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Now everyone is an insider!

In order to provide an open forum for ALL of the museum’s collection and activities, the Paper + People blog is being renamed SCMA Insider. With its expanded focus, SCMA Insider will act as a go-to place for sharing information on the diverse collections and many voices and visions that shape SCMA.

If you want to contribute to the blog, please contact the Brown Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow, Shanice Bailey, at sbailey@smith.edu.

  • Friday, September 7, 2018

    The 2018-2019 Student Picks Lottery Is Now Open!

    Enter by September 21st for a chance to curate your own pop-up art show in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings and Photographs. Student Picks exhibitions take place on the last Thursday of every month from 4-8pm as part of SCMA's Thursday evening student programming.

    Open to all Smith students, no prior art experience required! Enter as many times as you'd like using this online form or submit your ballot(s) in person at the Campus Center, Smith College Museum of Art lobby, or Young Science Library.

     

    Peter Max, American born Germany, 1937. Midget's Dream, 1967. Photolithograph in color, on paper. Smith College Museum of Art. Photography by Petegorsky/Gipe for SCMA. (click here to enlarge image)

  • Monday, August 6, 2018

    Hijacked Art, Continued.

    There are certain works of art that do not require a degree in Art History to recognize that they are iconic. Famous works included in the Western canon find themselves in our daily lives as textbook covers or as posters in the waiting rooms of doctor’s offices. Famous images from Art History have permeated every aspect of visual culture.

    Enrique Chagoya; Shark's Ink, Lyons, Colorado (published by). Abenteuer der Kannibalen Bioethicists, 2001. Lithograph and woodcut with black, ochre, blue, yellow, and green ink, chine colle and collage on paper. Purchased with the Arch W. Shaw Foundation, through the courtesy of Nancy Simonds Shaw, class of 1972, administrator. 2001 SC 2002:9

    This past semester I had the chance to create an exhibition that was about more than just the mere parody. Anyone can parody a work; these artists truly transform their inspirations, often turning them into activist symbols. In this exhibition, Hijacked Art, there are prints that echo American Gothic, Goya’s Los Caprichos, and Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. Art is not created in a vacuum, as artists all have influences. This exhibition explores alternative representations of the Western canon in contemporary art. The exhibition title is drawn from the fact that the contemporary artists in this show have interpreted the work of deceased artists who cannot condemn or laud the appropriation of their work.One example is of Eric Avery’s Paradise Lost (right) and Dürer’s Adam and Eve (left), both in Smith’s collection.

    Left: Eric Avery. Paradise Lost, 2011. Linocut printed in three colors on Okawara paper with polymer plate text block printed in brown. Purchased through the efforts of students in the class “Collecting 101,” January 2012. Right: Albrecht Dürer. Adam and Eve, 1504. Engraving printed in black on antique laid paper. Bequest of Mr. and Mrs. Murray Seasongood (Agnes Senior, class of 1911).

    Dr. Eric Avery is both a graphic artist and a physician. He became the Medical Director of the La Dhure refugee camp in Somalia where he began making art that dealt with issues of public health. When he returned to the United States the first case of AIDS had been recognized by the CDC. As an artist, gay man, and physician he was thrown into the center of the crisis.

    Albrecht Dürer was a late fifteenth and early sixteenth century printmaker of the German Renaissance. He is credited for introducing classical motifs into the Northern Renaissance, making him an important art historical figure. Dürer fanatically believed that the perfect human form was based on a system of measurements and proportions. In his print, Adam and Eve are nearly symmetrical in their poses, showing Dürer’s attempt to divine God’s system. Dürer’s Adam and Eve place the weight on one leg with the other leg bent. They both angle their arm slightly upward from the elbow and away from the body. Their bodies show the grace of God’s image. Contrastingly, Dr. Avery’s Adam and Eve are visibly diseased, showing the vulnerability of the human body. Adam and Eve have been kicked out of Dürer’s paradise and thrown into a modern urban landscape, surrounded by descriptions of fourteen detrimental infections. The title Paradise Lost foretells the suffering to come for mankind.

    Dürer was not the only artist that Avery referenced in his work. Dr. Avery’s The Sleep of Reason From Behind references the second most famous work in this exhibition, Francisco de Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters (displayed on the right). This is perhaps one Goya’s most recognizable works.

    Left: Eric Avery. The Sleep of Reason from Behind, 1986. Linocut and screenprint printed in black and grey on medium thick, slightly textured, buff-colored paper. Purchased with the Eva Nair Fund. Right: Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes. El sueño de la razón produce monstruos. (The sleep of reason produces monsters), Plate 43, Los Caprichos, 1799. Etching, burnished aquatint and drypoint printed in black on laid paper. Purchased with the gift of Albert H. Gordon.

    The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters is a print from Goya’s Los Caprichos. This series satirized society and highlighted how commonplace brutality can be. The prints were seized and the Jesuit order vowed to destroy them. However, as Goya was a favorite painter of the king, they were instead taken out of circulation. In this print, Goya depicts bats and owls swarming in from all sides while a lynx lays quiet, but wide-eyed and vigilant. Over the man’s back, there is another creature that stares at us. The monster knows that we are a voyeur and threatens us to not get involved. Many of Goya’s prints including Los Caprichos and The Disasters of War dealt with Goya’s exhaustion with senseless, anti-enlightenment violence. Like Goya, Avery has witnessed a fair share of violence: Avery worked with Amnesty International to treat victims of war and torture from Central America who were detained in a refugee prison in Southern Texas. Avery stated: “In 1986, I appropriated Goya’s The Sleep of Reason to make a poster for the 15th ACLU Liberty Gala. I imagined myself standing inside Goya’s print, looking out at events (monsters) in 1986.”
     

    The re-interpretation of the “back side” of the print is not just to give the viewer an interesting perspective. It shows us the type of things that faced Goya’s man. Goya’s man was not just surrounded by monsters from behind but was bombarded by the bad news of the times from the front. When considering the perspective of both prints, we ourselves are the bearers of bad news. Where Goya may have put his The Disasters of War series in front of the sleeping man, Avery shows the horror of our time. On the upper right corner, you can see Ronald Reagan swimming. Clockwise underneath is a New York Times headline about the Supreme Court banning homosexual acts and abortion protest. In the lower left, he represents an En Salvador military officer. Above that, Reagan is at his desk with Ed Meese, Reagan’s Chief of Staff and later Attorney General, who cracked down on student protesting. In the upper left there is a Border Patrolman wearing night vision goggles, which were a new tool that was issued under the Reagan administration. Lastly, at the center, Nancy Reagan and Claudette Colbert play on the beach, completely oblivious to the suffering around them.

    I was inspired to create this show after discovering the work of Enrique Chagoya, who practices what he calls “utopian cannibalism” and “reverse anthropology.” Chagoya flips the lens on European artists who appropriate sculptural and artistic forms from African and Pre-Columbian cultures. He “cannibalizes” works from the Western canon to critique European and American appropriation and misrepresentation of indigenous communities.

    Enrique Chagoya. La Bestia’s Guide to the Birth of the Cool, 2014. Ten color lithograph with chine colle and gold metallic powder on handmade Amate paper, accordion book format. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund. SC 2015:1.

    Enrique Chagoya’s La Bestia’s Guide to the Birth of the Cool is the twelfth in a series of codices made at Shark’s Ink. This codex was created as a direct response to xenophobic reactions to the border crossing of unaccompanied children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. A train known as La Bestia travels from Southern Mexico to the Texas border. Chagoya uses Mondrian’s compositions in his work to show that immigrants should be welcomed in American culture, particularly considering “this country was created not just by immigration, but rather by illegal immigration, from the Pilgrims and Conquistadors to the recent immigrants from the Americas, Africa and Asia.” He claims that this book shows that diversity results in a wealth of culture, not a threat. Together, these prints show how artists can simultaneously reference iconic works and acknowledge the systems of oppression and repression they are tied to.

  • Thursday, July 12, 2018

    Your Move: Kay Sage’s Surrealist Assemblages

    Guest blogger Renee Klann is a Smith College student, class of 2019. She was the 2015-2017 STRIDE Scholar in the Cunningham Center for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.

    Kay Sage was an American Surrealist artist. After growing up in both the U.S. and Italy, she moved to France and met the Surrealists. Their movement, which drew on dreams and the subconscious, inspired Sage. In the late 1930s and early 1940s she developed a personal Surrealist style based on mysterious architectural forms in somber-colored settings. Although the forms are painted realistically, they convey an impression or feeling rather than actual objects.

     

     Kay Sage, American, 1898-1963. Cooling the Stars, 1957. Oil on canvas. Promised gift from a Private Collection, Houston. SC TR 7808.4

    In the late 1950s Sage developed cataracts, which made her eyesight too poor to paint. Rather than giving up on making art, Sage created assemblages and wrote poetry. In a letter to Marcel Duhamel, she said “I’ll have a show . . . of objects I’ve managed to make to replace paintings.” Her 17 small three-dimensional objects were shown at the Catherine Viviano gallery in November 1961.

    Sage almost never explained the meaning of her work, and the assemblages were no exception to this rule. The only clues to their meaning are their titles and the lines of Sage’s poem “Your Move” that they were paired with.

     

    Your Move

    These are games without issue

    some have been played

    and are therefore static

    others will be

    and can still be played

    there are no rules

    no one can win or lose

    they are arbitrary

    and irrelevant

    but there is no reason why

    anything should mean more

    than its own statement

    two and two

    do not necessarily make four

     

    If that is a scientist at my door

    please tell him

    to go away

     

    The lines “there is no reason why / anything should mean more / than its own statement” reflect Sage’s reluctance to offer explanations of her work. For her, a painting or assemblage spoke for itself, and she did not want to put precise meanings on her dreamlike images. The poem also suggests that Sage was probably influenced by Surrealist games such as Exquisite Corpse, in which each player added part of a drawing or a sentence without seeing the other players’ contributions to create an unexpected final product.

    Some of the assemblages included in the exhibition were Sourir D’hiver (Winter Smile), a piece of crinkled foil mounted in a wood frame with a magnifying glass; Your Move, which resembles a chess board with bullet cartridges instead of chess pieces; and Nuclear Tension, made of a spring and a ball bearing inside a glass tube.

     Kay Sage, American, 1898-1963. Tides Will Be High From Now On, 1961. 98 blue and clear glass beads, wood box with four stones, four convex lenses on wood ground. Promised gift from a Private Collection, Houston. SC TR 7808.5

     

    Tides Will Be High From Now On combines ninety-eight blue and clear glass beads with four stones resting on glass lenses, all in a wood box. The corresponding line of the poem is “there are no rules.” This piece can be seen as a game without rules because the beads are free to move in unpredictable patterns in response to a ‘player’s’ movements.

    The show Your Move was Sage’s last before she committed suicide in 1963. The objects she made in her final years demonstrate how even in the face of obstacles, Sage continued to make art that was true to her Surrealist vision.

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