I went to the Déjà View Day at the Columbia Museum of Art on July 18, 2009, for several reasons – it was free admission all day, for once you could take pictures in the museum, to do some research, and to see how different things would look – it’s been awhile since I’ve been there last. Yes, I missed the big blockbuster exhibit, Turner to Cézanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, which attracted over 46,000 people to the Museum.
I’ve got a few words for those who think America is into staycations this year – I-26 between I-95 and Columbia was almost a parking lot and traffic on I-95 wasn’t moving too fast either. People were on the move and there was no Carolina football game either, so I think some people are going on vacations.
Free admission is always an attraction to me, the Columbia Museum of Art just raised adult admission to $10 from $5 (since 2001), making them now the highest admission for an art museum in SC, but I’m sure the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC, won’t be too far behind. They seem to think the way to attract more visitors is to raise admission prices. How’s that been working out for you? Of course the Museum offers free admission every Sunday and all members get in free.
Upon arrival I went upstairs right away and discovered my digital camera was going to be my pain in the rear of the day. Before leaving home I transferred all the photos I had on it to one of our computers, but must have done something wrong in the process. When I went to take a picture, the camera told me there was no memory space left. I’m like what are you talking about? My camera doesn’t really talk – it’s not an expensive model, but it also wasn’t making sense. So I was just going to have to manually delete all the images to clear the camera’s memory. I knew the files were on my computer – I looked at some of them before I left home. Houston, we have a problem! I couldn’t find any old files on the camera to delete and it wouldn’t let me take any more as there was no memory space and the instructions were in the car to reduce my carry load. Darn, no pictures.
I used to be a photographer. I made a good living in photography, but lately photography has been my curse. Either I forget to take my camera with me, end up talking with someone instead of taking photos, or the camera doesn’t function properly.
Oh great photography spirits – forgive me for abandoning you. I swear when I retire I’m going to get a new battery for my Nikkormat. Give me another chance! Of course I hope that battery is still available then – whenever that is.
So, it’s another blog posting without much or any visual entries – sorry.
Ok, we’re back upstairs at the Museum. Things looked great. I couldn’t really tell if that much was changed, new or what. But, I’m the same when we move furniture around in a room of the house – instantly I can’t remember how it was arranged before. At the same time the impression it gave me was that new car smell. I’m sure even regular viewers could find something new, even if a lot of the works were the same. And, it’s my understanding that a lot of new items have been added. Besides this is one of the few art museums in SC where you can see such a large collection of older works from Europe and the rest of the world.
But, I have to confess, I’m not that much into older works. I’ve seen my fair share of masterworks in Chicago and Washington, DC. I’m not that much into art history. But, every art student and artist in SC should be making regular trips to the Columbia Museum of Art and the art museum and gallery at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC, to see these kinds of works. The same goes for other folks in the region who have never seen works found most of the time in art history books. It’s amazing that many have survived so long and museum folks have put a lot of effort into keeping them in shape so you could take a look back in history through art. It won’t kill you – believe me.
Many of these works upstairs at the Columbia Museum of Art are from the Samuel H. Kress Collection. Just imagine all those times I spent my nickles and dimes on toys made in Japan at the Kress store in my hometown – some of those profits were going into masterworks of art. It is a small world.
I spent amost an hour upstairs so I did my duty.
I was also at the Museum to get the current names of all the different gallery spaces. I have a problem with institutions that sell names of gallery spaces for major donations and then slowly abandon the use of those names in publicity. I noticed that the new gallery guide the Museum was handing out did not give the names of the sponsors of these gallery spaces. And, there is no space in the Columbia Museum of Art that doesn’t have the name of a sponsor on it – except maybe the restrooms. They might – I just didn’t notice in the one I checked out. So, inside the Museum these people get their due credit, but it’s outside the Museum where things tend to fall off. Long names of spaces are shortened or not offered at all in press release about exhibitions.
I don’t think that’s fair. Look, I’m not looking to take up more space in the paper, but these people who gave this money expected that they would get credit for it – always and forever. That’s what I would expect for such a donation. So, at the end of this entry I’m going to list all those gallery names.
Now, one of the treats for me was in the only gallery space upstairs which offers changing exhibits, number G15 on the gallery guide or as I like to think of it as the Mamie and William Andrew Treadway, Jr. Gallery, which is displaying the exhibition, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg: 20th Century Masters in the Collection, on view through Oct. 4, 2009. The PR folks at the Museum did include the proper gallery space’s name with that press release.
This exhibit was more like it – for me. The exhibit, although small, showed some of the works the Museum has in its collection by these two artists, with a very informative text panel to go with it. Johns is a SC native, which is always a point to be made. It is possible to come from SC and become about as big as you can get in the art world. Which is a good opportunity to mention that the Gibbes Museum of Art will be presenting the exhibit,Brian Rutenberg: Tidesong, from Oct. 23 – Jan. 10, 2010. Rutenberg may be SC’s next homegrown artists to find big fame in New York City. He’s big, but I’m talking Johns big.
Now, before I head downstairs, I must mention that the Museum’s new gallery guide does offer a little education about labels on the artworks on display – explaining what that info is all about. Bits of education like this can always help and it was offered in a non-condescending way. People get so uptight about things – asking or not asking what might seem like stupid questions, when on the other hand the folks at the Museum – any museum wants you to ask and enjoy your stay and wants you to come back and learn more.
Downstairs in the Lipscomb Family Galleries, (not mentioned in the PR we received on this exhibit) was the exhibition, Cleve Gray: Man and Nature, featuring a 30-year retrospective of noted American painter Cleve Gray, on view through Sept. 27, 2009. I was blown away by this exhibit. And, here I have to apologize for not being able to print our paper in full color, not exactly in my control, but nonetheless the ad we have been running for this exhibit does just not cut it in black and white.
Man and Nature #1, 1980, acrylic on canvas, 100″ x 65″
Zen Gardens #116, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 68″ x 70″
Both, 1979, acrylic on canvas, 69″ x 44″
Diana and Actaeon, 1989, acrylic on canvas, 60″ x 70″
I’m used to this factor after all these years and always tell people – if you think what you see in black in white is in anyway interesting – wait till you see it in person. Perhaps if we added ads for beer and strip clubs like some other publications we could do color, but I’m not there yet, and I’m not sure I ever will be.
If you like abstract art – big abstract paintings – go see this exhibit. Without photos – that’s about all I can say. Check out our June article about this exhibit at Carolina Arts Online.
Now, you might be wondering why I just didn’t go back to my car and read the instructions to see what was wrong with my camera. I was nearing my two hour limit on my parking meter, but the instructions didn’t offer any help and we’ve yet to figure what has happened. If I could have gotten it to work – I would have returned for another two hours to take photos – admission was free all day.
Next to the Gray exhibit were two more rooms of contemporary art in the Dawn Helfont Christopher Galleries. There was some really interesting works there, but I soon started thinking that many of the examples of the work on display could have been works by SC artists. These were works by big name artists from the Museum’s collection which would be on display for some time, but I think just as impressive works could have been offered by artists from our state.
Upstairs there is a small gallery space, one of the smallest in the Museum which displays a few works by SC artists or regional artists. The space G10a – Southern Traditions – in the guide, but which is actually the BB&T Gallery, has works by Edmund Yaghijan, Mary Jackson, William Aiken Walker, Charles Fraser, among others, but I would have liked to have seen more works by SC’s better artists in the downstairs contemporary display.
I know, this is not what art museums’ say they are all about, but how could it hurt to sprinkle in a few local works as long as they are of the same quality. Not all the works in these two gallery spaces were what I would call – household names. Maybe they are to some, but I bet most there that Saturday wouldn’t know who they were.
I’ve seen more works by SC’s contemporary artists on view at the Mint Museum of Art. Is this the – you’re nobody in your own area factor? Well, it’s no big deal – all was enjoyable and that’s another battle for another day.
On my way out of the Museum I ran into Kristina Montvidas Kutkus, an artist who a long time ago used to write reviews for Carolina Arts and Lynne Riding, an abstract painter, both from Charleston, SC. Both have been art instructors at the College of Charleston and Riding now teaches at the Art Institute of Charleston. They were enjoying the Cleve Gray exhibit and were headed upstairs – also concerned about their parking meter so we didn’t get to talk much.
But as I was leaving I had to wonder – I keep running into folks who used to write reviews for us at exhibits around the state. I wish they were still writing for Carolina Arts, but like color we have had to go without reviews – it’s the stupid economy and the economy in the visual arts has been bad for the last eight years. Now, what happened in our country over the last eight years?
Well, on the two plus hour drive home – I-26 was still a slow moving parking lot – I was still struck by this nagging thought that here I have an arts newspaper, people who are qualified art reviewers and good writers are still seeing exhibits throughout the area, but we can’t afford them and they would like to be paid for their efforts. Some are getting some exposure in local alternative weekly newspaper (the kind with beer ads and ads for strip clubs), but not enough reviews are being done of art exhibits taking place in SC. If only there was some statewide organization that’s purpose was to help the art community out in providing such a needed and wanted service – a group who in planning for the future said this is a need in the art community – a group with funding sources. Well anyway – wishing and hoping won’t get you very far and eventually I was back in Bonneau, SC – land of good water, so I’m told.
Gallery Spaces at the Columbia Museum of Art
G1 – Ray Taylor Fair Gallery – Ancient
G2 – Helen and Joseph Walker, Jr. Gallery – Late Medieval and Early Renaissance
G3 – Herbert – Hart Gallery – Renaissance
G4 – First Citizens Bank Gallery – High Renaissance
G5 – Wachovia Gallery (may soon change to Well Fargo) – Renaissance in Venice
G5a – South Trust Bank Gallery – Mannerism
G6 – SCANA Gallery – 18th c. European
G7 – John Cliffton and Francis Bell Judy Gallery – 17th c. Baroque
G8 – UPS Gallery – Asian
G8a – NBSC Gallery – China Trade
G9 – Callie and John Rainey Gallery – Neoclassicism
G10 – Lucy Hampton Bostick Gallery – Colonial and Federal America
G10a – BB&T Gallery – Southern Traditions
G11 – Carolina First Gallery – 19th c. American
G12 & 14 – Andrew Kerns Galleries – (12)Early 20th c. American and (14) 19th c. European
G13 – PYA/Monarch Gallery & Budweiser of Columbia Gallery – Art Glass
G15 – Mamie and William Andrew Treadway, Jr. Gallery – Changing Exhibitions
Lipscomb Family Galleries – Changing Exhibitions
Dawn Helfont Christopher Galleries – Modern and Contemporary
Caroline Guignard Gallery – Recent Acquisitions
P.S. The digital camera is running again after Carolina Arts‘ technical adviser and my better half, Linda fixed it and she was able to download some images by Cleve Gray, not exactly the ones I would have liked to show, from the Columbia Museum of Art‘s website.