Joslyn Opens Reinstalled Galleries of Modern and Contemporary Art
At a private reception on April 17, 2014, Joslyn Art Museum officially reopened its Pavilion galleries, debuting the reinstallation of its collection of modern and contemporary art. Special guests for the evening were members of the family of Omaha art collector Phillip Schrager — his widow Terri, brother Harley, and sister-in-law Beth — who generously donated an important mixed-media work by Frank Stella from the Phillip Schrager Collection of Contemporary Art to Joslyn earlier this year. The monumental piece, Nogaro (1982), is the first major work by Stella to enter Joslyn’s collection and one of four new acquisitions on view for the first time at the Museum (see Highlights below).

Karin Campbell, Joslyn’s Phil Willson Curator of Contemporary Art, noted, “With the addition of several significant recent acquisitions, this new installation provides a fresh perspective on contemporary art at Joslyn. An exciting dialogue has emerged between these new gifts and acquisitions and the major works that form the core of our post-war collection.”

The three reinstalled galleries are located in the Museum’s Scott Pavilion. Visits to these galleries are included in free general Museum admission.

Reinstallation Overview:

Jackson Pollock’s painting Galaxy (1947), the cornerstone of the Museum’s modern and contemporary collection, begins the exploration of abstraction in American art following World War II. Galaxy is one of Pollock’s first “drip” paintings, lively compositions that garnered attention for being “all-over,” or painted without regard for the edge of the canvas. A defining characteristic of Abstract Expressionism, this style would greatly influence other mid-twentieth century painters, including Helen Frankenthaler, whose lyrical canvas, Monoscape (1969), returns to view in the reinstallation. More recent artists have also looked to the innovations of Abstract Expressionism. Christopher Wool’s Untitled (2006) recalls the gestural approach of Abstract Expressionists, but was created with stencils and rags. Nearby, Ross Bleckner’s 1944-1945 (1977/1980), an enigmatic, multi-panel work, straddles the line between painting and drawing. In sharp contrast are major sculptural works by Donald Judd and Martin Puryear. Judd’s pristine wall sculpture from 1982 epitomizes the industrial aesthetic of clean lines, pure colors, and basic geometric forms that characterize Minimalism, while Puryear’s subdued Self (1978) celebrates the inherent physical qualities of his chosen medium of hand-crafted wood.

The Pavilion galleries will feature periodic rotations of Joslyn’s impressive holdings of prints and works on paper. The current installation focuses on American Pop art, which emerged in the late 1950s in reaction to the growth of consumerism and advertising. Major paintings by Tom Wesselmann and Roger Shimomura hang alongside prints by some of the most important American artists of the twentieth century, including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Wayne Thiebaud.

Two works — one a Joslyn favorite, the other a recent acquisition — come together to highlight different uses of technology. Nam Jun Paik’s Couch Potato (1994), a robot assembled from a variety of electronic devices, reclines in an easy chair. The work includes a fax machine, so that visitors can add their thoughts to the installation. Jennifer Steinkamp’s mesmerizing digital projection Judy Crook, 2 (2012) is on view for the first time (see Highlights below).

Reinstallation Highlights:

The reinstallation includes four recent acquisitions in various media. These include:

Frank Stella’s early work, made during the 1950s and 60s, employs geometric shapes and bold lines to explore the flat picture plane. In the early 1970s, the artist began experimenting with relief. His work became increasingly voluminous, growing away from the wall into the viewer’s physical space. By the 1980s, Stella had totally eschewed the austere flatness of his early canvases. These late works feature bold, graffiti-like paint application that emphasizes the shape of the underlying metal support to create forms that appear to float in space.

Nogaro is from Stella’s Circuit series (1980-84), twenty-two wall-mounted aluminum pieces named for cities with automobile racetracks. These dynamic, curvilinear constructions reveal the loose approach to form Stella achieved late in his career and epitomize his deft handling of three-dimensional space. For Nogaro, the artist eliminated all references to the traditional picture plane, allowing the wall to become the frame that contains the “painting.”

What's Pictured: (Above) Frank Stella (American, b. 1936), Nogaro, 1982, from the Circuit series (2nd version), mixed media on aluminum, 115 x 120 x 24 inches, Gift of the Phillip Schrager Collection of Contemporary Art from Terri, Harley and Beth Schrager, 2014.2

Jennifer Steinkamp is one of the most highly regarded digital video artists working today. By projecting images directly onto walls and other architectural features, Steinkamp alters how we experience physical space. Her work is inspired in part by the West Coast Light and Space artists of the 1960s, who created subtle atmospheric effects through immersive, perceptually challenging gallery installations.

Judy Crook, 2 is part of an ongoing series that honors teachers who profoundly impacted Steinkamp’s life and fostered her artistic career. Judy Crook taught Steinkamp during her undergraduate studies at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, and was influential for her command of color theory. Appropriately, color plays a central role in Judy Crook, 2. In this animation, a tree sways elegantly as its leaves gradually shift from the vibrant greens of springtime to the warm hues of autumn before finally being shed, leaving its branches barren. The cycle begins again as the tree buds new leaves.

What's Pictured: (Above) Jennifer Steinkamp (American, b. 1958), Judy Crook, 2, 2012, single-channel digital video projection, duration: 3 minutes 25 seconds, Museum purchase, bequest of Rose Marie Baumgarten, 2013.10

Tina Barney first gained acclaim for her large, snapshot-like color photographs of family and friends. Yet despite their scale, Barney’s images maintain a sense of intimacy and familiarity. The Garage is from her most recent series, Small Towns:
In 2005, I was driving from my house, where I’ve