Paper + People is a blog about the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection of over 18,000 prints, drawings, and photographs. Here you will find a diverse array of posts written by museum staff, students, scholars, and other paper enthusiasts about anything pertaining to the collection.
Any works you see featured here are available to view by appointment.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
William T. Wiley is something of a cult hero among artists. He is associated with the West Coast Funk Art scene, the irreverent and whimsical anti-establishment art movement that blossomed at the University of California, Davis in the 1960s. His sculptures, paintings, watercolors and performance art works combine Zen philosophy, political commentary, satire, visual and verbal puns and quirky personal symbolism.
Wiley began working in watercolor in 1968, after a six month artist’s block. Small and delicate, and eminently out of fashion in the contemporary art world, watercolor allowed Wiley to work in a personal, searching, off-beat manner. His watercolors, like his sculptures, are assemblages of sorts, contrasting exquisitely rendered drawings, often of an assortment of curiously grouped objects, with hand-written text. Influenced by Zen koans, statements of questions that resist linear thought, Wiley produced images and texts that blur the line between wisdom and whimsy.
Our watercolor and ink drawing Where Do You Put the Emphasisdepicts a series of blue circles against a craggy background that resembles desert topography. The text reads: “Where do you put the emphasis? Providing there is such a thing.” The reference to “emphasis” suggests punctuation (especially since there is no final period in the text), but visually the circles evoke marbles or billiard balls more than periods, games of strategy, and chance.
This little drawing is one of my favorite objects from our new Pokross Collection of modern and contemporary art from Shared Inspiration: The Muriel K. and David R. Pokross Collection.As I researched Wiley for the exhibition, trying to learn more about this object, I was pulled into the labyrinth of associations that is Wiley’s personal mythology. For starters, I found that the circle motif kept cropping up elsewhere in Wiley’s work during 1971.
In Random Remarks and Digs(pictured below), he conceived of the circles as atoms and molecules visible to the naked eye:
I even found the motif elsewhere in our collection. Coast Reverse,printed on chamois leather, was made in 1972:
Read more about Shared Inspiration: The Muriel K. and David R. Pokross Collection hereand here.Then come see Where Do You Put the Emphasisand Coast Revereby making an appointmentat the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
Friday, August 17, 2012
Guest blogger Kendyll Gross was a 2012 participant in the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies at Smith College. She also served as the 2012 Brown SIAMS Fellow, which offers one SIAMS student a four-week internship in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs.
When I was accepted into the Summer Institute in Art Museum Studies (SIAMS)program, I could wrap my mind around the weekly readings and writing assignments, the extensive traveling, and the career exploration days we would be doing. However, I could not fully grasp the concept of putting on an exhibition in only six weeks, something that usually takes years of planning and work. It was not until I set foot in the museum’s Nixon gallery for the first time that the imminence of our exhibition seemed so real. It was exciting to see the objects that we could include in our show, but it was also overwhelming knowing how much work we had to do in so little time.
Our class of fifteen was divided into three groups of five: Curatorial, Education, and Design and Public Presentation. After choosing thirty-three pieces, Curatorial was then faced with the challenge of weaving together these diverse objects into a single theme. How would we tie together a twentieth-century W. Eugene Smith photograph with an eighteenth-century French snuff box? The Master ZBM print, Pandora’s Box or An Allegory of Les Sciences qui Éclairent l'esprit de l'homme (The Sciences that Illuminate the Human Spirit),was a great inspiration for our theme. The myth of Pandora’s Box has popularized the notion of the box as an object of curiosity as it conceals its contents from the viewer. We wanted our exhibition to challenge the idea of what a box was by evoking a dialogue between objects from diverse cultures and time periods in a respectful manner. Just like Pandora, we wanted our audience to be fascinated by our boxes and to question them - to truly think outside the [box].
With our theme and object checklist established, it was time for Design and Public Presentation and Education to make the gallery come alive. Design and Public Presentation were responsible for the overall design of the show and the marketing materials, choosing a color scheme that would complement the objects, organizing the layout of the gallery, and installing the art. As a member of the Education team, I worked closely with fellow classmates to create the didactic materials for outside the [box].We did not want the labels to dominate the viewer’s experience, so we mixed a few extensive labels of varying lengths with short “tombstones” labels. We also refrained from using words and concepts that appeared too academic. An alcove within the gallery serves as a place for families to reflect upon what they see in the exhibition. It also gives them the chance to tack sticky notes on the museum’s wall while reading an adorable story about a bunny with a grand imagination. While the introductory wall text sets the tone of the exhibition, the kids’ pamphlet and audio tour serve as guides to help the audience interact with the show.
It was an honor to work with such an enthusiastic and bright group as a part of the SIAMS class of 2012. Together, we constructed an entire exhibition from scratch in six weeks, utilizing each other and our resourceful SCMA mentors for guidance and support. We truly hope that the Northampton community will enjoy our show as much as we enjoyed creating it.
Outside the [Box]is on view in the Nixon gallery until September 30, 2012. Read more about the exhibition here.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Did you know...?
The Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs is an incredible resource for groups and individuals interested in viewing works on paper in an intimate environment. Housed within the Smith College Museum of Art, the Cunningham Center allows visitors to experience direct, close encounters with prints, drawings, and photographs. Our collectionincludes over 16,000 works on paper dating anywhere from the 15th century to the present, and the number is constantly growing as we acquire new works! Visiting the Museum is just seeing the tip of the iceberg; prints, drawings, and photographs comprise over 70% of the Smith College Museum of Art’s collection.
This blog is our virtual tool with which we can share highlights from our collection of works on paper, as well as behind-the-scenes experiences of those who work in or visit the Cunningham Center. The best way to access our extraordinary collection is, however, to come visit us in person! We strongly encourage allvisitors – individuals or groups; art enthusiasts; families; students, scholars, and classes of any level or discipline.
The Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs is open by appointment Tuesday-Friday from 10 AM – 4 PM, year-round. You are invited schedule a time to view specific prints, drawings, and photographs of your choosing which can be found using our online database(make sure you specify that you are searching the Smith College collection in the drop-down menu). To make an appointment, or for further information, please call 413.585.2764 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. We, the staff of the Cunningham Center, hope you will take this amazing opportunity to discover, explore, and personally engage with our collection!