Modern & Contemporary

Signs and Configurations, 1936
Joan Miro (Spanish, 18931983), Signs and Configurations, 1936, oil, sand, and tar on board. Bequest of Miss May E. Walters, 1994.024.015

The twentieth century was marked by enormous advancements in science, technology, and philosophy all of which manifest themselves in the styles and movements that arose during this tumultuous period. Paintings by Joan Miró, Georgia O'Keeffe, Milton Avery, Phillip Pearlstein, and Sean Scully along with sculptures by Ernst Barlarch, William Zorach, Joseph Cornell,  and George Rickey signal radical shifts in society.

The Snite Museum of Art has a special collection of the sculptures, maquettes and writings of Croatian-American sculptor Ivan Mestrovic who taught at Notre Dame from 1955 until his death in 1962. His sculptures can be seen in various buildings on campus, including the Snite, the Eck Visitor Center, and the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.  

Download the IVAN MEŠTROVIĆ AT NOTRE DAME: Selected Campus Sculptures catalog (8.5MB PDF)

Tale Teller VI, 2014, by Jaume Plensa

2015 009 V0011Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955), Tale Teller VI, 2014, stainless steel and stone, 91.75 x 47.5 x 55 inches. Acquired with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. William C. Ballard, Jr., 2015.009

Snite Museum of Art Advisory Council members Bill and Julie Ballard made possible the acquisition of an important sculpture by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa.  Tale Teller VI brings to Notre Dame not only the artistic output of one of the world’s most-acclaimed contemporary artists, but it also brings an important exemplar of conceptual art.  It is of a type Plensa calls “souls:” human figures described by stainless-steel matrices of alphabet letters.  One can detect Arabic, English (Latin), Greek, Hebrew, and Japanese, letters within the matrix.  With his  “souls” Plensa underscores written language as the phenomenon that distinguishes humans from all other life forms.  That is, these artworks celebrate our ability to understand and interpret our lives through poetry and literature.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, United Kingdom, shared the following statement in connection with their 2011 one-man exhibition of Jaume Plensa sculptures:

Plensa’s work always deals with humanity, with body and soul, and is largely figurative.  Plensa believes that sculpture is an extraordinary vehicle through which to access our emotions and thoughts; his work poses questions and sets up situations where we are encouraged to think again, to talk with one another, to be silent and meditative, to touch, to be together. The artist’s work is particularly concerned with the fact that people are losing the ability to converse, both with others and with themselves, and his work actively sets out to make us reconnect with our own souls.

Plensa is very widely read and often refers to how his family home was filled with books as a child. Throughout his life he has discovered poems and texts that have moved him profoundly and it is these rather than the visual arts that have provided the broadest source of inspiration, often being directly referenced in his own work. Yet it is not just works of literature that fascinate him, but language itself.  An abundance of letters and words, often forming the outline or shell of the human body, has come to characterize his sculpture and drawing. Plensa’s use of both language and the figure makes his work particularly accessible and poignant as it exists directly in the world we inhabit; it is universal. Yet through these material elements it reaches out to the immaterial, to the mind and the soul; even when alluding to life’s adversity it is hopeful and unashamedly beautiful.

The Plensa sculpture will first be installed within the Snite Museum of Art sculpture courtyard and will then be relocated to the Notre Dame Sculpture Park once fly ash removal is completed—likely, late this fall or spring 2016.  The sculpture’s content beautifully fits the theme of the Notre Dame Sculpture Park exhibition: Reclaiming our Nature—both the natural environment and humankind’s spiritual nature.  Its celebration of language and literature is also very appropriate for a university.  The Sculpture Park featured five sculptures when it opened in 2013; Tale Teller VI brings the total to ten.

Richard Hunt, The Chase, 1965

The Chase 900Richard Hunt (American, b. 1935), The Chase, 1965, welded steel, 44.625 x 66.5 x 52.5 inches.  Acquired with funds provided by the Rev. Anthony J. Lauck, C.S.C., Sculpture Endowment and the Humana Foundation Endowment for American Art, 2015.005

The Chase represents artist Richard Hunt at his early best, when he combined interests in Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, African art, assemblage sculpture, industrial materials, nature, and mythology (he indicates The Chase has roots in the story of Diana and Actaeon).

Richard Hunt’s career began in the 1950s with his remarkable achievements while a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, when his student work was exhibited in New York galleries and acquired by The Museum of Modern Art. In his thirty-sixth year (1971), The Chase was exhibited within a one-man exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art. He continues to work today, at age 80, as one of our nation’s most successful public artists and with 2015 exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and at the Chicago Cultural Center.

Snite Museum of Art founding director Rev. Anthony J. Lauck, C.S.C., organized one of Richard Hunt’s earliest one-person museum exhibitions in 1966. Thirty years later, in 1996, under the leadership of Emeritus Director Dean A Porter, the Snite Museum organized a second exhibition of his artwork entitled Richard Hunt: Growing Forward, which travelled to the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2012, Director Charles Loving published a collection catalog of the Museum’s Richard Hunt Sculpture Archive, entitled Richard Hunt: Extending Form. The Snite Museum owns eight of his sculptures and four works on paper. His Maquette for Wing Generator, 1982/2010, has been exhibited within the Notre Dame Sculpture Park and other sculptures are on view within the Museum’s American gallery.

The Red Cloud, 1911Gabriele Münter (German, 1877–1962), The Red Cloud, 1911, oil on canvas. Bequest of Edith and Dr. Paul J. Vignos Jr. '41, 2011.024.006

Gabriele Münter, The Red Cloud, 1911

Chief among the thirty-two European and American works that comprise the generous gift from the Estate of Dr. Paul J. Vignos Jr. is a painting by the German expressionist artist Gabriele Münter.  The Red Cloud, signed and dated 1911, was featured in many of the early exhibitions mounted by The Blue Rider, an avant-garde art movement she co-founded with Franz Marc (1880–1916) and then fiancé Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944). The vibrant colors, abstracted form, bold and simplified composition, and broad application of paint characterize the style that gave expressionism its name. 

The painting is currently on view in the Twentieth-Century Gallery on the second floor.

John Bisbee (American, born 1965), Spool, welded 4-inch brads, 1992John Bisbee (American, b. 1965), Spool, 1992, welded 4-inch brads, 56 x 55 x 29 inches. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert S. Nanovic '54, 2011.005

John Bisbee, Spool, 1992

What at first appears to be an airy wheel made up of small twigs, upon closer inspection yields a gasp-worthy surprise. 

The network of short, sketchy lines is actually made up of thousands of small nails welded together.

Artist John Bisbee has spent his entire career exploring the seemingly limitless potential of this most common item.  Sometimes welding them, sometimes simply stacking them, Bisbee elevates the nail from an often invisible and overlooked object to one worthy of deeper consideration.

"I don't even think of them as nails anymore, they are my marks. The nail is just emblematic of potential. It could be anything."
—John Bisbee