As you enter the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center’s (FLLAC) newest exhibition, you are greeted by Andy Warhol’s iconic “Cow”. This work is part of a group of 55 new additions to the FLLAC’s permanent collection, entitled Recent Acquisitions: Works on Paper. Along with three rarely seen paintings on loan from the Century Association, these pieces are viewable in the FLLAC’s galleries for a limited time, before being placed in the center’s permenant storage or, in the case of the aforementioned painting, returned to their home in New York City.
The Recent Acquisitions represent a temporal and stylistic array, taken from a variety of sources. “In the Works on Paper show, we just tried to get a really representative sample. We’ve had an abundance in the past two years, a large number through acquisition or gift,” said Margaret Vitare, the FLLAC’s Coordinator of Public Education and Information. “We’ve also chosen a wide range of works, which is also characteristic of this show. It has this great span from the Renaissance to the most contemporary work, range of media.”
The FLLAC’s Curator of Prints and Drawings, Patricia Phagan, who co-curated the collection along with Mary-Kay Lombino, noted that the variety of genres and styles in the exhibition is reflective of the FLLAC’s accumulation of works as a whole.
“The diversity of works in the show takes a strong cue from the diversity of the permanent collection,” she wrote in an emailed statement.
The collection already had strong works in many categories, including old Master prints and drawings, and Phagan wanted to expand upon them.
“We try to build upon those strengths. At the same time, we want to further develop several areas including photography, 19th-century drawings, and 20th-century and 21st-century prints and drawings. Our strategy in acquiring works has to do with judging how a proposed work would strengthen the collection and if the work is bold and significant enough for the collection,” she said.
Within the collection, Phagan was particularly excited about a couple of pieces. “I was elated when we purchased Giorgio Ghisi’s ‘Allegory of Life (The Dream of Raphael)’ since it is a phenomenal engraving—the masterwork of the artist,” she said. “Having it builds up our Italian old master print area in a very special way.” Similarly, she was excited about the addition of “Cow,” which she believes serves as a good centerpiece for the show.
One of the most striking works in the collection, according to Vitare, is a large photograph by Richard Barnes entitled “Murmur #23.” The large piece depicts a group of starlings (birds) that Barnes photographed while in Rome. “When you see it in person in the gallery, it has an incredible impact,” Vitare said.
Vitare believes that Works on Paper is important in part because it is emblematic of the process by which the museum acquires pieces. “I think what’s interesting about the show is it helps people understand how a collection is built. Between purchases that we make, gifts that made to us, bequests—sometimes things come to us and they’ve left us in their will—and many of our gifts are from alumni,” she said.
Phagan expanded on this notion of how the FLLAC functions. “We have opportunities throughout a single year for accepting gifts and bequests of works of art and in making purchases, and these accepted works fall within a broad range of time periods and cultures,” she explained. “So when it came time to choose works for this exhibition of recent acquisitions, we had a lot of works to consider.”
Because the pieces in the collection are on a paper base, it is necessary to take them down after a certain period of time, something works on other bases are not susceptible to.
“Works on paper are inherently fragile and cannot be shown on a permanent basis since they deteriorate with too much light exposure,” Phagan explained. “So we store them in sturdy solander boxes and share them with students and professors through classes coming to visit the teaching gallery or the print room at the Art Center.”
But these recent acquisitions are not the only prominently featured works at the moment. The Century Association, a New York City club composed of more than two thousand artists, which has buildings under renovation through 2013, is lending the FLLAC three paintings to compliment their current collection of paintings from the Hudson River School.
The largest of the three, which sits at the end of the gallery, is also the most breathtaking, according to Vitare. “The most exciting work is this huge Asher B. Durand painting, ‘Kaaterskill Clove,’” she said. “It’s this very impressive vista through the Catskills that are kind of folding and folding as the eye recedes all the way across. She had even more to say about the striking perspective that Durand’s work serves the viewer..
“The fact that the view is up a little bit, it’s like being on top of Ferris wheel, it gives that sense of transcendence that so many of the Hudson River School were looking at,” she explained.
Another work in the trio is John Frederick Kensett’s “The Hemlock,” which is interesting alongside Durand’s large work, among other works in the gallery. “It’s neat to look at in conjunction with the Durand which has these similarly craggy hemlock and a couple of other tree studies in the gallery,” Vitare said.
The final piece is “The Hohenstaufen” by German artist Emanuel Leutze, who was part of the the Dusseldorf School, itself very similar to Hudson River School. These two schools of art refer to groups of artists painting in a similar style and often depicting many of the same subjects.
The two are similar in look and period, manifesting themselves in the mid-1800s. One of Durand’s paintings even features Emmanual Leautze and William Cullen Bryant standing together in the Catskills, demonstrating overlap between the groups.
And examining “The Hohenstaufen“ alongside the aforementioned works yields fascinating comparisons. “Leautze’s work shows that European kind of mode of Romanticism and that’s why it forms an interesting counterpoint to the other two,” Vitare said. These paintings will be with the Loeb until the Century Association completes their construction.