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Artists' Connections through Exhibition Design - Masterworks Collection 2016

Exhibition design can illustrate a rich story between artists and their work. I'm using research to interpret and highlight the placement of works and how the artist's own history relates to another. Some of the artists included have been inspired by others, some have lived and worked together, some have had romantic relationships, and others break free of each other in order to find their own individualistic style. The end result is an incredible dialogue of history through the exhibition's design.

British figurative painter Lucian Freud ("Portrait of Leigh Bowery") owned a casting of Auguste Rodin's "Iris, Messenger of the Gods" which is positioned next to it. These are both confrontational and sensual in their pose, and nature. The sculptural properties of Freud's painting technique mirror the curves of Rodin's piece. They both have dimensionality, weight, and texture. He had an affinity for unfinished works, lacking certain body parts, where the fragment expressed the entire form. Rodin's work retains the turbulent marks of the sculptural process. The messenger's pose shows vulnerability, power, invitation. It has been compared frequently to "Origin of the World" by Gustav Courbet, 1886, a realistic, nearly voyeuristic view of a woman's vagina. The figure was originally created as a part of a monument to Victor Hugo, designed to float above the writer’s head as a muse. It was repurposed after he removed the wings, head, and arm. Rodin was often commissioned to create monuments for notable people, as we can see the groundbreaking "Balzac" located in the sculpture garden. It is said that Rodin was also influenced by the popular can can dancers of the late 1800's. (See Henri De Toulouse Lautrec painting, "Jane Avril Dancing"). Both Brancusi and Rodin had groundbreaking thought processes and practices, and are considered fathers of modern sculpture.

Freud owned a later casting of "Iris", and was reported to have it at his bedside at some point, being one of the first things he would wake up to. Leigh Bowery, the subject of Freud's painting, was a London based performance artist, designer, and socialite. Many photographs of Bowery show him wearing elaborate full face makeup, adorned with props and avant garde costumes. In this portrait, he is unmade, off guard, and natural. The grooves and folds of his skin are alive and breathing in muted, diverse colors. Bowery would die tragically two years later of AIDS related illness, ending the powerful collaboration between the two. The works with Bowery were considered masterpieces for the time, as Freud perfected the life in his brushstrokes at this late point in his career. He created relationships with his subjects and felt that their connection and chemistry was vital in his creative process. He painted under direct observation, his sessions with subjects spanning over long hours. (See the book - "Man With the Blue Scarf - Sitting for a Portrait by Lucian Freud"). Freud reportedly raised the heat in the studio he was working in to give his models a certain sleepy languor. The setting was exactly as portrayed: a dingy, small studio apartment, riddled with dirty rags. During his working process, he is known to be incredibly entertaining and charismatic, and as his focus intensifies, he becomes increasingly vocal in a stream conscience. His children have remarked that they learned the most from him in their lifetime sitting as his subject for a painting. Freud was mostly absent from his family, throwing his relationships away for his love of painting.

Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi ("The Sleeping Muse") worked as an assistant in Auguste Rodin's studio, eventually parting ways, claiming he couldn't advance under such a successful sculptor. The works are positioned directly across the room from each other. Brancusi shows that he is trying to achieve a much smoother, more simplified look, reducing natural forms to shapes that suggest the object. The soft impressions for the features are incredibly different from Rodin's curvy, defined sculpting on "Iris", focusing on accuracy. One has the evidence of human touch, while the other lacks it completely. Brancusi wanted to focus on the essence of a subject rather than depicting it the way it exists. His monthlong stint in Rodin's studio upon his arrival to Paris proved as a turning point in his artistic career. Brancusi realized he preferred to cut directly into the material, rather than cast versions of it like Rodin. This is a practice used in African sculpture processes, an influence that shows in his work, and many other European artists at the time. (See the painting "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" by Pablo Picasso). He was inspired by the wooden masks created in what was deemed "primitive" cultures. After this break, he went on to produce famous modern sculptures such as "The Kiss" and "The Sleeping Muse", and he emerged in the American art scene afterwards. Another version of this piece was included in the groundbreaking 1913 Armory Show in New York, which showcased new horizons in American and European art. "The Sleeping Muse" is polished perfectly, the marble sparkling, while "Iris" has a heavy, dark coarseness. Comparing the two, we can see allusions to myth and mysticism. "Iris" portrays a Greek messenger of the gods, and "The Sleeping Muse" references gods and goddesses who provide as a catalyst for inspiration in learning and creation. "Iris" is overtly sexual in her nature, while "The Sleeping Muse" has an ovoid shape that references fertility and conception. Brancusi believed this sacred shape was key in his artistic trajectory, a symbol that represented the origin of life, mirroring the artist's creation.

Jean Paul Riopelle ("Large Triptych") and Joan Mitchell ("Field for Skies") shared a long, stormy relationship as abstract expressionist painters in the 70's and 80's. Their pieces are both triptychs, each one standing massive and alone on the outer walls of separate galleries. Mitchell was a painter with strong standing in the art world of New York City, generally grouped into the label of "second generation abstract expressionist". Riding the last wave of "Ab-Ex" with the late works of Pollock, De Kooning, and Krasner, she became known for her rhythmic, gestural marks, large bursts of color, and emotionally receptive scale. Her works are a poetic transcription of the natural world around her, often working from the memory of landscape scenes as subject matter. In "Field for Skies" we can see large green blocks saturated with depth, representing spacious fields. The wild, explosive orange and yellow hues depict a sunny, warm day. As viewers, we are receiving the emotion of a place in time. Mitchell works from memory in her studio, in this case, on three very large panels, extending her body across the canvas, a very physical experience. Her living environments in Michigan as a child, New York, and Paris influenced her, recreating them in a surprisingly careful and controlled way. Mitchell was influenced by poetry, and perhaps used the triptych form as a way of punctuation in her painting. Through her paintings, we can see her incredible sense of memory and her capacity for synesthetic experiences. (See the book "Joan Mitchell" - Lady Painter). Today, Mitchell is heralded as a feminist icon, a woman who thrived in a place where she didn't belong. The New York art scene was generally dominated by men, and Mitchell fought for a place in their circle. She was known to be very attached to her dogs, often naming her paintings after them in adoration. She listened to swing and jazz music during painting, claiming that it helped propel her rhythm and pace across the canvas.

Riopelle was a Canadian painter working in a similar fashion to Mitchell, creating large scale "Ab-Ex" works that depicted various landscapes. His technique was much different: oil paint was squeezed directly from the tube, and applied in it's heavy entirety with a palette knife. The paint is thick and abundant on the canvas, while Mitchell's appears to be watered down, blended in. Riopelle's palette knife shaped gestures create an intricate mosaic like aspect to his work. In the monumental "Large Triptych", rectangular shapes of different strong colors make up an all over composition, covering every area of ground. Implementing heavy paint, or "impasto" is a technique born from the Baroque painters and Impressionists, most famously Vincent Van Gogh and Rembrandt. Instead of the impasto highlighting a representational subject, Riopelle creates an entirely abstract work, focusing primarily on forms and the way they weave into each other. The colors he uses are characteristically darker and more dramatic than Mitchell's, incorporating more earth tones as well. Mixing together naturally with the motion of the palette knife, the colors range from untouched to muddy. The center panel seems to be scratched into in an erratic manner, the absence and presence of paint noticeable through the grooves and trenches. Both "Field for Skies" and "Large Triptych" are an experience of emotion, power, and presence. Riopelle and Mitchell met in Paris, where she escaped from New York City to focus on her work. The two lived together in the French countryside for about 25 years, a fiery relationship fueled by heavy drinking, a love of painting, and a similar vision for their own work. The galleries' placement of their work describes their unity, and their split.

Jean Dubuffet ("Spirit of Tarnish") uses an ordinary household material like aluminum foil in his sculpture, preceding Eduardo Basualdo's piece ("The End of the Ending") also created with a similar type of foil, 50 years later, much larger and more dramatic.
Dubuffet's piece is contained in a glass box on a pedestal, placed right before you enter the dark room that contains Basualdo's looming, rock like sculpture. "Spirit of Tarnish" seems to be a portrait, with a bust like shape and vague indentations suggesting features, the most familiar being the two nails as beaming, angry eyes. It's form is organic, with rough edges and grooves, the folds of the foil endless and mesmerizing. Dubuffet, a French sculptor was born to a wealthy family and had sporadic stints in creating art during the sixties. His work is an incredible contribution to the movement "low art" or "outsider art". (See also the terms - "art brut", "arte povera"). Artists in this movement believed that the creation of art should be stripped of it's inherent connection to social status, wealth, education, institutional standards. Dubuffet was famously fascinated by art created by children, prisoners in reform, and the mentally ill. He claimed that he was more interested in something made from the hands of a "simple man", rather than an "artist". He amassed his own personal collection of works deemed "outsider art". Dubuffet's life is an interesting paradox. He was criticized for his writings, which were elegant, complex and lengthy. Now, his work is famously displayed in a government institution: something he had originally opposed against. Dubuffet was also concerned in breaking down standards of traditional beauty in art. His color palette includes earthy colors like tan, brown, black and grey, which critics often related to human waste. In terms of materials, he worked with anything unorthodox: sand, (See "Limbour as a Crustacean") paper mache, cement, tar, and aluminum foil. "Spirit of Tarnish", which loosely depicts a human face, is a great example of his experiments in parody portraiture. Many viewers remark that Dubuffet's work looks amateur, or childish. The bodies in his paintings are composed of scribbles and lines, resembling crude stick figures. "Spirit of Tarnish" can be likened to the simple, childlike act of balling up tinfoil.

Eduardo Basualdo, a young Argentinian sculptor, created "End of the Ending" specifically for one of the Hirshhorn's smaller galleries, assembling it in the space. The room is dark, cramped, and Basualdo's work is huge and intimidating. The sculpture hugs the top of the ceiling and the right wall, leaving a designated path to walk through and experience the piece. Obstruction of space is an important element of it's impact on the viewer. You suddenly become aware of your body's place within the room, and you are forced to maneuver around it. Although "End of the Ending" appears to be a dense rock formation, it is mostly hollow inside. Large strips of black aluminum foil, frequently used in theatre production, are wrapped around a wire and wooden framework. The artist shapes the foil to give it the illusion of a natural rock texture. The arrangement of lights in this room is incredibly important for enhancing the drama and overall feel of the piece, highlighting certain areas and mysteriously concealing others.
Something interesting to note is the date that the piece was created. Basualdo's symbolism directly coincides with the anticipated cataclysmic events predicted by the Mayan calendar on December 21st, 2012. According to the artist, he originally visualized "End of the Ending" as a symbol for the apocalypse. Looking through his other works (sketches and drawings), we can see that he has an interest in black, void like forms that aggressively consume space. There is little information available on Basualdo, since he an emerging artist. Although we have no definitive evidence that he was influenced by Dubuffet's tinfoil piece, it's certainly an interesting placement and comparison within the galleries, a material used ingeniously throughout time.

Francis Bacon's resurrection of a lost Van Gogh ("Study for a Portrait of/Painter on the Road to Tarascon") is directly next to a small sculpture by Paul Gauguin ("Hina with Two Attendants") who Van Gogh lived with in Arles, France. Their placement describes the tumultuous residency the two shared for approximately a year, where Van Gogh descended into a struggle with mental illness. Additionally, both the paintings and the sculpture are recreations of destroyed original art. This juxtaposition perhaps has the biggest impact out of any in the exhibit.

Bacon's two pieces depict Van Gogh in the rural fields of Arles, where he would carry his materials outside and paint the landscape surrounding him. His paintings made here would become some of the most famous works of all time, representing the artists' incredible synesthetic experiences tied to the natural world. Van Gogh made a number of self portraits, implementing thick impasto and motion, consistent with his other works. His piece "Painter on the Road to Tarascon" was destroyed in a fire in World War Two, with only color photographic reproductions existing.

Francis Bacon is an Irish born British painter who shaped new horizons in modern figurative painting. His work is often gruesome and disturbing, painting disembodied biomorphic figures trapped in isolation and horror, devoid of time and space. The only allusion that Bacon gives to the character of Van Gogh in this work is the addition of the straw hat. (See - "Self Portrait With Straw Hat" by Van Gogh.) Otherwise, the figure is unrecognizable and mysterious. There are no distinct facial features other than a grimacing mouth and two dark sockets for eyes. In the painting on the right, the paint is stretched vertically across his face, quite similar to the distortion tactic used in "Study after Velasquez' Portrait of Pope Innocent X". Here, Bacon is giving life to the destroyed self portrait by recreating it in his own fashion. Although quintessentially Bacon regarding technique, his colors are more chaotic and bold, perhaps an homage to the saturated use of color that Van Gogh explored during his time at Arles. Bacon successfully represents Van Gogh as a ghost like memory through the way he chooses to paint him. Shrouded in mystery and loneliness, it describes the obvious loss of a priceless work of art, and the darkness of Van Gogh's own life. A series of eight paintings were created by Bacon based off of "Painter on the Road to Tarascon." An important part of this work is Bacon's use on photographic imagery. For example, his sexually charged painting 'Two Figures" has been directly interpreted from Edward Muybridge's motion studies, analyzing the positions of two men wrestling. In "Pope Innocent X", he has loosely transcribed a still of a screaming, bloody woman from Sergei Einstein's film "Battleship Potemkin." Following through with this practice, he creates his interpretations of Van Gogh's self portrait from a photographic reproduction. Bacon's studio was famously chaotic and riddled with odd sources of inspiration. After his death, his entire studio was relocated to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin. Each item is exactly as it was left, and an entire database has been recorded of it's contents.

Positioned to the right is a small, cylindrical, wooden sculpture by the modern French master Paul Gauguin. This piece is prized and rare: only the original and one bronze casting exist. Gauguin worked alongside the Impressionists in his early artistic career, most famously with Vincent Van Gogh for approximately nine months at Arles. Together, they experimented with bold, colorful works that represented nature. After Van Gogh suffered from a mental breakdown, Gaugin decided to escape from European society, being drawn to places that he deemed as "exotic". He moved to Tahiti in 1891, living with the natives that were further removed from the colonized capital. His personal exile and embrace of non - western culture has served as a romantic example of the wandering artist. Tahitian religious art had been destroyed by the British Christian missionaries decades earlier. Missionaries came to "civilize" the Tahitians, denouncing their lack of clothing, use of dance in rituals, and polygamous relationships. Many of Gauguin's paintings show Tahitian subjects posed in modest European dress, representing the spread of Christian values throughout the native (See - "Woman With A Flower", 1891). Gauguin created a new image of a Polynesian moon goddess "Hina", standing peaceful, strong, and meditative. Having no visual representation of this goddess' physical form to work from due to the original being destroyed, he based the facial features off of the Tahitian women surrounding him. For the body's proportions and pose, he worked from a photograph of Buddhist art in a Temple in Java. Gauguin was fascinated with the concept of primitivism, along with many other European artists at the time. (See - Brancusi's "Sleeping Muse"). His works during this time are characterized by bold colors, distinct lines, and exaggerated features and proportions, distinctly removing his style from the Impressionists. Gauguin's work is often categorized under "Symbolism", a movement that stressed the spirituality behind physical forms. A great example of this is Gauguin's "Yellow Christ" done in 1889. This was a foreshadowing of the Fauvist and Expressionist movements in the early 1900's. The placement of both "Hina With Two Attendants" and "A Study for a Portrait of Van Gogh" illustrates the artists' desire to recreate the priceless work that has been lost throughout history. Delving further, it reminds us of the notoriously chaotic time that Gauguin and Van Gogh shared together in the "Little Yellow House" at Arles.
Alexandra Baran

Artists who are full of themselves

This is a collection of art by artists who have incredibly large egos.
Matt Johnson

Artists and Feminism

Women in mid-twentieth century and after made an enormous impact not only in arts, but also in literary forms.  

Matisse's Tea, which starts this collection shows the contrasting use of color, pattern, and line on Marguerite and Henriette creating a feeling of imbalance in the piece. This piece confronts the viewer with the tension between restraint and nature.

This tension is taken to  a different form in the artists displayed here.

Simone de Beauvoir, uses in promoting feminism, according to Simone de Beauvoir, women do not choose to think about their bodies and bodily processes negatively; rather they are forced to do so as a result of being embedded in a hostile patriarchal society. Andy Warhol , creator of Pop Art, used multiple images of American icon, Marilyn Monroe to produce art. 

Another artist, Judy Chicago wanted to demonstrate women's achievements through history in the collaborated installation The Dinner Party. Her goal was to ensure that this tribute to women becomes a permanent part of our cultural heritage.


Artist Trading Cards: Database

In this collection, students will explore  artists from modern and contemporary eras. Students will choose one artist to learn more about using the links provided. Students will research the history in connection with the chosen artist and describe their work. Students will then create 4 trading cards about their chosen artists, with images in the style of the artist. 

Collection includes artwork by the following artists: El Anatsui, Andy Warhol, Dorothea Lange, Monet, Helen Frankenthaler, Mark Rothko, Nick Cave, Yinka Shonibare, Wayne Thiebaud, Mary Cassat, Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Mies van der Rohe, Kehinde Willey, Amy Sherald, Ansel Adams, Ran Hwang, Julie Mehretu, Sarah Sze, Rusell Crotty, Jasper Johns, Romare Bearden, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mondrian, Seurat,  Calder, Donald Judd,  Sol Lewitt, and Roy Lichtenstien.

This collection was created for the "Smithsonian Learning Lab, Focus on Global Arts and Humanities" session at the 2019 New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association (NJPSA) Arts Integration Leadership Institute. 

Keywords: art history, trading cards, modern, contemporary,

Rebecca Beaird

Artist Edward Biberman: See, Think, Wonder & Compare

Artful thinking routines to explore, critique, compare and contrast  two portraits  by the artist Edward Biberman from the National Portrait Gallery. #npgteach

Greta Schorn

Artist Books

Jean-Marie Galing

Artist Books

Tessa Click

Artist as Change Agent

Created for Art and the African American Experience

How have contemporary African American artists used their work to address social, political, and personal issues of today?

Elizabeth Dale-Deines

Artist and Archivist: The Papers and Legacy of Angel Suarez Rosado

The Archives of American Art seeks to identify and acquire personal papers and institutional records of national significance in the arts. This topical collection explores the documents and objects from the papers of Angel Suarez Rosado, a living artist of Puerto Rican descent, and their lasting significance to the public.

Included here are a bilingual video with curator Josh T. Franco, an exhibition webpage from Rosado's site-specific installation at the Allentown Art Museum in Pennsylvania, and the Archives of American Art homepage where users can explore online collections, resources, and publications, and a final discussion question. 


Philippa Rappoport

Artifacts tell stories of the Encounter and Frontier

A collection of artifacts from which our students will choose an object of study for their first project cycle. Student swill be using historical, scientific, literary, mathematical and artistic techniques to help their chosen artifact tell a story of an encounter in history between two groups and/or cultures.

Andrew Meyers

Artifacts Project- 1920s Ben Burlingame

The Purpose of this project is to illustrate the changes in American Life during the 1920s, what changed and how it impacted the people of the time 

Ben Burlingame

Artifacts Project

The Great Depression

Michael Fischer

Artifacts of War FCPS

Sample 2
Mike Hardy

Artifacts of the 1920s and 1930s

This assignment is for us to describe important artifacts of these decades and to understand their importance.

charlie fick

Artifacts from the Zuni by Na-Tiyea Turner

Artifacts From the Zuni culture

Natiyea Turner

Artifacts from the Battlefield: WWI

This is a collection of artifacts from World War I, including photographs, uniforms, and some surprising contributors. Students will watch a video to observe how a curator connects an object (in this case a woman's AFFW uniform) to the person who used it, and then choose three objects from the collection to study before sharing findings with other classmates. Students should think about the guiding questions below as they investigate the objects in the collection.

Guiding questions:
How was World War I different from wars that came before?
What impact did technology have on the war?
What kinds of threats did soldiers face during World War I?
How did soldiers find comfort during World War I?
How might the experience of World War I have influenced the culture and politics of the years following it?
Kate Harris

Artifacts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

"Artifacts at Historically Black Colleges and Universitities" includes ten artifacts from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) throughout the United States. This collection can be used to educate students about HBCU culture, history, alumni, founders, and achievement.

Le'Passion Darby

Artifacts and tools used during Slavery in the 18th/19th century

During the 18th/19th-century Southern plantation owners practiced slavery. Slaves, unfortunately, were essential in building the economic foundation of America. They were needed to work in the fields, so they could pick cotton, and grow tobacco, rice, and sugar. Sadly, slaves were treated unfairly and harsh. They were beaten, tortured, and were not treated like people. Enslaved people during this time tried to find ways to adjust and make their own traditions and customs.
In my collection, I have different types of resources that represent slavery as a whole during the 18th/19th century. I included artifacts that slave owners used to discipline slaves and hold them captive. I also included traditional artifacts that slaves created and made. My overall point in choosing this topic is to inform the readers the life slaves lived and the way they were treated.

skylyn houde


vanessa harris

Artifact Analysis Project

This collection is of assorted artifacts for students to practice analyzing in preparation for a larger project. Students will pick two artifacts and, using the information provided, determine the who, what, when, where, and why of the artifact. They will also try to determine what items they use or see today might be comparable. 

Alexander Thompson

Artifact Analysis

In this collection we explore the definition of an artifact and analyze various artifacts from multiple cultural periods.

Idaho State Museum


Vanessa Reyes

Artful Thinking-American History

The students will examine various paintings by incorporating different thinking techniques to explore American History through art.
Jourdan Englert

Artful Thinking-American History

Utilizing Harvard University & Project Zero's "Making Thinking Visible" to explore American History through art.
Steven Hartnett
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