Sebastian Smee on Artist Friendships

It is rare when a speaker absolutely grabs you the moment he or she opens their mouth, but Sebastian Smee did exactly that.  As an expert storyteller, and a smart and lyrical writer, the audience was smitten.  This past Saturday April 12, the Pulitzer Prize winning, Boston Globe art critic, Sebastian Smee, presented a portion of his working manuscript for his book on artistic friendships. While the forthcoming book will focus on four sets of artistic friendships including: Édouard Manet and Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollack and Willem de Kooning, Smee presented only a portion of his research on the lesser-known and extremely complex friendship between Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon. The story he wove was fascinating and filled with unexpected twists. Smee’s ability to convey the details and nuances of a personal and complex relationship allowed his listeners to deeply connect to the characters and maybe even make connections to their own lives and histories. Although he apologized for reading parts of his manuscript, the audience was unfazed and hung on his every word.

Freud's Wanted PosterSmee began his story by focusing on a troubling event. In 1988, Freud’s portrait of Francis Bacon was stolen from a Lucien Freud retrospective at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin. The stolen portrait, a study of Bacon’s face, was a small painting, seven inches by five inches, and bursting with latent tension. The art critic, Robert Hughes, compared the intensity of the likeness to that of a grenade a fraction of a second before it explodes. As Freud was preparing for his 2002 retrospective at the Tate Modern in London, he made an uncharacteristic plea in the press for the return of the painting, politely asking, “would the person who holds the painting kindly consider allowing me to show it in my exhibition next June?”  Freud even created a wanted poster featuring plain lettering, a black and white image of the stolen work and a generous reward. The publicity team tasked with trying to recover the painting, plastered 2,500 of these posters throughout Germany, and it was reproduced in international newspapers and websites. Freud’s painting of Bacon was never returned and the Tate retrospective took place without it.

The painting was important to Freud not only because it bridged the divide between his early work and his later, more mature style, but also because it was Freud’s connection to—as Smee asserts—the most important relationship of his life.  From Smee’s description, Bacon was the charismatic and spontaneous life of the party whose penchant for gambling often led him to the roulette tables of Monte Carlo. Bacon’s ability to charm and gather people around him mesmerized Freud.  His artwork was revolutionary and captured his electrifying emotion and grenade-like tenacity that was not only his painting style, but also his lifestyle.

Bacon portrait of Freud

Francis Bacon, Three Studies of Lucian Freud (detail), 1969, oil on canvas, © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved.

Freud himself professed that it was Bacon’s attitude that he admired most and commented that the way in which Bacon worked as an artist related to how he felt about life.  Bacon believed that “only by going too far can you go far enough,” which is how many describe his artwork.  According to Freud’s friend and early lover, Ann Dunn, Freud harbored a hero, worshipping crush on Bacon.  Smee made it clear that Freud was very different than his boisterous friend, quoting the critic Laurence Gowing who said that Freud’s effect on others was not social or intellectual, but rather visceral; a “coiled vigilance, a sharpness which one could imagine venom.”

Smee reminded the audience that both men carried the names of their famous relatives; Lucien Freud was the grandson of the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and Francis Bacon was a descendant of Sir Francis Bacon, the English Renaissance philosopher and chancellor.  Freud had arrived in London in 1933; he and his family had narrowly escaped Nazi Germany, due, in large part to his family name and high-level intercessions at the government level. Bacon had arrived in London in 1926 at the age of sixteen when his father, a belligerent, retired army captain, had thrown him out of the house when he caught his son wearing women’s clothes.

Smee expertly details the story of their intense friendship and honors his readers and listeners by not shying away from the complexity of it.  He notes that the relationship between Freud and Bacon was asymmetrical; Bacon was eleven years older and more established as an artist.  Since Bacon’s paintings were selling well, he would often give Freud money without hesitation.  They spent decades fostering a very intense friendship. There were periods of many years where they would see each other every day, spending hours in each other’s studios and homes. They both embarked on amorous relationships that sparked self-destructive behavior in each.  Freud left his wife for Caroline Blackwood, an heiress.  Bacon found himself in a sado-masochistic relationship with the ex RTA fighter pilot and accomplished piano player, Peter Lacey. When Freud’s marriage to Blackwood dissolved five years later, Freud spiraled into despair.  Bacon would ask mutual friends to keep an eye on Freud and make sure he didn’t hang himself.

Sebastian SmeeIt was clear that Smee had done his research. Throughout the lecture Smee quoted his interview with Freud, bringing the story to life by noting how the artist recalled his friendship with tenderness and sadness. According to Smee, Freud marks the beginning of the deterioration of the friendship to the moment when Bacon was hospitalized after Lacey threw him out of a window.  When Freud saw Lacey with Bacon in the hospital, he reacted angrily and Bacon was upset with Freud for interfering with his love life.  For many years they continued to see each other within their circle of friends, but they were never able to regain the closeness they once had.

Smee notes that life and relationships are messy and complex, and they are very rarely as reductive as they are often portrayed.  As is the case with Sol LeWitt and Eva Hesse, Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon’s friendship was surrounded by a circle of friends and co-conspirators.  As Lucy Lippard points out, “Influence among artists is never as specific as art historical shorthand makes it out to be.” What we gain from multiple perspectives and accounts of history allows for a fuller, more nuanced depiction of a period of time and relationships between people.

I, like many in the crowd last Saturday, am anticipating the publication of Smee’s book so that I might learn more about the inner lives of other artists I have long admired.

Amethyst Beaver is a curatorial assistant at the Blanton Museum of Art.

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Art City Austin 2014

At the Blanton, we like art and we like parties, so we’re thrilled to be partnering with Art Alliance Austin for this year’s Art City Austin Festival, April 12-13. Part art festival, part block party, this iconic local event transforms downtown in a celebration of art, culture and creativity. Taking place in the streets, plazas, and open spaces along Cesar Chavez and the 2ND Street District, this year’s event promises to be a truly great time. With outdoor booths featuring art from nationally recognized artists, local food trailers, cocktails, live music, and interactive projects for kids of all ages, the festival brings the community together to celebrate Austin’s vibrant creative culture. The Blanton will have a booth stationed in front of City Hall, so stop by to say hello and learn more about our current and upcoming exhibitions and programs. Plus, Blanton members get in FREE. All you need do is show your membership card at the gate to the festival’s admissions team.

For kiddos and their families, the festival will feature an area where children can create tissue paper stained glass windows, masks, and more, and also can take photos in costumes from different eras and cultures. The festival will also feature a pop-up gallery with art work by students from Austin High.

Art City Austin

Image via the Austin Chronicle

Musicians currently scheduled include Nakia, Elizabeth McQueen, Emily Bell, The Rocketboys, Erin Ivey, Mobley and Grace London, in a special day stage presented by KUTX Music 98.9. In coordination with the Austin Busker Project, the festival will also have two stages for street performers who will perform throughout the day for applause and tips.

Food trucks including Chi’Lantro BBQ, The Best Wurst, Taco Baby, Heros Gyros and micro brews by Infamous Beer will be on hand to provide fuel for the party.

Come spend a day (or night) celebrating and supporting Austin’s vibrant cultural scene. We hope to see you there!

For more information, please visit www.artallianceaustin.org.

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Water, Wealth and Weather in Between Mountains and Sea

The desert coast of Peru is a land of topographical extremes. Cradled between the monumental Andes and the mighty Pacific, this area contends with taxing weather patterns of local and global implications. A colder-than-usual ocean blocks cloud formation and precipitation from the west, while the towering Andes deflect most rainfall to the east into the lush rainforest. In some places like the central coast, these conditions drop annual precipitation close to zero and create one of the driest deserts on earth.

Sea Lion, Chimu Culture

Chimú Culture, 900 –1470 CE
Stirrup spout bottle as sea lion
Ceramic
Collection of The University of Texas at Austin, courtesy the Department of Art and Art History

At the same time, the physical features that hold back rain are the basis of life on the coast and bring balance to the region. On the ocean, the upwelling Humboldt Current that cools the waters and averts rainclouds also gives rise to one of the world’s richest marine environments. Likewise, fresh water trickles down from rare tropical glaciers atop the Andes to moisten sparse but fertile river valleys on the coast. The steep mountain range is also the source of seasonal springs, lakes and ores.

In spite of this duality or maybe because of it, pre-Inca civilizations thrived along the coast due to their resourcefulness, determination and technological achievements. Vestiges of pre-Hispanic canals and irrigation systems speak of the vital role water management had in this area. Shamanic leaders were expected to control and balance the natural and social realms or their authority could be called into question. The canals were meant to divert the seasonal rivers and springs carrying glacial melt towards agricultural lands. Today these canals remind us of the very real power held by those who controlled water resources.

The Chimú elite, for example, were powerful and fabulously wealthy. Besides controlling trade routes in the Northern region, the Chimú strategically managed a sophisticated network of irrigation canals and wells to provide water for their urban centers. This infrastructure helped them adapt to the great seasonal variation in water availability to grow food and beauty around them. Their wealth was also closely tied to the sea. Richly woven textiles, on view in Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes, illustrate their successful development on the north coast while their zigzag patterns of repeated undulation suggest the important place water occupied in their minds and way of life.

Crustacean Figure, Chimu Culture

Chimú Culture, 900 –1470 CE
Stirrup spout bottle as crustacean
Ceramic
Collection of The University of Texas at Austin, courtesy the Department of Art and Art History

Having to negotiate austere conditions on land, the Chimú rejoiced in the sea. Peru’s coast is home to more fish species than any other area in the world. The country is one of the world’s top fish producers as well. One can see this abundance depicted in pre-Inca art and architecture, filled with representations of sea mammals, crustaceans, fish and birds. On view at the Blanton are ceramic bottles from the Late Intermediate Period that illustrate the tightly knit relationship between the marine environment and Chimú culture.

Adapting to this environment, a number of civilizations have thrived in the desert coast region of Peru. Nevertheless, even at the height of their power, they all remained vulnerable to the fluctuations of weather and sparse supply of fresh water. The weather patterns they learned to live with changed drastically every few decades. El Niño and La Niña, the cyclical warming or cooling of ocean surface displaced the local fisheries and locked the area in cycles of extreme drying or ravaging floods. These periods of great instability challenged everything these societies knew. For example, a thirty-year cycle of draught followed by floods coincided with the decline of the Moche culture. Scholars think this event could have caused ecological, economic or political havoc that played into their loss of influence.

Today, Peruvians living in the desert coast are even more pressed for water than their predecessors. While nearly eighty percent of Peru’s population lives in this area, only two percent of Peru’s fresh water is available to them. The tropical glaciers that historically provided precious drinking water are retreating due to the rapid increase in global temperatures. To make matters worse, many springs and wells are now polluted with mercury produced by ore mining in the mountains. Lastly, scientists expect El Niño to take place on 2014.

While we are all delighted that El Niño may bring much needed rainfall to Texas, this event adds pressure to Peru’s economic and political institutions. Sound water management policy is as indispensable for the future of the region, as it was in the past. However, reaching consensus on a specific plan of action is proving challenging.

Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes is on view through August 17, 2014 and features many artifacts that illuminate the striking visual, economic and ideological connections to water and sea portrayed by pre-Inca empires at the same time that reminds us of the vulnerability of this precious resource today.

Mariana Torrens Arias is the Blanton’s PR and Marketing intern. She is a foreign language teacher and a student at The University of Texas at Austin, where she studies advertising.

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Reflecting on Perception Unfolds

We’re always eager to know what our visitors think about their experiences at the Blanton, of course, but never more so than with the current experimental project, Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance. Designed to engage viewers in really active looking, the immersive filmed dance installation encourages visitors to choreograph their own experience of the dance by moving about and finding fresh perspectives from which to view it. The project features an adjacent resource room where visitors can read more about the choreographer and her work, the experiences of the performers, and the nature of perception itself. Visitors can also watch videos, see related artworks, and try out a new software app, used in the creation of the installation, that responds to the body’s movement to navigate three-dimensional space. And, they are invited to give us feedback on their experiences as viewers.

Deborah Hay

Photo by Mary Myers

We thought you might enjoy reading a selection of the funny, curious and insightful comments that visitors are leaving us in response to the prompt:

How did your perceptions unfold as you experienced the dance? Write or draw a description of your response in the comment book.

Hay’s dance dared to be different. It was confusing, beautiful, and mind opening all in one.

Really a meditative and remarkable experience that is so wonderfully different each visit. THANK YOU.

[Written to the artist:] Greetings Deborah, you have stretched us yet again. My 10 year old grandson LOVES everything about this. My 4 year old granddaughter fully participated. I am a kid again.

I’ve never really seen this kind of dance or even “self expression” before. It was really unusual and I tried to understand it and take it in, but it was hard for me. I guess it shows how understanding expression can lead to frustration and wanting to understand.

Deborah Hay

Photo by Mary Myers

Poetry—sound—movement—mystery—constantly changing

I loved it but it was weird in a good way.

I loved it and I do not care what other people think.

Ultimately freeing

I am writing this with my whole body.

The dance was unique and unlike any other dancing I’ve seen. It definitely inspired me to continue finding my own ways of expressing how I feel and what I think. It shows there’s no boundaries to art and everyone is entitled to their own interpretation.

This blog was submitted by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, curator at large at the Blanton Museum of Art, and curator of Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance. The exhibition is on view through May 18, 2014.

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Lucy Lippard at the Blanton

It’s shaping up to be a busy week at the Blanton! On Thursday, March 20, Scholar Kirsten Swenson will give a Perspectives Talk at 12:30, and on Saturday, March 22 noted art critic Lucy Lippard will speak at 1pm in the auditorium. To introduce Lippard and her connection to the Blanton’s current exhibition, Converging Lines, curatorial assistant Amethyst Beaver describes Lippard’s relationship with Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt.

Lucy Lippard

Lucy Lippard

Lippard was one of Hesse and LeWitt’s best friends and earliest supporters. The art world now knows Lippard for her numerous thoughtfully curated and well-researched exhibitions, her foundational writings on contemporary art, political activism and for Printed Matter, the bookstore that she and LeWitt helped establish in 1976. But decades before the Brooklyn Museum of Art produced the exhibition Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy R. Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art, Lippard was starting out as a page in the MoMA library.

As Veronica Roberts, the curator of Converging Lines, notes in her catalogue essay, Lippard worked at MoMA from 1958 to 1960 where she met Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman (her future husband), Dan Flavin, and Gene Beery, among others. At that time LeWitt was a receptionist at the information desk and the book counter. Flavin and Beery worked as guards and elevator operators. It is comforting to think that the jobs we have in our 20s are not what we will be known for in the future, and also to know that the friendships we foster early in our professional careers may be ones that sustain us throughout our lives.

Lippard, Hesse, and LeWitt all lived within walking distance of each other: Hesse at 134 Bowery, Lippard just north at 163 Bowery and LeWitt was just a few streets southeast at 117 Hester Street. They were not alone, but rather a dynamic part of a larger community of friends and artists. Lippard and Ryman lived in the same building as Robert Mangold and Sylvia Plimack Mangold and Frank Lincoln Viner. Gene Beery and Adrian Piper each lived in the same building as LeWitt (although at different times). Grace Wapner shared a studio with Hesse before Hesse’s move to 134 Bowery and then for a brief time also found herself in the same building as Lippard, Ryman and the Mangolds at 163 Bowery Street. [You can find a map of the artists living in lower Manhattan in our exhibition catalogue and in our education resource room at the end of the exhibition.]

Hesse kept and carefully stored correspondences with her friends—a resource that is invaluable to the art historians trying to piece together the history of her life. In her archive—housed at the Allen Memorial Museum at Oberlin College—researchers can look through years of her diaries and letters from friends. One such letter has given me moments of levity during the long nights meeting pressing deadlines. On November 14, 1964, Lippard wrote a letter to Eva Hesse and Tom Doyle while they were in Germany, writing:

You know the New York gossip so I won’t repeat. I’m reviewing for Art International now. God knows how long that will last as I don’t see myself getting along with Fitzsimmons past the honeymoon stage…Our main concern aside from work at the moment is naming the little bastard who is systematically destroying my insides and outside shape. We can’t agree on a damn thing (Bob wants a boy named Jazz, yet. If it’s a girl we seem to temporarily agree on (don’t laugh) Delancey.) Last night out of desperation, I turned to the two places I never thought would fail me—Faulkner and H.L. Mencken’s American Language. The latter had some pretty wild ideas but not too practicable. Such as Tennessee Coal and Iron Ryman? Pism C. Ryman (for Psalm 100), Munsing Underwear Ryman? Matthew Mark Luke John Acts-of-the-Apostles Son-of-Zebedee Garden-of-Gethsemane Ryman? All suggestions welcomed with three boxtops [sic] and 25 words or less. Three weeks to go wild in. It took the Rosenquists a month to decide on John. Hope we don’t get to that stage of dilution. Cheers, Lucy & Bob

If you are interested to know, Lucy Lippard and Robert Ryman finally decided on the name Ethan. Ethan Ryman—a far cry from Tennessee Coal and Iron Ryman, two of my favorite contenders.

Lucy Lippard

You will have the chance to hear Lucy Lippard in all her wisdom and wry humor at the Blanton Museum on Saturday March 22 at 1pm . She will speak about her personal experiences writing about and knowing Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, their work in the exhibition and their lives in the Bowery. Lucy’s much-anticipated talk concludes a week of not-to-be-missed programming. On Thursday March 20, as part of our Third Thursday festivities, Kirsten Swenson, Assistant Professor of Art History at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and contributor to the exhibition catalogue Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, will lead a 12:30pm Perspectives Talk in the galleries sharing her deep knowledge about both artists and her perspective on this show. If you can’t catch her tour in the gallery, please join us at 6:30pm that same day when she will present her extensive research on Hesse and LeWitt’s work.

Amethyst Beaver is the curatorial assistant to Veronica Roberts at the Blanton Museum of Art. For more information about this week’s events, visit our online calendar.

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Music and Art: the Blanton at SXSW

We’re always excited when our public programs receive national recognition, but we’re especially thrilled to to be leading a panel at South by Southwest this year. Museum Music: Art Galleries as Performance Spaceplaces Blanton programs on a global stage—even if that stage happens to be just on the other side of downtown Austin. Learn more in this blog post by Adam Bennett, Blanton Manager of Public Programs.

Graham Reynolds performing at SoundSpace

Graham Reynolds performing at SoundSpace
Photo by Vladimer Meija

Last fall the organizers of SXSW Music invited me to speak about our award-winning music series, SoundSpace. If you’ve never been to SoundSpace, it’s an afternoon of simultaneous performances of contemporary, classical, jazz, rock, pop, and performance art, all taking place inside the Blanton’s galleries. The performances are thematically linked to connect to each other and to make connections between the music and the sculptures, paintings, drawings, and videos on view in the galleries.

Contemporary art and contemporary music are definitely having a moment right now, and our panel at SXSW will explore why collaborations between art galleries/museums and musicians are poised to become even more prominent in the future. Events like Kraftwerk’s eight sold-out performances at Tate Modern, Jay Z’s performance with artist Marina Abramović at Pace Gallery, or The National playing one song 105 times in a row for 6 hours at MoMA PS1—these were among the most talked-about performances of 2013.

And of course the Blanton’s own SoundSpace series has become what the Austin American-Statesman called “the most successful new music event in the city.” Even in a city as saturated with performance venues and festivals as Austin, people are incredibly excited about hearing innovative new music in an art museum.

My co-panelists at SXSW will be Steve Parker, the musical director of SoundSpace, and Veronica Roberts, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Blanton. Steve, Veronica, and I will be talking about the history of music and performance in art galleries and how SoundSpace has extended that tradition in exciting new ways.

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We’ll also talk about how musical artists can think creatively about the locations where they perform. Art museums are interesting spaces for performance because they offer a visual experience that other venues don’t. There are a lot of venues in Austin where you can get a beer or barbecue while you watch the band, but nowhere else where you’re going to find a saxophonist in front of a 17-foot painting by Anselm Kiefer, or a turntablist mixing records inside a shimmering sculpture by Cildo Meireles. From talking to hundreds of musicians who have performed in the Blanton’s galleries, I know how creatively exciting it is to be able to break outside of traditional concert venues and perform in a museum. What we do at the Blanton is help facilitate those creative connections by talking with the musicians about the art and planning a performance in which the music and art are in dialogue with one other.

So bringing the Blanton to SXSW for the first time promises to be a lot of fun. Not only are we looking forward to presenting our public programs to a global audience, but we’re also hoping to help encourage musicians and music industry professionals to pursue creative opportunities in art gallery spaces. We’re excited to be at the forefront of this trend, and hope that we can share our story about how to make these creative collaborations happen with everyone at SXSW!

The Blanton’s panel at SXSW will take place March 12th at 3:30 PM.

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Sol LeWitt’s Postcards to Eva Hesse

As a digital component to Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, the Blanton has created an exhibition-specific tumblr that will feature many of the postcards LeWitt sent to Hesse and insight from the exhibition’s curator, Veronica Roberts, and others. To introduce the project, Veronica discusses the witty and poignant correspondence between these two artists.

Anyone who was lucky enough to call LeWitt a friend knows that he was a first-rate correspondent. I remember writing him in 2003 to congratulate him on the thirty-five year anniversary of his first wall drawing (done at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York in October of 1968.) He sent me a postcard in reply, drolly commenting, “thirty-five years is a long time to do anything.” He went on to ask how grad school was going and how my grandparents were doing. I was touched that he remembered how close I was—and remain—with my grandparents.

Postcard from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse

Postcard from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse,
New York, New York, postmarked May 19, 1967

Just as LeWitt’s wall drawings have been keeping art students around the world busy for nearly fifty years, the copious number of postcards and letters he wrote kept the United States Postal Service in business; (no wonder the post office is not doing so well these days.) Thirty-nine particularly special postcards that LeWitt wrote Hesse are reproduced in the exhibition and its catalogue. They are thoughtful, funny, and charming—classic Sol. And being the artist he was, he thought carefully about all of its ingredients: the image on the postcard, the message inside—even the stamp he used.

Postcard from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse

Postcard from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse,
New York, New York, postmarked May 19, 1967

LeWitt’s dry sense of humor really come through in the postcards he dispatched Hesse from around the globe. He sent her an image of Moroccan sand dunes, lobster traps in Maine, and a roaring hippopotamus in the Netherlands. One of my personal favorites is a Smithsonian Museum postcard of an Egyptian mummy bull. (Well, according to the postcard, it’s a bull; it looks a more like a bunny to me.) Wrapped in bandages with just its eyes revealed, it looks like a cross between a rabbit possessed by the devil and an early Christo sculpture. On the back, he wrote a succinct, tongue-in-cheek message: “Dear Eva, I hope this doesn’t scare you.” I also love the way he opens a postcard to her, playfully informing her that this is the second postcard he has sent her from Germany, whereas “Dan Graham has only one.”

Sol’s affection for Eva and belief in her talent is very evident in the messages he wrote her. He repeatedly reports on seeing her work in exhibitions (“Went to Larry Aldrich Museum. Saw your piece. It really looks great,” or encourages her (“all sculptures are objects of one kind or another—Don’t fight it. Go! Go!”)

As a curator, I love reading the personal correspondence of artists but I know my attachment to them goes deeper than that. I know part of the reason I’m drawn to them is to see how clearly devoted Sol and Eva were to each other as friends, always making the time to remind each other of this in ways small and big. And I know I personally respond to them because I too have always enjoyed writing letters and receiving them.

People seem to appreciate receiving handwritten letters now more than ever, in part, I’m convinced, because we are drowning in the irritating efficiency of emails, which pile up like car wrecks. Unlike emails, which insist upon a response, letters are gifts with no expectations attached—a chance to say something kind without causing someone to blush or requiring anything in return.

Veronica with her grandmother in California, January 2013

Veronica with her grandmother in California,
January 2013

At some point this summer as I was working on the catalogue for the show, I embarked on a postcard project of my own. I decided I would write my very beloved 91-year-old grandmother Eugenie, who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, one postcard a day. Among the many things I inherited from her is a love of art and travel. Since she’s no longer traveling as much as she used to and I pretty much always have a suitcase packed, it seemed like a fitting way to take her with me wherever I go. A few weeks into sending her postcards—I think it was around the time I decided that I was going to send a series of images of the ocean (a nice Vija Celmins woodcut, a Milton Avery seascape) it dawned on me that the idea must have been inspired by Sol and Eva’s correspondence. Sol, my grandmother and I both thank you for what has turned into such a rewarding project. My grandma especially loves that I put Grandma above her address and that I never include her full name.

I highly recommend postcard writing. There are very few nice things you can do for a person for 34 cents! I stockpile my favorites at museums and relish finding silly ones that will make my grandmother laugh. It’s easy to tuck a sheet of stamps in your desk drawer or wallet (although it’s irritating that the post office just bumped the rate from 33 to 34 cents.) But I should warn anyone considering writing postcards as a daily act that this does have its perils. Many a sweet friends and strangers have found themselves unwitting collaborators in my quest. On a recent work trip, my boss, Simone Wicha kindly agreed to stop at various San Antonio gas stations in my futile pursuit of a postcard late in the day. And on a recent Saturday, as I fretted about losing my window of time to get a postcard out, my friend Lysa leapt out of my car when we spotted a mailman and successfully managed to get the postcard on its way. And a very nice woman at a newsstand at the Dublin airport offered to mail a postcard to my grandmother after I realized I had missed my chance to mail it before entering the security line.

My colleagues at the Blanton are equally smitten with Sol’s postcards to Eva. Upon seeing the works, Ray Williams, our Director of Education, came up with a brilliant idea. In the resource room of the exhibition, we are providing visitors with postcards that they can bring to the Blanton Museum Gift Shop. The shop will sell you a stamp and mail the postcard on your behalf. And soon they will be selling notecards featuring images of Sol’s postcards to Eva. Now we all just need to work on our handwriting….

All postcard images courtesy of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio.  Eva Hesse Archive, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash.  © The Eva Hesse Estate. Courtsey Hauser & Wirth  © Estate of Sol LeWitt/ Artist Rights Society (ARS)

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Images of Abundance: Food in Between Mountains and Sea

An embroidered mantle patterned in vivid indigos and reds. A meticulously modeled crustacean in clay. Black ceramic bottles burnished to give off a metallic sheen.

Bowl with aji (chili peppers)

Nasca Culture, Peru,
Early Intermediate Period (100 BCE – 600 CE),
Bowl with aji (chili peppers),
Ceramic, slip paints,
Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts,
The University of Texas at Austin

The Blanton’s new exhibition of ancient Andean material arts, Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes, is a feast for the eyes. The phrase is perhaps most apt in the gallery dedicated to the Nasca, a culture that inhabited the south coast of Peru from about 100 BCE to 600 CE. Here a selection of vibrant, polychrome vessels and bowls are decorated with unmistakable imagery: beans, chili peppers, and tropical fruit.

For the contemporary viewer, the stylized food imagery may seem strikingly modern. Having developed one of the most varied palettes in the Americas—it included as many as 13 distinct colors—Nasca artisans favored figural designs made up of flat areas of color and clean outlines. They turned to the natural world for subject matter, often depicting local birds, fish, and plants.

Double spout bottle of modeled lucuma

Nasca Culture, Peru,
Early Intermediate Period (100 BCE – 600 CE),
Double spout bottle of modeled lucuma,
Ceramic, slip paints,
Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts,
The University of Texas at Austin

Two bowls on view are painted with a repeating chili pepper, or ají, motif. On one, the peppers have been simplified to silhouettes, which alternate in red and earthy green on a white background and are separated by thin vertical lines. One of the earliest known cultivated plants in the Americas, the chili pepper was used by Andean cultures as both a cooking ingredient and a preservative. Its repetition here may symbolize agricultural abundance. For Texans, it may also bring to mind the visual culture of the Southwest—an indication of just how enduring some Pre-Columbian motifs have been.

In another example, a double spout bottle has been modeled and painted to resemble two lúcuma, Andean fruit still popular in Peruvian desserts today. The strategic juxtaposition of the fruits, each bearing a star-shaped apex where a stem might have been, can only be read as a reference to breasts—a playful double entendre that perhaps links natural abundance with female fertility.

Food has of course appeared as imagery in the artistic traditions of innumerable cultures. But along the desert coast of Peru, the setting for most of the exhibition, farming presented unique challenges. Rainfall in the region was so meager that the Nasca had to rely on the occasional flooding of small rivers and a system of underground canals for irrigation. Thus, repeated references to agricultural abundance may reflect the society’s aspirations as much as its reality.

Modeled llama

Chancay Culture, Peru,
Late Intermediate Period (900 CE – 1400 CE),
Modeled llama,
Ceramic, slip paints,
Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts,
The University of Texas at Austin

Elsewhere in the exhibition, we encounter other references to food sources. The Chancay, a central coast culture, made ceramic effigies of camelid species like llamas. While these animals were domesticated for their use as pack animals and for their fine wool, they were also consumed as food. Another important resource for coastal cultures was, naturally, the sea: ceramics from the region feature sea lions, anchovies, and other fish that thrive in the cold Humboldt current off the coast of Peru. Discernible in each of these material traditions is an acute observation of the environment and appreciation of what it had to offer.

Visit the Blanton to view these and other ancient Andean objects. Between Mountains and Sea is on view until August 17.

Beth Shook is the Blanton’s Administrative Manager for Education. She holds an M.A. in Art History from George Mason University, where she specialized in 20th-century Latin America.

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Explore UT at the Blanton Museum of Art

Being the new kid on campus can be pretty intimidating, especially on a campus as large as the one at the University of Texas at Austin. I should know—I just moved to Austin in August, and still am unfamiliar with half of the buildings that I bike past daily. But what if you were personally introduced to the school? And not just the buildings, but a sampling of what a university of this size has to offer?

Explore UT is a day-long open house for anyone interested in what it is like to be part of Austin’s large academic community. Activities are geared for all ages, and appeal to young children, curious adults, and those just beginning to think about what shape their education might take beyond high school. During Explore UT, units across campus come together to set aside a day for the community to be part of one of Texas’ largest universities. More than just a college tour, the day is filled with participatory activities to help people get their bearings on the enriching opportunities unique to the University.

One of these assets that may surprise new Explore UT attendees is the Blanton Museum of Art on the Southern most edge of campus. UT hosts one of the nation’s largest university art museums, which often is used in courses to show how concepts discussed in class reach beyond the lecture hall. The Blanton partners with classes for undergraduates and graduate students and allows researchers to work with primary sources. It is truly special to have such an established resource at easy access.

Students in the museum

Photo by Kelly Lynn James

For Explore UT, the Blanton’s Education department showcases the museum by providing special interactive activities for museum-goers and offering free admission. The museum literally goes outside to greet visitors; interactive art-making activities spark curiosity, spur creativity, and build a sense of belonging with the university and its artistic outlets.

This year at Explore UT, the Blanton will be the spot to join in on an improvisational game, design postcards and contribute to a communal wall drawing inspired by the exhibition, Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt. Visitors are encouraged to use the special Explore UT interactives to connect with art, both in and out of the gallery, on a deeper level.

These activities invite a different sense of what a university (and a museum) can teach, and builds enthusiasm for unique learning spaces. By offering lively and exciting activities on the plaza, the museum opens its doors to those who may have never known it existed. Most importantly, the Blanton’s offerings for Explore UT contribute to a unified campus welcome for all aspiring learners.

Lauren Wilson is the Graduate Research Intern for Family and Community Programs at the Blanton. In addition to her work with the Museum, she studies Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. 

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Downtown Underground: B Scene Loft Party

We’re gearing up for B scene on February 28, so mark your calendars now! You will not want to miss the party’s exciting, retro theme – downtown underground- a 1960s downtown New York loft party inspired by the artists featured in Converging Lines: Eve Hesse and Sol LeWitt and Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance. Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and Deborah Hay were all part of the vibrant arts scene of that time, and we hope to capture the creative spirit of those artistic pioneers at B scene.

One particular artist’s loft that provides a visual inspiration for the event is Andy Warhol’s “Factory,” where many of the influential artists of the decade were regular features. The interior walls in the loft were covered in silver by Warhol’s friend Billy Name, and the effect must have been stunning. To pay tribute to this idea, we will be inviting guests to create their own sculptures out of aluminum foil. And as always, we encourage guests to dress the part! Show us your best 60s mod vibe, and enter our costume contest for the chance to win a prize from Edible Austin. Need inspiration? Check out our Pinterest board full of ideas.

Music also played an important role in performance art happenings of the time. The talented DJ Gatsby will help to recreate the vibe of the 1960s by spinning psychedelic tunes from artists such as The Velvet Underground, The Guess Who and the Austin band The 13th Floor Elevators. To guide us along in the correct dance moves for the scene, representatives from Go Dance studio will be on hand with lessons and demonstrations.

B Scene Downtown Underground

At 8:00pm The Shivery Shakes will take the stage. This Austin Band has a retro sound to help guests flash back to 1960s. They have recently released a new 7″ single on “flexi vinyl” via Brooklyn’s Punctum Records and are currently wrapping up recording their debut full-length album with Austin producer Danny Reisch, to be released Summer of 2014.

As with all our B scene events, there will be cash bars featuring beer, wine, mixed drinks and a signature cocktail: Trash Can Punch. There will also be food available for purchase including Macaroni and Cheese with your choice of mix-ins, Swedish Meatballs and Veggie Crudités with dip. Guests can also snack on yummy chips from Beanitos, salsa from Tommy’s Foods, popcorn from Reel Popcorn, tasty treats from Princess And Moose’s Sister Bakery and other delicious bites.

And now you can add this to the list of Blanton member perks: B scene is now FREE for all members! The mezzanine level will be reserved for our Member Lounge, with groovy couch seating and snacks. Not a member? Join today!

Tickets are free for members, $12 general public. Click here to order tickets. To learn more about B scene, visit our website. Special thanks to our event sponsors Strong Events and Atomic Picnic, and to our Media Sponsor Edible Austin.

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Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and Seventeen magazine

Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, on view at the Blanton February 23 – May 18, 2014, celebrates the close friendship between two of the most significant American artists of the post-war era: Eva Hesse (1936–1970) and Sol LeWitt (1928–2007). Organized by Veronica Roberts, the Blanton’s curator of modern and contemporary art, the exhibition will feature approximately 50 works, including many that have not been publicly exhibited for decades. In this blog post, Veronica shares an exciting discovery that she made while researching these two artists.

Seventeen magazine cover, September 1944

Seventeen magazine cover, September 1944

I’m always interested in the early lives and day jobs of artists. So often the jobs we hold at formative years in our life end up shaping who we become, even if the career we ultimately settle on feels miles away from our beginnings scooping ice cream or folding clothes. In the chronology I compiled for the Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt exhibition catalogue, I document many of the early jobs that the artists held. Hesse worked various part-time jobs after she graduated from Yale—at a jewelry store in the West Village and as a designer for a major textile company. In the mid-1950s, Sol LeWitt worked in the graphics department of I.M. Pei and Associates, a fledgling, little-known architecture firm at the time. He followed that with several years as a receptionist and “night watchman” at the Museum of Modern Art, an experience he repeatedly credited as a big influence on his life. And Hesse clearly cared about her time at Margaret Moore’s jewelry store enough to give her boss a painting.

Letter to a Boy Seventeen magazine illustration

Sol LeWitt, Seventeen magazine illustration,
February 1955

What I didn’t realize until working on this exhibition, however, is that in the mid-1950s, before they held any of these other jobs, Hesse and LeWitt both worked simultaneously, but independently, for Seventeen magazine, the first magazine in the United States dedicated specifically to teenagers. In 1953, Hesse interned for the magazine when she was herself a teenager and LeWitt was hired to work on the “Photostat” machine (an early photocopier) and later switched to a higher-paid gig that he loved, doing production for the art department. As part of his job, LeWitt occasionally contributed illustrations to columns. One of my favorites is a drawing he made of a writing desk strewn with ink, stamps, and envelopes for a feature instructing girls on how to write letters to boys. I can’t help but to savor how perfect an assignment this was for Sol, one of the best correspondents I’ve ever known.

Birthday cake Seventeen magazine illustration

Sol LeWitt, Seventeen magazine illustration,
September 1954

While Hesse and LeWitt somehow didn’t meet at this early juncture, I made a startling and happy discovery when I examined the September 1954 issue of Seventeen magazine in the Hesse Archives at Oberlin College. For that issue, Seventeen featured the first article ever published on Hesse—billing her a young artist to watch (smart magazine!) A button-sized drawing of an elaborately decorated birthday cake in the corner of the last page of the essay caught my eye. Beneath the illustration was a very familiar hand-written name: LeWitt. How fitting that these two artists, who went on to become champion pen pals, met on the page before they met in person.

 All images courtesy of Seventeen magazine. Seventeen is a registered trademark of Hearst Communications, Inc.

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Between Mountains and Sea: An Interview with Curator Kimberly Jones

This weekend, we opened the much-anticipated exhibition Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes. A collaboration with UT’s Department of Art and Art History, the exhibition comprises a special selection of objects that illuminate the lifestyle, technological achievements, and ideology of pre-Inka cultures among the coastal Andes of South America. With 80 extraordinary works from the University’s collections and loans from the Dallas Museum of Art, the presentation features intricately woven textiles, painted ceramic vessels, and modeled effigies. We recently sat down with guest-curator Kimberly Jones to get a behind-the-scenes perspective on this exciting new exhibition.

Vessel of a human forearm

Moche Culture, Peru,
Early Intermediate Period (200-800 CE),
Vessel of a human forearm, ceramic, slip paints,
Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts,
The University of Texas at Austin

Which work of art in the exhibition is your favorite? Why? 

For its remarkable condition and incredible visual artistry, my favorite piece in the exhibition has to be the Paracas Mantle of Birds, which is on loan from the Dallas Museum of Art. The mantle is a magnificent testament to the rich tradition of textiles arts in the Andes, from the past through the present. Regarding the University of Texas collections held by the Department of Art and Art History, there are many great objects on display. The one that I enjoy most is the Moche Ceramic Vessel modeled as a Human Forearm, with the knuckles arranged in a symbolic half-fist gesture. The gesture is specific to Moche ritual practice and may refer to their mountainous settings. The vessel thus exemplifies a playfulness yet faithfulness by Moche artisans to working within a developing symbolic visual system.

Were there any particular challenges in organizing the show? 

Mantle with condors

Paracas Culture, Peru,
Early Horizon – Early Intermediate Period (300-100 BCE),
Mantle with condors, camelid fiber, plain-weave,
stem-stitch embroidery, Dallas Museum of Art,
The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.,
in memory of John O’Boyle

The organization of this exhibition came with restrictions in budget and timing, the latter only augmented by my (exciting) jobtransition to the Dallas Museum of Art in Fall 2013. Such circumstances meant limitations to depth and refinements. Nevertheless, the UT collection speaks for itself in the range and quality of Andean arts on exhibit. And the Blanton team was graciously and adeptly attentive to the challenges that came with executing the exhibit within just a few short months. In the end, it has been a great pleasure to work with the Blanton staff, and to highlight UT Austin collections, in particular those held by the Department of Art and Art History, by featuring these exemplary ancient visual arts from the Andes region. The objects, like the remarkable peoples who made them, deserve recognition, appreciation, and care.

Most of the objects featured are 3D; did that play a role in how you came up with the layout or any other aspect of the exhibition? 

An audience should have the opportunity to view three-dimensional objects up-close and from various angles, to appreciate them fully. The design was intended, therefore, to provide cases for movement around principal objects. It also varies between singular views of specific objects for their individual visual, technical, and iconographic merit; and object groups that reflect standardized aspects of style or production.

Stirrup spout bottle as sea lion

Chimú Culture, Peru,
Late Intermediate Period (900 – 1470 CE),
Stirrup spout bottle as sea lion, ceramic,
Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts,
The University of Texas at Austin

What is something that visitors will be surprised to learn about these cultures?

I would tend to presume that popular appreciation of Andean cultures naturally addresses the mountains, as the former divide – or bridge – the tropical forest and coastline. So I would hope that many visitors will find it interesting to consider the delicate position of desert coastal populations situated between the soaring highland peaks and vast ocean, the duality inherent in such a harsh landscape with precarious dependence on these two contrasting resources.

What do you hope that people with take away from this show? 

Simply put, I would hope that people will come away from this exhibit with admiration (whether renewed or first-time) for the great diversity of cultures that preceded the Inka (Inca) in the Andean regions and that thrived on the coast of Peru for over 5000 years.

Guest-curator Kimberly Jones is the Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas at the Dallas Museum of Art. Prior to that, she served as curator of the Art and Art History collection in the Art and Art History department at the University of Texas at Austin. Between Mountains and Sea: Arts of the Ancient Andes is on view from February 1, 2014 through August 17, 2014. To learn more about the exhibition, click here.

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Remembering Jack S. Blanton, Sr.

In late December, we said goodbye to our namesake and cherished friend, Jack S. Blanton. In addition to his unflinching support of the Blanton Museum of Art, Mr. Blanton served on the University of Texas Centennial Commission, the Commission of 125, the Development Board, and as president of the Texas Exes alumni association. Always a champion of higher education, he received the university’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1977.

Mr. Blanton recognized the power of art to transform lives, and his passion, vision, and commitment to bringing a world-class art museum to the UT campus has benefited over one million students and visitors from Austin and beyond. Everyone at the Blanton will miss him and will proudly work to carry on his legacy.

If you would like to make a gift to the museum in honor of Jack Blanton, please click here.

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2014 Design Inspiration Event at the Blanton

“I didn’t know that the Blanton was available for private events!”

This is something we frequently hear from guests and something we hope to change. The Blanton has several beautiful spaces that are available for private functions, and a favorite among them is our Rapoport Atrium. Well-loved by brides and event planners, the atrium features a gorgeous site-specific installation by artist Teresita Fernandez, Stacked Waters. This artwork, comprised of thousands of custom acrylic blue tiles, served as a focal point and source of inspiration for our 2014 Design Inspiration Event.

On Tuesday, January 14, more than 100 guests attended the event to experience the space firsthand and to see the work of talented event designers, caterers and other event professionals from across Austin. We hand picked three floral designers and one event design company to showcase their work in a friendly competition. Using the 2014 Pantone® Color Report —which forecasts color trends each year — as a touchpoint, designers selected palettes that would work to complement the Fernandez installation in the atrium.

Here are some of the gorgeous details from their designs, captured by photographer Lisa Hause of Waterloo Studios:

Michael Akila's design

Michael Akila incorporated Freesia, Cayanne and Celosia Orange in his breathtaking design, shown here in the foreground with Paul Villinski’s Passage in the background.

Strong Event's design

Stong Event’s designer Kristen Plymale kept it clean and simple. She showcased her company’s banquette seating with Cayenne and Freesia pillows and community tables with custom Violet Tulip colored decals and Placid Blue carpet.

Flora Fetish design

Radiant Orchid and Violet Tulip with gold accents were the elegant colors of choice for Carrie Beamer of Flora Fetish.

Colby Neil's design

The subtle Paloma grey in the linen played beautifully with the Radiant Orchid in Coby Neal’s sophisticated design for The Flower Studio.

The winner of the 2014 Design Inspiration Contest, selected by Blanton Facebook followers, was Coby Neal of the Flower Studio with 41 likes! Coby will receive Pantone: The Twentieth Century in Color by Keith Recker. Thank you to everyone that voted!

Special Thanks to all of our fabulous event sponsors:

Atomic Picnic
Crave Catering
The Cupcake Bar
DJ Señor Amor
Flora Fetish
Floral Renaissance
The Flower Studio
Marquee Event Group
Strong Events
Lisa Hause of Waterloo Studios

More event photos are posted our Flicker page.

To book your next event at The Blanton Museum contact Stacey Hoyt, Special Event Manager at 512-475-6516 or email events@blantonmuseum.org.

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The Art of Food: Inside the Blanton Café

Did you know that the Blanton Museum of Art has its own café? The Blanton Café, located in the museum’s Edgar A. Smith Building, offers visitors a relaxing spot in which to enjoy a variety of sandwiches, gourmet flat bread pizzas, salads, signature desserts, coffee drinks, and more. The Café is open for breakfast from 8-11AM, lunch from 11-2PM and from 2-4PM, grab and go items are available.

Charlie Skipsey, Director of Food and Beverage at AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, and Jeanna Lewis, Chef Manager at the Blanton Cafe

Charlie Skipsey and Jeanna Lewis at the Blanton Café

Charlie Skipsey, Director of Food and Beverage at AT&T; Executive Education and Conference Center, and Jeanna Lewis, Chef Manager at the Blanton Cafe, sat down with us to discuss the Café and to share a few favorite dishes of staff and museum visitors.

The three most popular items served are the baby spinach salad, the tomato caprese sandwich, and cranberry nut muffin paired with a mixed fruit cup. The baby spinach salad is composed of spinach, walnuts, dried cranberries, feta cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. The tomato caprese sandwich comes with tomato, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, and balsamic, and is served on focaccia bread. The cranberry nut muffin is served with a mixed fruit cup.

“Lunch is our most popular time,” said Charlie Skipsey, “but we are also trying to grow our breakfast menu.” Currently the Café offers breakfast tacos, freshly baked muffins and scones, berries and yogurt parfait, and banana bread. “The more people that come in for breakfast, the more we’ll be able to offer,” Skipsey said.

During lunch there’s plenty to choose from— soup, salads, sandwiches and paninis, wraps, and flatbread pizzas. And if you’re not in the mood for something on the menu, there’s always the create-your-own salad option too. “The soup and mini-sandwich combo is a favorite of both museum staff and visitors,” said Chef Jeanna. “There’s a different soup made fresh each day of the week.”

Baby spinach salad at the Blanton Cafe

There are also lots of beverage options to choose from including homemade lemonade, flavored Italian sodas, and many coffee choices, just to name a few.

Baked goods are available all day, and make a perfect start or finish to a visit to the Blanton’s galleries. “We make our cranberry muffins fresh every morning” said Chef Jeanna, “and our Scottish shortbread cookies are very popular too.”

The next time you visit the museum, plan to grab a flat bread pizza, sandwich or soup for lunch, or later in the afternoon, get your coffee fix and a sweet snack. And on our Third Thursday evenings, enjoy a slice of gourmet pizza and glass of wine for only $5! There is something delicious for everyone at the Blanton Café, so visit us soon! Click here for full menu and café hours.

- Mary Parsamyan, Blanton Volunteer and author of the Sweet Tidbits Food Blog

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Last Days to See “The Nearest Air”

The Nearest Air: A Survey of Works by Waltercio Caldas is in its final days! The artist’s first career survey, the exhibition explores Caldas’s full body of work from the 1960s through the present and investigates his centrality within Brazilian art, his role on the international stage, and his unique position on art and its ethos.

In October, Waltercio Caldas spent five days with the guest curator and Blanton installation team to create the Austin presentation of this exhibition. More than many artists, he stays intimately involved in the staging of each work whenever it is exhibited. The following video shows the very deliberative working process behind The Nearest Air.

We encourage you to visit The Nearest Air before it closes on Sunday, January 12. For more information about the exhibition, please click here.

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MIDEA iPad Project Brings New Interpretation Strategies to Blanton Audiences

The Blanton is proud to unveil a new series of interactive iPad applications designed for both onsite and online visitors. These custom-built apps, installed on iPads located in the museum, offer expanded information about works of art currently on view in three of our permanent collection galleries. Made possible by funding from the Marcus Institute for Digital Education in the Arts (MIDEA), the grant challenged us to consider tablets and their potential to support learning about art and artists.

Contemporary Art of the Susman Gallery

The iPad app in the Susman Gallery

The iPad in the Susman Gallery

The first iPad application is designed to enhance visitors’ understanding of large, abstract works by living artists. The home screen invites users to choose from selected works by contemporary artists Cildo Meireles, El Anatsui, Richard Long, and Yayoi Kusama. Many visitors are curious about these artists, about their thinking and process for creating such monumental works, and they look for guidance as they encounter them. For the tablet in Susman Gallery, we decided to feature the artists’ voices to offer direction and insight on how to consider these challenging works. For example, we unearthed a 2006 interview with Brazilian artist Meireles in which he speaks of his provocative installation —a Blanton favorite— Missão/Missões [Mission/Missions] (How to Build Cathedrals):

“for me, generically this is a kind of equation, almost mathematical equation connecting these three issues: power, spirituality, and tragedy. But I don’t mind if someone comes with a different approach to the piece.”

We hope that the video clips, biographical information, and guiding questions will encourage visitors to slow down and take another look at these important works of art, whose layers of meaning may not be immediately apparent.

European Collection and its Modern Connection

iPad in the European Gallery

iPad in the European Gallery

The second iPad offers visitors an opportunity to explore European still life, landscape, portrait, and narrative paintings. The button for Claude Vignon’s David with the Head of Goliath invites visitors to consider this 17th-century French painting. Vignon captures one brief moment in the biblical story of David, the Israelite shepherd, and his victory over the giant Philistine warrior, Goliath. To encourage closer consideration of the painting’s impact, we ask, “Note David’s facial expression. How might his complex emotional state have appealed to the average viewer?”

The surprise of this European Gallery app is the connections it makes to the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary art. After learning about each European painting, the tablet user can choose a button that features a related painting currently on view in the nearby contemporary galleries. Just one button click from David with the Head of Goliath, and visitors are reading about another history painting: David Alfaro Siqueiros’ 1946 painting, Cuauhtémoc. The noble subject here is Cuauhtémoc, an Aztec emperor legendary for his courageous stance against Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. The app asks us to ponder, “What clues does each artist include to indicate that these are heroic figures?”

Battle Casts of the Schweitzer Gallery

The iPad app in the Schweitzer Gallery

The iPad in the Schweitzer Gallery

The last iPad features a collection of more than seventy 19th-century plaster casts that has been a useful educational resource to University of Texas students studying classics and art history for nearly one hundred years. Professor William T. Battle collected this group of casts made directly from the ancient originals, choosing important examples of stylistic innovation, as well as portraits of famous leaders in the arts and politics—Euripides, Homer, Augustus, etc. For this app, we included audio recordings of UT classics professors reading ancient texts about historic and mythical characters found within the alcove of busts. Professor Lesley Dean-Jones lends her voice to Sappho’s ancient poem to the beautiful Greek goddess Aphrodite:

Shimmering,
iridescent, 
deathless Aphrodite,
child of Zeus, weaver of wiles, 
I beg you, 
do not crush my spirit with anguish, Lady

Curious visitors can engage with this evolving digital content inside the museum and beyond. The iPads in the galleries run custom applications, but interactive PDF versions are available for download through the Blanton website:

Contemporary Art of the Susman Gallery

European Collection and its Modern Connection

Battle Casts of the Schweitzer Gallery

For access to the interactive features, DOWNLOAD the PDF file and open it with your basic Adobe PDF Viewer.

- Mary Myers, Media Coordinator

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Hans Holbein the Elder’s “Portrait of a Woman” and Silverpoint Technique

Alisa M. Carlson is a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin, where she primarily studies the German Renaissance. Her dissertation examines the portrait drawings of Hans Holbein the Elder (ca. 1465-1524), an important Augsburg painter, draftsman, and designer. Here, she writes about a special work by Holbein featured in the Blanton’s current exhibition, ‘Imperial Augsburg.’

Hans Holbein the Elder, Portrait of a Woman

Hans Holbein the Elder, Portrait of a Woman,
c. 1508, silverpoint, brush, and black and
brown ink, and black chalk heightened
with white prepared paper, National Gallery
of Art, Washington, Woodner Collection.

The Blanton’s current exhibition, Imperial Augsburg: Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475-1540, features a remarkable drawing by Hans Holbein the Elder (ca. 1465-1524), Portrait of a Woman. This work from the National Gallery of Art is one of only three drawings by Holbein in American collections (one of the others is on the back side of this sheet). The rest of his roughly 200 drawings are preserved in European museums, mostly in Berlin and Basel. Over 160 of Holbein’s drawings depict individuals from Augsburg and southern Germany. Presumably, he often carried a small sketchbook with him, so that he might take portraits and studies of anything that interested him. Only one of his sketchbooks remains bound, giving us some idea of the format with which Holbein worked.

The quantity of Holbein’s portrait drawings suggests that taking portraits of people he knew or met was a regular part of his artistic practice, if not a preoccupation. He drew portraits of some of the most wealthy and influential people of Augsburg, such as Jakob Fugger der Reiche (literally, “the Rich”). The affluent and powerful are subjects we would expect from an aspiring artist trying to make connections and advance his career. Not as predictable are Holbein’s portraits of less prominent people, including women and children. These subjects are underrepresented in Renaissance portraiture in general. Most of Holbein’s portraits are of men who are identified by name with inscriptions on the drawings or whose professions can be deduced from their clothing. Their roles in Augsburg society were varied and clear. Roles for women and children, however, were limited to the private, domestic sphere. Therefore, Holbein’s portraits are important resources for us to gain a broader understanding of southern German society.

Hans Holbein the Elder, detail of a drawing showing a hair from the brush used to apply the ground

Hans Holbein the Elder, detail of a drawing
showing a hair from the brush used to
apply the ground, Kunstmuseum Basel

The technique that made it possible for Holbein to record so many likenesses in his sketchbooks is silverpoint, a fine line drawing technique in which a silver rod or wire is dragged across a surface prepared with gesso or primer. For this technique, Holbein had to prepare each page of his books with a ground. To make the ground, lead white and animal bone were burned in fire until turning ashy and then pulverized by hand into a fine powder. This powder was combined with a mixture of animal skin glue and water and applied to each page with a brush in several thin coats. On some of Holbein’s drawings the brushstrokes of the ground are evident, and occasionally we can even see a stray hair from his brush embedded in the ground. Once dried, the resulting ground had a granular surface, which was essential for the silverpoint to create visible marks. The tool’s contact with the granular ground had a subtle abrading effect on the point, so that silver particles were left behind creating the marks. With time these silver particles also reacted chemically with the ground, oxidizing into the soft, dark-brownish grey marks so distinctive of the medium. Mastering silverpoint involves a considerable amount of practice and experimentation, for the only way to erase marks is to scrape off the ground.

Silverpoint and other metalpoints are unlike any other drawing medium. This unique method results in delicacy of handling and subtle styles of drawing. The delicacy of silverpoint also makes it useful for small scale drawings like Portrait of a Woman. This drawing is exemplary of Holbein’s refined technique. His meticulous use of the tool is evident in the fine, light lines and marks and faint, linear shading of the folds of her head cloth. Holbein later emphasized certain features by using a tiny brush and ink around the eyes and white highlighting on the nose and cheekbones.

Hans Holbein the Elder, pages from his only still bound sketchbook

Hans Holbein the Elder, pages from his only still bound
sketchbook, Kunstmuseum Basel

This and Holbein’s other portraits of women inform us about expectations for women in Renaissance Augsburg. For instance, adult women in his drawings feature a head covering, known as a wimple, which all married women were required to wear by social custom and by law. It was considered improper for married women to show their hair in public, because hair was associated with attractiveness and sexual availability. The only adult women who displayed their hair in 16th-century Augsburg were prostitutes. While Holbein’s drawing celebrates the dignity this woman has earned by dutifully conforming to her prescribed role as a respectable wife, it also reminds us of the limited personal and professional options for women in Renaissance society.

Drop by the Blanton before January 5, 2014 to view Portrait of a Woman and experience in person Holbein’s refined silverpoint technique, delve into the complex layers of his subject, and discover the Renaissance humanism portrayed in this unique work that continues to captivate us through the ages.

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Blanton Museum Shop Holiday Gift Guide 2013

Visit the Blanton Museum Shop this holiday season to find unique gifts for everyone on your shopping list. From handcrafted jewelry and accessories to whimsical games and contemporary home décor, the Museum Shop offers a variety of items that cover the range from playful, out-of-the-ordinary stocking stuffers to timeless gifts for someone special.

Favorite Finds
Some of our most-loved gift picks this season

Holiday Gifts
1. For the Worldly Fashionistas, consider a beautiful nature-inspired cuff or pair of earrings from dconstruct jewelry. Handmade in Canada, dconstruct incorporates sustainably harvested, renewable fibers and material sources from artisan communities in developing countries into each piece. A variety of colors and designs available, $16-$50.

2. For the Minimalists, watches from Italian design house NAVA are a perfectly subtle statement that will quickly become an everyday favorite. $138-$155

3. For the Inspiration-Seekers, Austin-based author Austin Kleon’s New York Times best-selling book about creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist, is a must-have. $10.95

4. For the Design-Minded, Press Factory Blocks are a great touch for the home or office. Handcrafted in the USA and inspired by the original House Industries Factory Logo, these wooden blocks offer a selection of letters, numbers, and symbols from House’s renowned font collections and can be arranged and rearranged at every whim! $78

5. For the Puzzle Masters, get into the spirit of the season with the Buck Stacking Game from international design company IMM Living. Part game, part objet d’art, this white resin deer adds a playful touch to holiday décor while challenging visitors to pile up to 30 extra antlers before they come tumbling down. $48

Blanton members, stop by between Friday, December 6 – Sunday, December 15 and enjoy a double discount (20% off!) in the Museum Shop.

Enjoy special Museum Shop savings during the Austin’s Cultural Campus Holiday Museum Crawl this Saturday, December 7 from 11am-5pm. Kick off your holidays with some super shopping, hot beverages, holiday music, and a bit of culture, too! Click here for details.

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Reflecting on a Dark Chapter in American History: Peter Dean and the JFK Assassination

How do we remember? When asked, “Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was shot?” those who lived through that momentous time recall it vividly and often emotionally, even though they may not have been in Dallas on that fateful day. For those too young to remember first-hand, movies or documentaries may inform their impressions. As we approach the 50th anniversary of JFK’s tragic assassination on November 22, 1963 and the days that followed, the Blanton Museum of Art offers yet another lens through which to view this dark chapter in American history – two paintings by American artist Peter Dean (1934-1993), Dallas Chaos (1981) and Dallas Chaos II (1982). In them, Dean composes a rewrite of history in his own expressive language, challenging collective memory and forcing viewers to reconsider what they may have previously accepted as fact.

Peter Dean, Dallas Chaos

Peter Dean, Dallas Chaos, 1981, oil on canvas,
Gift of Lorraine Dean and Gregory Dean, 1994.

Dallas Chaos presents the instant of President Kennedy’s assassination in a claustrophobic yet dynamic scene. A flurry of policemen, Secret Servicemen, military members, and others swirl around JFK’s central figure, his head drooping towards his lap, splattered with blood. It’s initially a struggle for the viewer to identify who is who amidst the sea of patriotic imagery, with American flags fluttering in the wind and in the hands of onlookers. Individual motives in the painting become increasingly confusing – are the police protecting, or are they threatening the president? The viewer is left to wonder who is good and who is evil, or if there is a distinction to be made at all.

In the companion painting, Dallas Chaos II, Dean confronts his audience with similar imagery, this time focused on the murder of JFK’s presumed killer, Lee Harvey Oswald. Unlike JFK’s assassination, the event presented here is an act of violence that many Americans witnessed in real time on live television. The majority of figures wear disguises, with Oswald in a jester’s motley garment, fierce dogs with the heads of pigs, one policeman in a Klansman hood, and another resembling a Nazi. Media clamor to record the scene with their cameras and video recorders as a gangster-like Jack Ruby swoops in and fires the fatal shot. In response, Oswald contorts, a cascade of masks tumbling down from his face. In this confusing narrative, it is once again nearly impossible to differentiate between heroes and villains.

Peter Dean, Dallas Chaos II

Peter Dean, Dallas Chaos II, 1982, oil on canvas,
Gift of Lorraine Dean and Gregory Dean, 1994.

Why are works such as these significant for us now, fifty years after JFK’s assassination? Dean once said, “The murder of John Kennedy was the beginning of violence for my generation.” Having served on a Grand Jury that tried over 30 murder cases in one month in 1980, the artist became interested in representing everyday murders as well as assassinations of public figures. His subsequent “Little Murders” series, of which Dallas Chaos and Dallas Chaos II are part, offered a critique of violence in contemporary society. Dean drew attention to these and other historical events in order to raise questions not only about violence but also about truth and reality.

Dallas Chaos and Dallas Chaos II encourage a reconsideration of what our media-inspired memory tells us is fact. Dean’s paintings complicate accepted historical narratives and suggest chaos behind the media’s reports, prompting, perhaps, closer consideration of the myriad conspiracy theories regarding President Kennedy’s assassination. For the millions of Americans born after JFK’s death, popular culture and media archives may provide their only familiarity with the events surrounding November 22, 1963. Consequently, paintings such as Dean’s offer important reminders to interrogate our assumptions about historical moments, critically consider what we think we know, and remember that, as the artist hints, there are always more questions to be asked than what we have been told.

- Ann Merkle, Blanton University Engagement Graduate Intern

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A musical and visual experience in “The Nearest Air”

Music is a great source of inspiration for artist Waltercio Caldas, and with it he encourages us to engage with his current exhibition at the Blanton in a whole new way. The artist provided the museum with a list of his favorite tracks—all masterpieces—and we set out to design an immersive audio experience using a portable listening device that visitors could wear around the gallery as they looked at his art. Just as the exhibition, The Nearest Air: A Survey of Works by Waltercio Caldas, explores the Brazilian artist’s lifetime of work, this playlist highlights his long history of music appreciation.

Caldas Playlist and headphonesThe Caldas Playlist features artists like Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, Eric Satie, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Ludwig van Beethoven. The range of musical selections echoes the artist’s own mix of international influences. The best way to begin listening to the device is to plug in a pair of headphones and hold down the PLAY button until you hear the soft Brazilian welcome of João Gilberto’s Bossa Nova. The lighthearted song is a promise that more whimsy awaits in the seductive objects that populate the horizon lines throughout the large ground floor gallery.

The transcendental stylings of contemporary legend Steve Reich come next: you are invited on an organic examination of timbre that he composed over two years in the mid-1970s. The album Music for 18 Musicians was recorded several times over the following decades, and every recording is different. Some say you can’t really understand Reich unless you are listening to a live performance. Caldas says the same about viewing art in-person versus looking at a picture in a catalogue or on a screen. Nothing can compare with experiencing an object in person.

Visitors enjoying playlist

The Nearest Air visitors enjoying the playlist

The thoughtful Duke Ellington takes over the musical conversation on his piano. Accompanied by his articulate and sentimental phrasings, we may be inspired to dance in the space between the objects, exploring it as an extension of the simple yet precise materials. There is a second Duke Ellington composition in the playlist that the Modern Jazz Quartet performed in tribute to him: It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing). Throughout the exhibition, you will also notice Caldas make references in homage to legendary artists like Diego Velázquez, Giotto di Bondone, Alberto Giacometti, and Pablo Picasso. Elsewhere in the mix, you can also hear the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra honor Benny Goodman and Igor Stravinsky with their rendition of Ebony Concerto.

Nearest Air installation view

Installation view of The Nearest Air

The music slinks forward with the raw energy and poise of free jazz improvisation that won Charlie Haden a Grammy in 2001. El Ciego (The Blind) is a sultry tango that sparks a romance between the sculptures’ reflections and textures. Charlie Parker thrills us with Billie’s Bounce (Take 1) from The Complete Savoy and Dial Studio Recordings 1944-48. These smokin’ hot recording sessions saw the frantic Bird spend years developing himself as an artist. The whole audio experience ends with a selection from Thelonious Monk’s second solo album, Alone in San Francisco, recorded live in 1959. Caldas is fascinated by Monk’s creative process involving endless problem making and problem solving; we can even find a sculpture titled Thelonious Monk in the gallery.

What sort of connections will you make between what you see and what you hear? I suggest inviting some friends along for a Caldas listening party. The playlist contains 17 tracks and has a total runtime of 1:15:00 (one hour and fifteen minutes). Use the FORWARD and BACK buttons to control your experience. Worried about closing out the world with a pair of headphones? Caldas says, “people are always alone when they are in front of objects of art”, and they should enjoy it!

The Caldas Playlist buttons can be found at either the museum’s admissions desk or the nearby information desk. Can’t make it to the museum? You can also listen to most of the tracks online at the Caldas Spotify Playlist.

This playlist provides an opportunity to experience art in a new, immersive, and augmented way – something that the Blanton aspires to provide all visitors.

Mary Myers
Media Coordinator

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Music In the Time of Maximilian I

On Thursday, November 21st, Sara Hessel, Music Director at Classical 89.5 KMFA and host and producer of their Ancient Voices program, will give a Perspectives Gallery Talk on music in the age of Maximilian I. In advance of her presentation, Sara provides a glimpse into the life of one of the most intriguing rulers of the Renaissance.

God’s blessing rest with thee, dear Augsburg, and with all thy honest citizens. Many a happy time have we enjoyed within thy walls…

-Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor

He was a soldier, an avid hunter, a would-be Pope, and an Emperor. But above all things, Maximilian I was a lover and patron of the arts, especially music. He cultivated a cultural atmosphere that helped Germany grow from being something of a backwater in that area into a musical powerhouse, which eventually produced composers like Schütz, Buxtehude, and Bach.

Paul Hofhaimer at the organ from Triumphzug

Paul Hofhaimer at the organ from Triumphzug

Growing up as the son of Emperor Friedrich III, Maximilian may have come into contact with some of the great musicians of the day, like the blind organ virtuoso Conrad Paumann, but his childhood was marked more strongly by hunger and want than by musical and artistic pursuits. As a very young child, Maximilian lived through a siege that left his father’s court largely without provisions. One account relates that the family was forced to eat dogs and cats to survive. Maximilian also apparently suffered from a speech disorder that left him unable to speak in complete sentences for much of his childhood, which was later corrected.

In many ways, Maximilian’s true education began in 1477, when he left his Austrian home for the Low Countries. It had been arranged for him to wed Mary, Duchess of Burgundy, the only child of Charles the Bold. Luckily for them, the match was not only politically advantageous, but happy.

Sadly, Mary died as the result of a hunting accident after only five years of marriage. It was said that Maximilian could never hear her name without crying, even decades after her death. The marriage produced two children who also became avid music lovers: Philip the Handsome and Margaret of Austria.

The Low Countries were prosperous, and the artistic and musical wonders Maximilian saw and heard at the Burgundian Court left an indelible impression on the young man, and he later modeled his own Imperial Hofkapelle after it. Music at the courts of Philip the Good and Charles the Bold was without parallel, and Franco-Flemish composers of that period were in high demand, especially in Italy.

A group of musicians from Triumphzug

A group of musicians from Triumphzug

One composer whose influence was felt in Italy, Flanders, and the German lands was Heinrich Isaac. A well-educated and widely traveled composer, he served Duke Sigismund of Austria and the Medicis of Florence before becoming Maximilian’s court composer in 1496. Known for his masses, motets, and secular works (both vocal and instrumental), only recently has his reputation been overshadowed by his Flemish contemporary, Josquin. At the time, they were mentioned in the same breath as the two greatest composers in Europe.

What would Isaac say if he knew that from his large and varied output as a composer, he’s best remembered for the simple, heart-rending song Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen (Innsbruck, I must leave you)? According to legend, the text was written by Maximilian himself, who was known to have loved that city. Isaac’s plaintive melody still resonates with anyone who has ever felt a strong emotional connection to a place.

Ludwig Senfl, c. 1510

Ludwig Senfl, c. 1510

Ludwig Senfl joined Maximilian’s Hofkapelle as a choirboy when he was about ten years old, and remained in the Emperor’s service until Maximilian’s death in 1519. After his voice broke, he was granted a three-year period of study in Vienna, after which time he became Isaac’s pupil and assistant. He replaced Isaac as Imperial court composer upon the latter’s death. While Senfl composed some stunning sacred music (such as his Ave Maria for six voices), his true brilliance lies in the composition of secular songs. Whether composing new works from the ground up, or arranging German folk songs, Senfl’s musical imagination still astonishes, even in the year 2013!

Paul Hofhaimer occupied a special place among Maximilian’s composers. For one thing, the two knew each other all their lives, having been born within a few months of each other. Hofhaimer learned his art at the court of Maximilian’s father, Friedrich III. He later became Maximilian’s court organist, and was respected as one of the top-tier performers of his generation. Maximilian later knighted him, which allowed Hofhaimer to move in Maximilian’s circle as his social equal. He was a gifted improviser, and his ‘Salve Regina’ allows us to experience how he might have improvised on a Gregorian theme.

Can Maximilian’s influence as a patron of music still be felt? It certainly can. In 1498, the Emperor endowed a musical foundation in Austria, which is known throughout the world today as the Vienna Boys’ Choir.

- Sara Hessel, Music Director at Classical 89.5 KMFA & host of Ancient Voices

Recommended Recordings:

Heinrich Isaac: Ich muss dich lassen. Capilla Flamenca. (Ricercar CD)

Ludwig Senfl: Im Maien. Fretwork and Charles Daniels, tenor. (Harmonia Mundi CD)

Paul Hofhaimer: Salve Regina, played by organist Guy Bovet on the world’s oldest playable organ (c. 1430, Sion, Switzerland). Available as mp3 download.

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A Noble Art: Linking Armor and Etching

German (probably Augsburg), Portions of a Field Armor, dated 1524

German (probably Augsburg), Portions of a Field Armor, dated 1524, etched steel, weight 28 lbs (12.7 kg),
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bashford Dean
Memorial Collection, Bequest of Bashford Dean,
1928 (29.150.3c-p)

I met Freyda Spira, Assistant Curator of Drawings and Prints, at the top of the grand staircase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Along with Gregory Jecmen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, Freyda organized the exhibition currently on view at the Blanton, Imperial Augsburg: Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475-1540. Freyda quickly ushered me passed roped passages and locked doors until we arrived at a quiet reading room lined with books on metallurgy, weaponry, and war. In the middle sat a half suit of armor and a helmet, delicately etched in the style of Daniel Hopfer, who was commissioned by some of the best armorers in Augsburg to embellish arms and armor with etched flora and fauna, imaginary beasts, and female nudes. His style, with a distinctive dot patterned background and raised design, became indicative of the Northern Renaissance and known simply as Hopfer Style.

Imperial Augsburg installation view

Installation view of Imperial Augsburg
at the Blanton Museum of Art

I’d come to the Met with the hope of borrowing armor to display alongside the prints and drawings in Imperial Augsburg. Sitting in front of the impressive pieces they’d laid out, the curators and I talked about the close connection between armor decoration and printmaking and which piece would best demonstration this tie to our museum visitors. Choosing became a problem given the merits of both pieces and the simple fact that much of our audience has never had the opportunity to see works like this in person. I pressed my luck and asked for both the helmet and the suit of armorthe Met graciously agreed! Because of their fragility and complicated construction, the pieces arrived from New York with their own courier. They were assembled in our galleries and placed in specially designed cases, surrounded by prints from the same period.

Daniel Hopfer, Ornament for Daggar Sheath

Daniel Hopfer, Ornament for Daggar Sheath, n.d.
Etching on iron with open biting,
National Gallery of Art, Washington,
Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1979

So what is a suit of armor doing in an exhibition on Renaissance prints and drawings? Intaglio prints such as engravings­­ (where lines are carved directly into the plate), and etchings (where lines are created using acid and an acid resist), owe much of their history to early modern metalsmiths. Shortly after Johannes Gutenberg started printing around 1450 in Mainz, Germany, artisans experimented with different types of printing pressessome applied gentle, even pressure and others very high levels of pressure. Through this experimentation, metal workers discovered they could make an impression on paper when they inked flat, metal plates and put them through a high level press. With printmaking, metalsmiths were able to record their designs, display them in their workshop, or distribute them throughout the region to secure commissions. Although printmakers were successfully printing engravings throughout Europe, Daniel Hopfer was the first to pull a print from an etched plate around 1500 in Augsburg.

With the invention of etching and color printing, the small German town of Augsburg left a tremendous mark on the history of art. The research conducted by the curators and paper conservators at the Met and the NGA in preparation for this exhibition will forever change the way we teach printmaking. The Blanton’s large collection of prints and drawings is enhanced by scholarly exhibitions such as this one, offering a glimpse into the complex history of the works in our own collection. More importantly, we have the opportunity to bring a part of Renaissance Germany all to way to Austin, Texas!

- Catherine Zinser, Manager of Exhibitions

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Calling all knights & damsels! Don’t miss B scene: Black Forest Faire

Temperatures have finally dropped in Austin and here at the Blanton our thoughts have turned to revelry as we prepare for our next B scene art party.  Black Forest Faire, taking place Friday, November 1 from 6 -10PM, will celebrate our new exhibition, Imperial Augsburg: Renaissance Prints and Drawings, 1475–1540, in a big way!
The Baron and Baroness

The Baron and Baroness

Knowing that many of our regular B scene attendees appreciate an excuse to dress up, we encourage you to dust off your Renaissance garb for this special occasion.  We are fortunate to partner with The Barony of Bryn Gwlad, a group that specializes in recreating the fascinating history of medieval Europe. Dressed in authentic period garb, Baron and Baroness Master Phelim Gervase, Mistress Myfanwy ferch Eifion, and other members will share their extensive knowledge of the period. Guilds will be on hand to showcase fighting demonstrations, European Dance, Clothiers, Fiber Arts, Leather Workers, Brewers & Vintners and more.

Brave Combo

Brave Combo

We are also extremely excited to welcome Brave Combo to B scene.  This ensemble has been described as “America’s Premier Dance Band” and has been honored with two Grammy Awards.  In addition to being featured in numerous films and providing the score for the PBS animated series “As the Wrench Turns,” Brave Combo has the unique distinction of being featured in the Springfield Oktoberfest episode of “The Simpsons.”

Special guests One Ounce Opera will join the fun as well. As roving minstrels from faraway lands, members of OOO will charm and delight as they share songs of love and…well…other such worldly pleasures. Intimate, impromptu vignettes by these musical gypsies will mysteriously unfold around you. Take a break from dancing to visit the Black Forest Faire Marketplace, featuring unique Austin vendors for your shopping pleasure, including: Beauty in the ClayGlobal Crafting LLC, Studio Gregoire, and the Twin Creek Studio.
Paulaner Hefe-WeizenSnack on a distinctly Bavarian menu from the Blanton Café throughout the evening, featuring grilled bratwurst, sauerkraut, jumbo pretzels, potato pancakes with apple sauce, kugelhopf (German bundt cake), and more. But what medieval party would be complete without beer? To evoke the festivities of Oktoberfest, we will be featuring Paulaner Beers.  Master brewers in Munich have been crafting Paulaner beers in Bavaria since 1634 and we will proudly be serving a choice selection, brewed in strict accordance with the Bavarian Purtity Law of 1516 (Reinheitsgebot) with for your enjoyment. Available throughout the evening will be Octoberfest Wiesen Bier, a golden colored strong lager, Octoberfest-Marzen, a deep amber, and Hefe-Weizen, a natural wheat beer with a delicate yeast flavor.
Tickets are available online or at the door. $5 members, $12 non-members, and $4 parking is available for B scene guests. Document the night by using the hashtag #ImperialATX, and you might just show up on the Blanton’s twitter feed! To find out more information about B scene, click here.- Stacey Hoyt, Manager of Special Events
Special thanks to our media sponsor, 103.1 iHeartAustin, and event sponsors, Strong Events & Atomic Picnic 

Support for Brave Combo’s performance is made possible in part by a grant from Texas Commission on the Arts

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A Glimpse Into the Mind of Waltercio Caldas

On October 27, the Blanton will open The Nearest Air: A Survey of Works by Waltercio Caldas. The artist’s first career survey, the exhibition will explore Caldas’s full body of work from the 1960s through the present. It will investigate his centrality within Brazilian art, his role on the international stage, and his unique position on art and its ethos. Following two recent presentations in Brazil —at the Fundação Iberê Camargo in Porto Alegre and the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo—the Blanton will serve as the only North American venue for the exhibition.

In Summer 2003, Donna Conwell interviewed Waltercio Caldas for Latinart.com. The Christopher Grimes Gallery has graciously allowed the Blanton to post an excerpt. To read the entire interview, please click here.

DC: You have said that you create the maximum presence from the least amount of materials. Could you tell us what motivates your selection of materials?
Waltercio Caldas in galleryW.C: I don’t have a preferred type of material. I have worked with diverse kinds of materials. Materials are not a problem for me. The most important thing for me is the relationship between them.
Each material has its own story and each one has its own usefulness. It depends on the subject that I am dealing with. The material is chosen for a specific situation. I don’t begin with a material and then create something. I try to make the works as different from one another as possible. Each time I work it is as though I were beginning from zero all over again. I never try to make a piece that would be exactly the same as something I have done before. They do have a kind of signature though. We are condemned to be ourselves I suppose. (laughs)
D.C: You have said that you want to give a name to the space between things. Could you talk about your use of empty space in your work?
W.C: I don’t like things that are opaque. I like things that are transparent. Sometimes, even when the work is made in metal it is transparent because I use metal in such a way, in such a linear condition, that the light reproduces more than the material. That is to say, that there is more light than material. Light bends the object in a sense.
When you look at something you always have the feeling that your sight is going into the object, but with a transparent object your sight passes through the object and returns to your eye. My idea is that you see my work not through the first gaze going in but through the second one coming back.
Waltercio Caldas Garrafas com rolha/ Bottles with cork

Waltercio Caldas
Garrafas com rolha/ Bottles with cork, 1975
Chinaware and corks
Collection Ruben Knijnik
Photographer: Miguel Rio Branco

DC: What do you think is arts place in society today?

W.C: Godard said that culture was made to kill art because culture is a rule and art is not a rule; it is against the rule. So of course the nature of the rule kills the anti-rule right? You have to resist that.
I think it would be impossible for me to do my work outside of Brazil because I think we [Brazilians] were born modern in a sense. It is quite natural for us to be modern because we are from a very new country. I think we have a sort of freshness and this is very important. I grew up in a community of artists that spoke about art all the time. They weren’t in competition with one other. It has been wonderful to be an artist in a place like Rio because we don’t have that pragmatic relationship with the market that other places have. We can relate the process of doing to something very pleasant and this is something that I think people are losing because we are transforming a kind of spiritual inclination into a profession. I think we have to preserve the possibility of the language of art. We have to fight to preserve the freedom of the language of art.
D.C: Finally, your work has received considerable international acclaim and has been included in Documenta 11 and the 47th Venice Biennial as well as numerous international shows. What are your thoughts on how Brazilian art is received internationally?
W.C: If I can put it in a sentence: I think we were unknown for a long time but now we have the chance to be misunderstood. (laughs)
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