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WAM News and Events Blog

Breaking news, upcoming events, and periodic musings from the Weisman Art Museum.

October 28, 2010

One last blowout: WAMarchy


The Weisman is closing for a year to add five new galleries. Crews have taken down all the art and put it safely away in storage. But WAM's hosting one last blowout--for one night, you can break the rules.

WAMARCHYNorthrop (1).jpg

l'étoile and the Weisman Art Museum present
Saturday, December 4
8:00 p.m.-midnight

The rules:

No red wine anywhere.
Enjoy a complimentary wine tasting featuring samples of domestic and imported red wines. Beer provided by Surly. Full cash bar.

Don't mark on the walls.
Check out graffiti artists from Cult Status Gallery in action and contribute to a group mural.

Keep distracting noise to a minimum.
Catch live performances by The God Damn Doo Wop Band and Off With Their Heads.

No food in the galleries.
Munch tacos, satay, and banh mi courtesy of D'Amico Catering.

Your art will not be exhibited.
Bring one of your own works of art on paper or make one at WAM and hang it on the museum walls.

$16 WAM members and students, $20 general public
*ticket processing fees apply
On sale to members starting Friday, October 29 at 10:00 a.m. (by phone only)
General sales start Wednesday, November 3 at 10:00 a.m.
Buy online or call the Northrop Ticket Office at 612-624-2345.

Parking will be available in the Weisman Art Museum Garage or the East River Road Garage.

Click here for maps and directions.


October 27, 2010

All quiet on the WAMstern front

The art's off the walls at WAM--all except for our two big murals by Roy Lichtenstein and James Rosenquist, which we've covered in protective plastic. The museum is closed to the public through fall 2011 as part of our major expansion project. Here's a slideshow of images of the way WAM is now:














October 21, 2010

Let the Mob get you

Has the Mob gotten you yet? The Weisman Art Mob, that is?

They won't chase you down, but you might just learn something about collecting art. The Art Mob presents monthly events where you can learn about collecting in casual, fun settings. The 2010-11 Art Mob season kicks off tonight with an event at Highpoint Center for Printmaking.

The season lineup includes visits to artists' studios, exclusive tours of private collections, and previews of gallery exhibitions. Each event features free food from D'Amico Catering and wine provided by Big Top Liquors. At the end of each season, members get to help choose a work for the Weisman collection. A year's membership is $285 and includes benefits for two people. Read more and join here.

(pictured above: 2008 Art Mob event with glass artist Fred Kaemmer)


October 10, 2010

Goodbye for a year--but not really

Today--Sunday, October 10, 2010--is your last chance for a year to visit the Weisman Art Museum. At 5 p.m., we'll close our doors until fall 2011 as part of our major expansion project.

The expansion has been part of WAM's long-term plan since the building opened in 1993. Legendary architect Frank Gehry has returned to complete his original vision for the Weisman with these new gallery spaces.

It'll be worth the wait. The Weisman's five new galleries will allow us to share more than three times as many objects from our permanent collection at any given time. One new gallery will be filled with highlights from our noted ceramics collection (master potter Warren MacKenzie will help us select the work); two will house masterworks of American modernism; and another will showcase our considerable collection of photography, prints, and drawings. The fifth new gallery, the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration, will house experimental collaborations between artists and students, faculty, and the community.

Check out some recent media stories on our expansion here, here, and here.

If you haven't been to WAM recently, here's how the construction site looks these days:


People have asked us what we'll be doing during this year that we're closed. We'll be using off-site locations to bring you great programming like the WAM Art Mob, which visits artists' studios, tours private collections, and goes to galleries to learn about collecting art in a casual atmosphere. If you haven't been part of Art Mob before, this would be a perfect year to join. Read more here.

We'll also be taking the Weisman on the road. Through a new education program called WAM to Go, we'll bring the richness of WAM's vast collection to schools, libraries, and community centers. Trained museum instructors will lead interactive workshops that feature images of objects from the museum. Workshops are designed to be active, guided, thematic discussions rooted in the participants' experiences, with critical looking and thinking about selected images from the Weisman's diverse collection. Interested in hosting a WAM to Go workshop? Email our education department.

Also this year, we'll be reinventing and reimagining everything we do at WAM--we'll bring new interpretive techologies into the galleries, redesign our website, create new visitor experiences, re-engineer our membership program, and imagine new ways to collaborate with our audiences. You'll recognize us when we reopen, but you'll also say, "Wow--you've changed!"

So, stick around. Stick with us. Join the Art Mob. Host a WAM to Go workshop. If you haven't already, sign up for our e-newsletter, where we'll give regular updates throughout the year on our transformation. While our precise opening date has yet to be set, expect the party of the year in fall 2011.

As Gehry himself famously said, "You've got to bumble forward into the unknown."

Here we go.


June 28, 2010

Crews pour concrete slab for WAM's new galleries

On Monday, June 28, construction crews poured the slab deck for four new galleries being built off the southeast corner of the Weisman as part of its expansion. Over 50 trucks delivered concrete to WAM throughout the day. When cured, the surface will contain approximately 520 cubic yards of material.

The Weisman's John Allen illustrates the process in the video below.

See the entire concrete slab as it cures and watch the expansion as it happens live on WAMCam.


June 3, 2010

From the Collection: Maya Lin's "Silver River - Mississippi"

This periodic series of essays highlights objects from the Weisman's permanent collection.

The myth of the solitary artist who works ferociously in the studio on a single artwork, waiting for the right idea or brushstroke to arrive in a moment of involuntary epiphany is just that--a myth. Opposite this is the just as mythic idea of the architect who designs a building selflessly, with regards merely for how the building will function for those who live and work in the space. Although both of these concepts underlying artistic and architectural production are broad examples, they capture the idea of art as a private practice and architecture as an inherently public one. How, then, do those like the artist-architect Maya Lin, whose practice does not fit neatly into either category, balance these notions of private and public experience?


Maya Lin has remarked on how her dual role as an artist-architect provokes questions of opposites, having said, "In the end, all of my works, whether monument or sculpture, engage you on a very individual basis. Because actually there is a sort of antagonistic relationship between a public place, a place for public display, and a private experience, these two notions generally have not gone hand in hand." Lin's use of the term experience to describe her works implies a variety of relationships one can have with objects and others in the world. Noting the obvious physical difference between art and architecture through the structures of private and public, Lin's statement points to the varieties of experience that both disciplines can provide. Despite these differences, the notion of intimacy, what she describes as how her works "engage you on a very individual basis" ties together her seemingly unrelated works, whether monument (Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C., 1982), installation sculpture (Groundswell, Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio, 1993), or an architectural intervention into landscape (11 Minute Line, Wanås Foundation, Wanås, Sweden, 2004).

Historically, an experience with art in the Western world often implies a visual experience (in contrast to a tactile one), but this is not always the case, particularly in the multidisciplinary field of contemporary art practice. An aesthetic experience can engage the physical body as well as the eyes, but it is not limited to just one organ because, quite simply, we are bodies that see, but we also feel, think, desire, and age. Architecture and the rest of the built environment implies a physical experience--just think of how one's body strides through rooms and corridors and treads along stairs and walkways--in contrast to the tacit beholding of an artwork in an austere, white-walled gallery. However, Lin's works cross this threshold between the false separation of visual and bodily experience through providing an intimate engagement. Whether sauntering along the grassy hills of Lin's Flutter or peering intently at each small wooden groove in 2 x 4 Landscape, her works require perceptual acuity not given to eyesight alone.

For Systematic Landscapes (2006), an exhibition organized by the Henry Art Gallery, Maya Lin translated geographical maps--which by their presentation on paper are often flat and two-dimensional representations of the multivalent, colorful landscapes that they intend to document--back into three-dimensional structures made out of everyday materials as diverse as wood, pins, and wire. One of the installations, Pin River--Mississippi (2007), a work commissioned for the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis's exhibition of Systematic Landscapes, is a to-scale rendering of the Mississippi River presented as a sinewy line composed of thousands of slender silver pins pushed into the plaster wall. Oftentimes, what we take for granted through its commonplace occurrence appears most abstract when taken out of its expected context on a two-dimensional map, or in our digital age, on a monitor. Pin River's abstract line, everyday materials, as well as its scale, intensified beyond that of the printed page and presented on the wall as spanning more than a dozen feet in length, transforms the objectivity usually associated with something as precise as a map into an experience of enchantment and wonder.

Tucked away in the Riverview Gallery of the Weisman Art Museum is a thin, silver sculpture that was made by Maya Lin in conjunction with Systematic Landscapes at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and shares attributes with the aforementioned Pin River--Mississippi. This work, Silver River - Mississippi, may at first glance appear to be an abstract squiggle drawn high on the gallery walls. However small in scale, this silver-plated sculpture is an exact topographical rendering of the Missisippi River. By extracting a topographical rendering of the Mississippi River from its usual or expected context in terms of a two-dimensional map, Lin disrupts expectations by transforming a familiar and well-worn symbol into an abstraction. From the river as a historically-laden geographical site, Lin fashions a new icon for remembrance, an act that imbues this work with an austere, almost sublime reverence for the River.

Regarding her art and architecture practice, Lin has said that her "work starts with the impulse to feel something, to experience something." She transforms geography from a physical location or a repository for events in history's past into an experience--geography becomes a site that manifests particular cultural events and personal memories, a highly subjective act that creates a bridge between past and present. For Lin, vision is more than just sight or physical experience, serving as a reminder that the "whole body is not an assemblage of organs juxtaposed in space," rather, mind and body, vision and the senses commingle with each other. With the act of looking comes a torrent of memories as well as physical sensation, or at the very least, a curiosity as one is forced to try to figure out just what this silver squiggle is and what it represents.

Among architecture and art, between vision and the body, lies Maya Lin's practice. Engaged with the shared reality among these seeming opposites is also the reality of the physical world and geography that Lin's works document. In this sense, Lin takes the experience of art from "a conception of art that 'spiritualizes' it out of connection with the objects of concrete existence." The significance of this gesture, to restore art's relevance in the real world, positions the practice of the architect as well as the artist out of an idealized, mythic realm and into the unique existence that occurs at every lived moment.

--Corinna Kirsch, 2009-10 O'Brien Curatorial Fellow

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May 12, 2010

Video: Construction crews pour concrete columns

On Thursday, May 6, construction crews began pouring the concrete columns that will support the Weisman's four new collection galleries. Watch them work in the video below. Learn more about the expansion.


January 31, 2010

Our very humdrum lives

by Camille LeFevre
Twin Cities Arts Journalist, 2009/2010 WAMbassador


"Quotidian" is the smarty-pants word for "daily," "everyday," "commonplace." Since Marcel Duchamp turned a urinal upside down and called it art in 1917, the bold re-contextualization of the everyday (even the banal) into the elite echelons of artistic expression and enterprise has been hotly contested. Transforming the everyday into art has no doubt contributed to the democratization -the great flattening and leveling--of our culture at large (reality TV anyone?). When it comes to what gets hung a gallery wall, the results, as the Weisman Art Museum's new show Common Sense: Art and the Quotidian demonstrates, range from iconoclastic innovation to reflections of soul-deadening conformity.

Curator Diane Mullin assembled the show from the Weisman's formidable archives and loans from local collections. The work ranges from Walker Evans's 1930 haunting photographs of the working poor and disenfranchised to Luke Dubois's recent "eye charts" created from common words used in the State of Union addresses by U.S. presidents. Three particular images stayed with me from a walk through last week, however.

One was Andy Warhol's 1968-69 screenprint New England Clam Chowder. Warhol's re-contextualization of commercial grocery products (and their designs)--particularly the Campbell's soup cans--was arguably every bit as revolutionary as Duchamp's readymades (like the urinal). Hung next to James Rosenquist's 1964-65 Spaghetti and Grass--which resembles a mess of SpaghettiOs® in its top panel and artificial turf grass below--the two works sum up the mass processing and production of new foods and nature for the general masses beginning to take hold in the mid-20th century.

By the time visitors get to Anthony Marchetti's photograph Apartment for Rent, the processing of our very humdrum lives into generic, utilitarian living space produced for the masses is on display. Within the bleak beige-walled box--with a single Venetian-blinded window--the décor is limited to multiple electrical outlets, an air conditioner embedded in one wall, and a long length of cable cord winding spaghetti-like (or perhaps as an umbilical cord) along the floor. In this image is an existential question that leaves me feeling bereft, grieving for the souls that find themselves there and for a culture that allows such places to be.


January 5, 2010

From the Collection: Vito Acconci's Kiss Off

Kiss Off (1971) was made specifically for the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) Lithography Workshop, an innovative program that brought many conceptual artists, including Acconci, along with Dan Graham and John Baldessari, to produce prints as artists-in-residence throughout the program's run from 1969-1976.


The artwork's multilayered status as both a print and a performance allows for it to exist in an ambiguous state, where it is not fully one thing or another, but always in a state of perpetual "becoming." This act ties together performance and its invariable notion of the body as an artistic medium with the traditional printmaking process and its embrace of reproduction as a means to dissolve the rarified, singular artwork. Not just a formal exercise, in his early performance works, Acconci never shied away from attempts to reevaluate what can be known about gender through attempts to transform and alter the human body. From the process of Kiss Off's construction at the NSCAD workshop to the print's exhibition at the Sonnabend Gallery in New York, this artwork pinpoints a unique moment in Acconci's career. At the same time, it displays motifs common to his other works from the 1970s, including the attempt to dissolve the rigid boundaries between binary oppositions such as male/female.

For this print, one of three that Acconci produced during his tenure at NSCAD (the other two being Trademarks and Touch Stone (for VL)), Acconci coated his mouth with red lipstick and then planted kisses all over his body before rubbing himself onto the printing stone. In this artwork, the body becomes a discrete unit capable of mechanical reproduction, a quality similar to the printmaking medium's ability to produce multiples since an original image can be copied ad infinitum. Beyond printmaking, an interest in the relationship between an original image and its manifestation as a multiple corresponded with this era's interest in serial forms. Most closely associated with Minimalism, seriality was the physical expression of a repeated element in an artwork--think of Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes--exploring ideas of similarity and variance through the lens of industrial mass-production. The critic Robert Pincus-Witten once described Acconci's work as "a fusion of the Minimalist position in sculpture with a refreshed comprehension of the erotic implications in Duchamp's late sexual works...." This exploration of Minimalist concerns collided with Acconci's inclusion of the physical body as an artistic medium.

During the 1970s, Acconci often discussed his performance in terms of a calculated exploration of language systems--he began his art practice as a poet--but the body cannot be easily compartmentalized into a seemingly neutral linguistic component. In an interview with Cindy Nemser for Arts magazine, he described his work's gendered implications by stating, "I'm offering the possibility of constant movement, whether I change from a male to a female category or from a socially accepted position to a socially unaccepted one...I want to build up an idea of life--the idea that people can change from one role to another. People don't have to be limited by roles, they don't have to be rigidly enclosed in categories." Acconci marked his body with traces of the feminine, traces that resisted full erasure since he could not easily rid himself of--not able to kiss off--his sticky, red-stained lips.

Kiss Off was shown at the Sonnabend Gallery for a solo exhibition of Acconci's work which ran from September 16 through October 7, 1972. Run by the European-born Ileana Sonnabend, the gallery was well known for giving shows to a range of emerging American Post-Minimalists and providing opportunities for artists to stage sometimes controversial but frequently memorable performances that fell outside the normal parameters for commercial gallery exhibitions. In 1972 alone, the performances held at Sonnabend included Gilbert and George's Singing Sculpture and Acconci's Seedbed, the latter held prior to the exhibition of Kiss Off.

For Seedbed, a ramplike floor was constructed in the gallery underneath which, for two afternoons a week throughout the exhibition, Acconci crouched while engaged in what he described as a "private sexual activity." Visitors to the gallery could walk over and onto the structure that housed Acconci below, hidden in this ambiguously poised symbolic space for latent desires, a place for the artist's ego to exist away from the presumptions of an audience.

Due to Seedbed's performance at Sonnabend just a few months prior to the exhibition of Kiss Off, as well as sharing the motif of using the body as a site to explore the performative capacity of gender, the critical response consisted of surprise at the seeming lack of ribaldry or potential for violence. In Arts magazine, one reviewer described it as a "tamer version of that really ugly sex change piece" [Conversions, 1971]. In this work, Acconci attempted a variety of exercises to turn himself into a woman. Some exercises incited pain, including one where he burned off his chest hair. In another, he infamously inserted his penis into his partner Kathy Dillon's mouth as she crouched behind him, en effet hiding his genitals from view. Kiss Off similarly reevaluates gender as a thing requiring continuous transformations between what can be revealed and hidden. Acconci's wearing and then wiping off of lipstick enacts a closed system where his repetitive act of self-love can enact no permanent change, only temporary states of being.

More so than Conversions, a work that invokes similar themes (and lipstick) is Applications (1970), a group performance that involved Dillon, Acconci, and the artist Dennis Oppenheim. Dillon covered Acconci's arms and legs with lipstick-stained kisses which Acconci then transferred--or, to be blunt, humped--onto Oppenheim's back. Acconci later recalled about this performance: "And I remember Dennis afterward saying, 'I had no idea the work was going in this direction!' We thought this was about color transfer. Wasn't about color transfer." Indeed.

The dynamic struggle between artist/viewer, male/female, and self/other, motifs repeated throughout the range of Acconci's performance and conceptual works, frequently resulted in audiences assuming he was interested in heedless sadism--think of his 1971 work Claim where, hiding in a basement, he threatened to bludgeon with a crowbar anyone in the audience who dared come near. However, just as his performances were critiqued for their ribald shock value, as well as their potential for sexism, this all created a buzz about his work, resulting in a sort of critical notoriety. It left room for much discussion and many reviews of his early performances. Indelibly, shock value sometimes helps to cement an artist's place in history by leaving a large amount of documentation about the work for later generations to historicize.

In the 1980s, Acconci discussed in an interview how he could no longer negotiate a clear position for himself in regard to his earlier performance works, stating, "On one hand, I want to defend those pieces, and on the other, I have a feeling that they are really sexist...I certainly wouldn't do anything like that again in public and I hope I wouldn't do it in private. I hate maleness and I hate male domination, but because it is so culturally embedded I can readily fall into it." Regardless of whether sexism is a viable critique, what these performances and their respective documentation herald is a rupture in thought regarding the wholeness of a subject, whether male or female, and how the binary terms are unstable constructions through their need to be put on and repeated in order to achieve any validity, like an actor who becomes alive as a character but only during the theatre performance with the help of a costume.

James Meyer, in a discussion of the type of subject produced by Minimalist art practice--a discussion that can also apply to Acconci's early performance works--described the concern with the subject matter as "the momentary plentitude of one who is not whole; a subject who is opaque to himself and others; a self who attempts to communicate in a world where language invariably misfires." As a former poet, Acconci traded the language of words for that of the body, but it remains a language that fails to transcend.


December 21, 2009

WAM's "worth checking out," one student says

The Scholars Walk, the shoe tree, and the Weisman were among the things that graduating U of M senior Sergio Meyer just had to do before he graduated.


November 2, 2009

They got WAMmered: ceremonial groundbreaking 10/26

"Get WAMmered" was the theme of the ceremonial groundbreaking celebration at the Weisman Monday, October 26. It marked the beginning of construction on the museum's 8,100 square foot expansion project, which will add five new galleries by fall 2011.

Watch a video:


Visitors lifted a hammer and tested their strength on the High Striker. (Those who hit the bell at the top won a limited-edition t-shirt.)


University president Robert Bruininks noted the importance of the occasion in his remarks to attendees. "This is an exciting moment for the Weisman," he said. "But it is exciting for the University of Minnesota as well, as we contemplate our enormous cultural and artistic resources, and as we work to integrate arts and culture more closely into the life and curriculum of the University."

Museum volunteers raised more than $10 million from private sources for the expansion project. Target Corporation committed an additional $2 million, and the University of Minnesota contributed $2.5 million.


Joan Dayton, who co-chaired the project's capital campaign, also spoke at the event. (Carol Bemis and Karen Bachman were the other campaign co-chairs.) University vice president Steven Rosenstone and Target Corporation vice president Minda Gralnek made additional remarks.

Officials marked the occasion by raising a silver sledgehammer and pounding a steel stake into the ground where the construction will take place.



October 7, 2009

From the Collection: Marsden Hartley's Portrait

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Marsden Hartley's Portrait, 1914-15, is one of twelve paintings in his War Motif series. Made in Berlin during the artist's first stay in this, his beloved city of military pageant and masculine spectacle, the War Motif paintings depict the city and commemorate Hartley's companion and lover Karl von Freyburg, a German officer who perished in the early days of the first World War. The style and execution of Portrait is akin to Picasso's synthetic cubism of the same moment. In fact, Hartley owes a great debt to the Spanish-born, Paris-based modernist innovator whose work he knew from his stay in Paris in 1912 where he intersected with such cultural lights as Gertrude and Leo Stein and also the sculptor Arnold Rönnebeck and his cousin, Karl von Freyburg. It was this German pair who introduced Hartley to Berlin.

Portrait is both a lament for Hartley's lost partner and a celebration of the vibrant city that was their home. Hartley utilized symbolic forms to memorialize von Freyburg and their personal attachment. Such symbols include the cross at center bottom, which references the Iron Cross awarded Von Freyburg posthumously, and the numeral 4, which was the soldier's infantry number and the artist's house number in Berlin. The letter E painted at the lower left of the cross connects the artist to von Freyburg through its referral to both men--E is the first letter of Hartley's original first name (Edmund) and the letter sewn into the shoulder epaulette of many German army uniforms. Also present in the canvas are images of a Berlin's vibrant military culture that was much admired by Hartley. This can be seen in the black, white, and red lines that wave like the German flag through the center of the painting and in the abstracted image of the plumed helmet of Germany's Imperial period in the canvas's upper center.

Berlin was in the end, however, more than a triumphant spectacle of order and might for Hartley. It was also a place of personal liberation in that it was arguably the first modern city to tolerate and accommodate a gay culture. Even if a pale version of what today we would call a liberated attitude about homosexuality, Berlin in the early years of the twentieth century was home to some of the first voices and policies of tolerance on record. Although Hartley loved the city and the life it allowed him, because of political pressures he necessarily returned to the United States in 1915. Hartley never really got over either von Freyburg or Berlin--echoes of both are visible in his written and artistic work ever after.

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September 16, 2009

2009-10 exhibition season focuses on art and the everyday

Home videos posted on YouTube. Personal photos shared with the world on Flickr. The widespread appeal of the Do-It-Yourself cable channel. America's fascination with "everyday" life is clear. Beginning this fall, the Weisman Art Museum (WAM) will launch a yearlong exploration of the idea of the everyday in art and culture.


This fascination with the everyday-and its relationship to art-isn't unique to contemporary times. American artists have explored themes of the everyday for decade. For example, in the early 20th century, American painters founded the Ashcan School and depicted the street life of New York City. Later, in the 1960s and 1970s, artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Beuys questioned the distinctions between art objects and everyday objects.

Continue reading "2009-10 exhibition season focuses on art and the everyday" »

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July 31, 2009

Weisman Art Mob visits a shabby house turned modern home

Interior windows and translucent walls. Waterfall-tread steel stairs. Paired single-car garages. These are a few of the innovative elements that make architect Geoffrey Warner's Saint Paul bungalow an ideal family home.


For their July event, Weisman Art Mob members were invited inside the home and immediately began to comment on its thoughtfully planned living spaces, constructed with a blend of traditional and innovative building materials. Warner is principal architect at Alchemy Architects and his house, known as the Goodrich House, was one of many custom architecture projects for the firm. Alchemy is best known for its weeHouse, a modern manufactured home that arrives on lots in prefabricated portions and is assembled in hours.


Warner and his wife Dawn De Kayser--also an architect--purchased the home despite its sagging floors, impractical room divisions, dark spaces, and an unfinished upstairs. He and Dawn wanted to create a practical and functional space for their family of four to thrive for years to come. Their strategy was to remove unnecessary walls and create room divisions through building storage elements and custom furniture. They installed skylights, translucent walls, and interior windows to keep the house naturally and efficiently illuminated, even into the twilight hours.


Outside, the Warners have created an expansive-feeling space within their standard city lot. With landscaping help from Phillips Garden, the yard is colorfully cast using a variety of materials including Ipe decking, copper, siding, rocks, and grasses. Twin garages nestled neatly near a tidy vegetable garden and connected by a weathered steel alley wall add a historical feel and lots of charm.


Warner (pictured above right), De Kayser, and Alchemy Architects operations manager Betsy Gabler carried on individual conversations with Art Mobbers throughout the night. Members left for the evening having experienced a home that is balanced between ornate and functional, sensible and lush, and traditional and modern.

The next learning adventure for Art Mob members takes place in September; a walking tour of the U of M's public art collection. Learn more about Art Mob membership and view a full calendar of events.


July 27, 2009

From the collection: Lyonel Feininger's Drobsdorf I

This regular series offers a glimpse into the Weisman's permanent collection. Each post features an object currently on view in the galleries.


Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) is known for paintings of landscape and architectural scenes that depict the environment through layered, structured planes of space. Feininger, an American expatriate who resided in Germany until World War II, originally trained as a musician, but developed into a cartoonist in the early 1900's. It was after his encounter with the French cubists in 1911 that he realized his unique painting style.

Feininger insisted that unlike cubism, a movement in which planes of space were also fractured to present the viewer with an alternate way of viewing the world, his technique created depth instead of drawing attention to the surface. The artist's fascination with landscape and architectural scenes allowed him to explore themes of light versus shadow, and material versus immaterial. In his paintings, each of these qualities embodies the same weight and presence as the other, effectively merging the tangible and intangible.

Drobsdorf I was painted along the shore of a coastal European town. It depicts a white church whose tall spire creates a sense of ascending motion. This is further augmented by the planes of atmosphere that press into and against the building. Color is the only factor that indicates different representational forms: the white of the church stands in stark contrast to the more muted colors of the sky and earth.

The Weisman purchased Drobsdorf I from the artist in 1939. Upon his return to the United States in 1936, Feininger faced criticism from American compatriots who thought of him solely as a German artist. It was only after his work began to be exhibited by major American galleries and museums in the late 1930's that it became recognized and appreciated as that of an American artist.



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