual trail to photograph, I decided to suggest the idea of a pathway in each of the images.  They were taken in the approximate area of the original route, and I did not try to conceal the human-made changes that have taken place along it.  The St. Joseph River and some of its branches still reflect the pastoral beauty once acclaimed in descriptions of the area by eighteenth-century writers; other tributaries have been channeled underground.  The 500,000-acre Grand Kankakee Marsh was drained in the nineteenth century, turning the Kankakee River into a large drainage ditch; an ethanol plant now makes use of its headwaters”the_portage_path.pdf

 

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No Cross, No Crown: Prints by James Barry

Author: Gina Costa

The Snite Museum of Art presents an exhibition of 28 monumental prints by James Barry, the eighteenth-century Irish provocateur whose work challenged the British art establishment and questioned the government’s policies. The exhibition No Cross, No Crown: Prints by James Barry will be on view from January 24 through April 17, 2016.

James Barry (1741–1806) was born in Cork, made his artistic debut in Dublin, and was awarded membership in the Royal Academy in London in 1773, although he was later expelled for his belligerence and acrimony. The series of six murals he painted to decorate the Great Room of the Royal Society of Arts in Adelphi from 1777 through 1783 is his claim to fame. Included in the exhibition is a complete set of the prints he made after these grand paintings, once referred to as Britain’s answer to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Barry’s prints are significant in the history of printmaking and eighteenth-century trans-Atlantic studies for their scale, their technical innovations, and the role they played in the artist’s creative process. These are not mere reproductive prints, but rather charts illustrating Barry’s evolving positions on hot political and artistic issues of the day. Peppering his religious and historical works with portraits of his contemporaries, such as the philosopher Edmund Burke and the politician William Pitt, the ensemble reads like a Who’s Who of British society in the late 1700s.james_barry_prints.pdf

 

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African-American Voices

Author: Gina Costa

African-American artworks from the permanent collection of the Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame will be on view thorugh March 13

A featured sculpture is Richard Hunt’s Maquette for Wing Generator, 1982/2010, which developed one of Hunt’s major themes—hybridization of the Greco-Roman winged victory motif with mythological bird forms found on African iron staffs. The sculpture is a prototype for a gravesite monument commissioned through the will of Hunt’s deceased friend Hobart Taylor Jr. Taylor achieved victory through a successful private and public life as a civil rights lawyer, as an attorney for the City of Detroit, as a member of President Lyndon Johnson’s staff for the enactment of civil rights legislation, and as a successful corporate lawyer. The winged victory motif also symbolizes the Christian victory of life after death.

An avid collector of African art, Hunt owns iron staffs featuring abstract bird forms. His use of this symbol in Wing Generator acknowledges the traditional meaning associated with the staffs: birds are linked with the mind and with personal destiny. This metaphor is especially significant for Wing Generator because Taylor’s only requirement for the memorial sculpture (communicated through his will) was that it include the phrase “There are no barriers to the mind.”

The exhibition also includes work by Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Renee Stout.african_american_voices.pdf

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New to the Collection: Twentieth-Century Photographs

Author: Gina Costa

This exhibition reveals the ongoing activity to build and refine the holdings of the Snite Museum’s permanent collection, meant for enjoyment and instruction of students now and in in the future.  For the art museum the chief objects of interest are creative photographs, made with aesthetic intent.  During the twentieth century, however, photography is so prevalent and central to visual culture, that such distinctions blur. 

This group of objects, acquired by the museum from 2013 to the present day, include portraits, photojournalism, fashion and advertising photography, as well as intention works of fine art.  The images reflect the evolution of artistic styles over the course of the century, and the influences of Pictorialism, Modernism and abstraction, Futurism and Cubism, Regionalism and the American Scene, even Conceptualism and Earth Art can be seen in the images.  Moreover, this group of photographs reveals an unintentional survey of the changing technology of photography, from platinum and silver developed out prints to photogravure.  A range of color photography processes are also represented, some of them now almost extinct, including carbro printing, dye imbibation, and silver dye bleach printings.  These make a fascinating comparison to the contemporary digital inkjet printing techniques. new_to_the_collection_photos.pdf

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In Dialogue: Henry Mosler, Forging the Cross

Author: Gina Costa

In the second of its occasional series of single-work exhibitions, the Snite Museum presents In Dialogue: Henry Mosler, Forging the Cross from January 10 through March 13, 2016. Curators invited scholars from various disciplines to give their insights on this hidden treasure from the Museum’s permanent collection in an effort to showcase the many interpretive possibilities a work of art can offer.

Visitors, too, will have an opportunity to add their voices to the mix by contributing their thoughts in a notebook in the gallery where others can read and share their ideas.“Museum staff are always looking for ways to engage their audiences and to empower visitors,” said Cheryl Snay, Curator of European Art at the Snite Museum. “There is no single, definitive response to a painting or sculpture. This exhibition demonstrates that different people can look at the same thing and arrive at different, but informed, conclusions,” she added.

Contributors include faculty and staff from the University of Notre Dame: Abigail Palko, Associate Director of the Gender Studies Program; Daniel Graff, Director of the Higgins Labor Program at the Center for Social Concerns; and William Purcell, Associate Director of Catholic Social Tradition and Practice.mosler_exh._press_release.pdf

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