James Volkert's work at the Historic Arkansas Museum — small copies of masterpieces put into structures of some sort — is a must-see show, if not tonight at 2nd Friday Art Night, then before the show goes down Nov. 6. The Conway artist — a museum professional — could have had a career in making fakes, but he chose instead to put iconic art in unusual settings. For example, he's lined up 16 small figures — painters — in front of easels on which 16 canvases, each of them a Van Gogh, sit. They are his last 16 paintings, the title of the piece tells us. Volkert has also put copied segments of paintings from the collection at Crystal Bridges Museum of American art and encased them in five wooden crates labeled on one side with the name of the painting — a detail from Peale's painting of George Washington, Asher B. Durand's "Kindred Spirits" and so forth. He's copied a Winslow Homer painting of men at sea and turned it into a sail. Great stuff.
His pairing with
Jose Jorge Villegas makes sense only in that they share initials (hence the exhibition name "The J.V. Double"). Villegas' pencil drawings of women can't compete, though his "Wenonah Fay No. 2" (colored pencil, 6 feet by 49 inches) has a commanding presence. Some of the other portraits show a fine careful line but the rest stray too far into a realm better suited to advertising — pretty women with long hair (see earlier blog item). I'll add, however, that just as I was forming a critical thought about one picture, a child came up behind me and said, "That's beautiful." So it is.
I apologize for the poor quality of my photograph of "Wenonah Fay" below.