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Understanding Sculpture Today


From the beginning, the exhibition philosophy of the University Gallery was guided by a simple purpose - to expose University of Minnesota students to new forms of art in order to further understanding and cultivate appreciation. The exhibit Understanding Sculpture Today, held from November - December 1946, is one example of an application of this philosophy.

Sculpture1.jpgThe University Gallery press books contain various articles, printed by local newspapers, which promoted and reviewed the exhibit. According to these sources, the exhibit was assembled by William Saltzman (acting director), and included 40 works of sculpture loaned by galleries and individual artists throughout the country. According to Saltzman, who was quoted in a November 1, 1946 MN Daily article, "The purpose of the exhibit, as the title implies, is to present various media and methods of interpretation as found in contemporary sculpture."

The exhibit included "Two Bodies," by Alexander Archipenko, "Overture," by Calvin Albert, "Hanging Mobile," by Alexander Calder, and "Biography in Bronze," by Carl Milles. Various local artists were also represented in the exhibit, to include University of Minnesota art professor S. Chatwood Burton, and Evelyn Raymond of the Walker Art Center.

University student Stan Hietala reviewed the exhibit in a November 22, 1946 MN Daily article titled, "From Marble to Plexiglas: Sculpture Shows Versatility." Hietala reported, "The show is an excellent example of the ability of William Salt[z]man, gallery assistant director, and his staff. It answers a need in a field somewhat unknown to the [non-art] student, helping him to understand today's sculpture."

The Minneapolis Daily Times printed a photograph of two University students observing a sculpture titled, "Five That Escaped" (above). The sculpture was popularly mentioned in many of the articles about the exhibit. Hietala's review also mentioned the work:

"Quite often an artist is found who expresses his emotions primarily, ignoring conventional style or contemporary trends. In Randolph W. Johnson's bronze... the sculptor almost achieves pure emotionalism, void of dogmatic style.

The five figures are stumbling along, fatigued, yet in haste. Their whole demeanor reflects horror and fright."

WAM continues to promote the understanding of sculpture in the museum galleries, as well as throughout campus. Archipenko's, "Two Bodies" is currently on display in the Woodhouse Gallery, and is one of many examples of sculpture that can be found within the museum. For the current Target Studio for Creative Collaboration exhibit, contextual flux, artist Jason Hackenwerth worked with University students (to include several studying "non-art" disciplines) to produce new sculptural forms. Throughout the University, over 30 different forms of sculpture can be found in courtyards, building entrances, lounges, garden spaces, and other campus locations as part of the Public Works of Art program.

For current University of Minnesota students - and visitors - who have harbored a latent curiosity in regards to the shapes and forms that they encounter on campus, opportunities abound at WAM for them to start understanding sculpture today...

Season's Greetings Cards


Don't let the above-normal temperatures of late fool you -- December has officially arrived. Though some of you may have a sliver of pie somewhere in the back of your fridge, Thanksgiving is now far behind, and for many, the focus has sharply turned towards December holiday preparations. It is at this time, every year, that my mother starts to lay the prep work for the 25th: requesting lists of gift ideas, reporting the status of holiday home decorating, and asking that truly pivotal question, "What should we write in the annual Christmas card?"

GreetingCard.jpgThis question has been on the minds of mothers (and other card preparers) since the Victorian era, as a representative display of card designs exhibited at the University Gallery in 1946 suggested. The exhibit provided a history of printed salutations and displayed an array of designs likely to inspire visitors as they made plans to spread their holiday wishes. A Century of the Greeting Card, held from November 25 to December 28, 1946, included Christmas and other holiday cards produced by English and American card manufacturers. On loan from Brownie's Blockprints, Inc. of New York City, the cards included then current designs from the 1940s as well as a print of the first Christmas card ever produced. (at left - Betty Maurstad, curator, is shown holding examples of the holiday cards in a photograph printed in the Minneapolis Tribune.)

In the 1840s, Sir Henry Cole (the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) commissioned John Callcott Horsley, an artist from the Royal Academy, to design a card to send to friends at Christmas. Horsley's design portrayed a multi-generational family toasting the holidays (the child toasted too, as she or he is shown sipping from the wine glass). The greeting included a simple message:

"A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you."

It wasn't until the 1860s that the card business developed commercially. The greeting card economy crossed the pond in the 1870s when Louis Prang, a lithographer and publisher, referred to as "the father of the American Christmas card," began printing cards in the United States.

Though modern day greeting cards have become quite sophisticated, to include audio cards that allow you to record your own greeting, as well as increasingly complex and impressively staged photo greetings, I think I will take inspiration from Cole's first holiday card and respond to my mother that the simplest of greetings can often be among the best.

You can carry on the tradition of the greeting card by creating your own at WAM's annual holiday discount event, BeDazzled, on Wednesday, December 4, 2012 from 4:00 - 6:00 p.m. Letterpress your own card with Studio on Fire and enjoy treats, music, discounts, and more!

Symphony Art Project


Are you ever inspired by music? Are you a college student for whom a study session would be incomplete without "ear buds" habitually positioned in said ears and the latest up-and-coming sounds from emerging bands playing from your rotating playlist? (What are the kids listening to these days?) Are you an artist who prepares to paint/sculpt/etc. not only by setting out your materials and tools, but by also pressing play on your chosen audio transmitting device to start a carefully curated soundtrack to which you whistle to while you work? Musical inspiration and artistic creation was in the mind of Antal Dorati, director of the Minneapolis Symphony (known today as the Minnesota Orchestra) when he approached the Young People's Symphony Concert Association (YPSCA) in 1949 with a proposed program titled, Symphony Art Project.

SymphonyArt-Poster.jpgAn official invitation to participate in the 1955-1956 season of the Symphony Art Project by the YPSCA dated November 21, 1955, indicates that "For the benefit of those who may be participating for the first time..." a description of Dorati's impetus for creating the program is expressed: "to encourage a deeper sympathy and understanding for music in young people." Dorati "suggested that one way to arouse [student] interest would be through their expression in art media of the ideas and emotions gained in listening first to 'live music,' whenever possible, and secondly to recordings and broadcasts." (Original symphony recordings were provided to schools that could not send students to view a symphony concert in Northrop Auditorium.)

SymphonyInvitation1.jpg The invitation (at left) also provides additional background about the program, and includes rules and instructions for participation, noting that, "Pupils from kindergarten through high school may participate," and that "This is not a contest." The Young People's Symphony Concert Association sponsored the annual program, and schools from across the metro area participated. Each school displayed the art created by their students within their own buildings, and teachers later selected a representative example of works produced by their students to be included in a spring exhibition at the University Gallery.

Clippings found in the University Gallery press books show the students in the midst of creating their music-inspired works:

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Another clipping provides an example of student work. The Minneapolis Symphony program from March 23, 1956, shows a painting inspired by Fritz Kreisler's musical arrangement, "The Dancing Doll." The artist, student Marlene Gossel, described her inspiration, "I thought about pretty toe dancers twirling about."


Though the Minnesota Orchestra is currently quiet, the organization still performs Young People's Concerts and holds other education and outreach programs and activities to spread the appreciation of symphony music to all ages.

*(All of this symphony-izing has subsequently inspired me to search for and listen to arrangements I remember playing in combined orchestra in high school... Yahoo!)

Twentieth Century Painters: The Sidney Janis Collection


From the outset of the University Gallery program for the 1935-1936 academic year (the second year of its existence), the gallery's focus on contemporary art was evidenced by the first exhibit that opened that season. The Minneapolis Tribune reported that the exhibit - literally titled - Twentieth Century Painters, consisted of seventeen original paintings valued at $70,000 from the personal collection of Sidney Janis of New York City. Artists represented in the October exhibit included Henri Rosseau, Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, and Arshile Gorky.

Cats_001_SidneyJanis_1935.jpgGallery curator Ruth Lawrence created a catalogue to provide explanatory material for the exhibit. Assistant to the President Malcolm Willey sent a copy of the catalogue to President Lotus Coffman, along with an accompanying note that promoted the profile of the exhibit in the infant gallery...

Malcolm Willey to President Coffman, October 25, 1935:

"I am attaching a catalog covering the exhibition now at the University Art Gallery. The catalog was written by Mrs. Lawrence. I do hope that during the showing of the Janis collection you and Mrs. Coffman will be able to visit the gallery. It is an exceedingly remarkable group of pictures and demonstrates better than I have ever seen it demonstrated, just how unbalanced art can sometimes become. It is, however, a very significant show and you will observe from the catalog that the paintings have hitherto been seen at relatively few places, but these important ones."

SidneyJanis1.jpgA list of the artworks displayed in the exhibit was also published in the Minneapolis Tribune (click on the newspaper clipping from the gallery press books at left to view the article).

Decades after the exhibit, art collector Sidney Janis donated many of the works from his private collection to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. From MOMA's online collection database, we can view images of a few of the paintings that were once featured in the University Gallery's October 1935 exhibit:

"Le Reve" (The Dream) - Henri Rosseau

"Nature Morte a la Guitare" (Glass, Guitar, and Bottle)" - Pablo Picasso

"Actor's Mask," "In the Grass," - Paul Klee

Flowers to the Living


Web_WAM_003_StaffPhotographs_4.jpgFor the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the University Gallery, the retired former director, Ruth Lawrence, was asked to compile a history of the University of Minnesota's Gallery of Art. In 24 typewritten pages, Ruth outlined the origin -- and resulting ebbs and flows -- of the gallery as she had experienced it. At the end of "Mrs. Lawrence's 25 Yr. Report," in a final paragraph titled, "Flowers to the Living," Ruth expressed her gratitude to those who had contributed to the growth and development of the gallery over the years:

From the beginning, a loyalty and devotion which is touching to observe had been brought to the Gallery by almost everyone who came to work for it or who has been associated in any way with it. Perhaps its difficulties, struggles and working against great odds has engendered a feeling of fondness and of protectiveness. These people have offered to go the extra mile not required. They develop a faithfulness above personal plans and interest and energetically pour themselves fully into the work to be done.

Ruth goes on to name "gallery mechanic," Carl Hawkinson, and curator/registrar Betty Maurstad to recognize their many years of service to the gallery.

Ruth ends her report with the following statements, "Too numerous to mention were those who were friendly with helpful counseling and suggestions. One cannot begin to list the names of our benefactors. To them we say, humbly and gratefully--Thank you!"

Having now read through hundreds of letters written by Ruth, I have come to appreciate that when things need to be said, Ruth often said it best. The sentiments Ruth used to describe past museum employees can also be used to describe the museum's current staff of registrars, curators, crew members, and others, who offered to go the extra mile to make the exhibit, The WAM Files: The Art of the Archives, possible.

To them, this humble and grateful graduate student says--Thank you!

You're Invited: Women in the Weisman Collection

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Each summer at WAM, an exhibit opens with a theme that focuses on the permanent collection. In the summer of 1998, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention--the milestone meeting that signaled the beginning of the women's rights movement, the museum held an exhibit titled Women in the Weisman Collection: The Spirit of Seneca Falls.

An announcement sent out to promote the opening reception, concert, and exhibit was found in the archives:

*Click on the image for a larger pop-up version


Several of the female artists exhibited in the 1998 Women exhibit have works currently on display in WAM's summer show, Tenuous, Though Real. Visit WAM through September 16th to view works by Harriet Bart, Hazel Belvo, Clara Mairs, Laura Migliorino, and Judy Onofrio.

Korean Art Exchange

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WAM is noted first and foremost for its collection of American modernism - works produced during the first half of the 20th century. This is certainly due to the presence of the world's largest collection of the works of Marsden Hartley and Alfred Maurer, as well as a large collection of pieces created by Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists.

Yet many events significant in the history of the University of Minnesota, of which the museum is a part, also relate to the museum's permanent collection. One such event occurred in 1957, when the University participated in an art exchange with Seoul National University in Korea. Work completed by University of Minnesota students and faculty were sent to Seoul National University and vice versa, in an exchange that contributed an artistic component to the on-going partnership that the two universities established in 1954.

WAM_006_January_Poste-r.jpgThe exhibit of Korean student and faculty work was held at the University Gallery in the winter of 1957. Several of the works within the exhibit were presented as gifts to the University from Seoul National University, and are now part of the museum's permanent collection. (Three of these works are currently on display in the museum's Korea Foundation Gallery, and compliment the museum's collection of Korean furniture: Soo-Hyun Ro, "Autumn," 1956; Woo Sung Chang, "Chrysanthemum," 1956; "Grapes," 1956.)

Prior to the art exchange, a partnership with Seoul National University began with a request from the Foreign Operations Administration to the University of Minnesota to aid Seoul National in recovery and reconstruction following the aftermath of the Korean War. An advisory committee was named by University President J.L. Morrill to implement a program of improvement at Seoul National. Architects, doctors, agricultural researchers, engineers, and higher education administrators spent time in residence at Seoul National to advise and assist with the development of coursework and training. Young faculty from Korea traveled to Minnesota to train at the university. The desired result was to rebuild the infrastructure at Seoul National - upgrade heating and plumbing systems, train faculty in emerging technologies, and build supplies of textbooks and equipment. Read a full description of the collaboration in the December 1956 edition of The Minnesotan on the Digital Conservancy (PDF page 35).

Clippings from various local print sources found within the University Gallery Press Books report upon the exhibit and include photographs that capture some of the works displayed:

*Click on the image for a pop-up of a larger version.

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Summer Exhibits

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July is here! In a matter of weeks the The WAM Files: The Art of the Archives exhibit will open at the museum. While we patiently wait for the opening date, take a look back at exhibits from summers past through some of the promotional materials that were created to publicize them :

*Click on the image for a pop-up to a larger version.

Summer, 1956

WAM_006_PopularArtUS_Poster-r.jpg FirstSummerSession-r.jpg

Summer, 1957

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Summer 1958

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Stop by WAM July 14th to see some of these posters (and others) in person!

Something fishy...


The recent opening of WAM's summer show, Tenuous, Though Real, which features Minnesota artists, has me wondering - What makes a Minnesotan? There are certainly stereotypes - such as the tendency to accentuate vowels in verbal conversation, knowing the definition of the term "lutefisk," and harboring a preferential way in which one prepares "lefsa" (If it isn't with brown sugar, than all I have to say is... Ufda.)

I am a true Minnesotan, born and raised. However, I must confess that my identity as related to my home state is devoid of one common stereotype: I have never "gone fishing." That is right... I have never put bait to hook, nor fly to reel... Growing up, the "great outdoors" was experienced at the ballpark rather than on one of the many thousands of MN lakes... (In fact, my hometown resides in the only county in the state without a natural lake.)

FishFormsCat.jpgDespite never experiencing the thrill of a big catch, I still understand and recognize the importance of the "fish" in MN culture. This understanding was likely the inspiration for an exhibit held at the University Gallery in the spring of 1955 titled, "Fish Forms in Art." The works on display captured the form of the fish in a variety of mediums and represented many cultures.

A University Press Release from April 7, 1955 described the exhibit:

... an attempt was made to get objects representative of all major areas and periods in the history of art. [The] largest single group is made of works of contemporary artists such as Picasso, Braque, Lachaise, Lurcat, and Masson. The oldest piece in the showing of 97 objects is a slate palette in the shape of a fish dating from the predynastic period in Egypt (before 3200 B.C.) and loaned by the University Museum, Philadelphia... Because China and Korea consider the fish in special esteem, the two countries are represented by example of porcelain, painting and carving in ivory and jade. From America, Indian pottery from the southwest is shown along with a carved polychrome wood garden fountain...

Materials created to support and promote the exhibit include an exhibit catalog (above) as well as posters that were likely posted on campus bulletin boards.

WAM_005_Posters_1954-1955_3.jpg WAM_005_Posters_1954-1955_2.jpg

Photographs from the exhibit found in Box 5 of the WAM collection at the University Archives:
*Click on the photo for a pop-up to a larger version.


FishForms1.jpg FishForms03.jpg

FishForms3.jpg FishForms04.jpg

FishForms05.jpg FishForms6.jpg

FishForms8.jpg FishForms9.jpg

A post on posters...


Planning continues for the WAM Files exhibit that will open at WAM on July 14th... The exhibit will feature, amongst other unique items from the Archives, some of the first items of intrigue that the project processors encountered - University Gallery exhibition posters. A WAM Files blog post from February 27, 2011 profiles processor Areca's initial reaction to her discovery of a set of exhibit posters. As the project continued, we kept finding posters - in the exhibition files, in a separate over-sized materials collection at the Archives, and even more in a box in the back of WAM's work room (which will later be transferred to the Archives).

WAM_004_Posters_1952-1953.jpgOne of the many posters that we encountered was created to promote an actual exhibition of posters. The exhibit, simply titled, "Posters," was held in the Gallery in the fall of 1952.

Correspondence written by Assistant to the Director, Ivan Majdrakof - found within the exhibition record in Box 4 - described the exhibit:

Rather than the artist-designed poster we concentrated on what we thought were good posters encountering a large public. A high standard of design was our basic criteria. Sources of material were: the New York Subway Advertising, the New York Times, Army and Navy Recruiting offices, Foreign Travel agencies, Cancer Society, our own collection of World War I work, and private collectors of early European posters.

Label text from the exhibition stated:


WELL DESIGNED posters rarely reach a large audience and yet nearly every poster in this exhibit has been seen by a huge number of people.

THE PRIMARY reason for choosing one work and disregarding another was its DESIGN BASIS. Did the poster stop you and invite consideration? Was it eye-appealing? How well did it sell its product? How much did it use the DESIGN ELEMENTS easel painting had and is passing on to it?

THE WELL DESIGNED poster is invariably emotionally satisfying. There is no convincing emotion without GOOD DESIGN.

SINCE the criteria of a STRONGLY DESIGNED poster before a large public was used we found that certain categories of the poster-makerʼs art were eliminated. Sentiment, sex, the actual graphic portraying of a product are more often absent.

THE GREATEST successes DESIGN-WISE seem to be in the realm of ideas. The CAREFULLY DESIGNED poster seems to stress emotional attitudes. Subtler, non-visible ideas lend themselves to CONTEMPORARY DESIGN. Yet the same challenge is there for all poster or visual communication. Only through more "extreme" successful solutions as those on display here will the level of this art be generally raised.

THESE POSTERS divide into three approximate periods. The earliest displayed here are from about the thirties when European poster art was quite advanced from a DESIGN STANDPOINT. The typographic layout of these early German posters still influence the works of VISUAL DESIGNING today.

When the WAM Files exhibit opens in July, we hope that museum visitors find a few eye-appealing posters that will invite their consideration...

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