Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (aka Alice Walton) made public a couple of acquisitions for the future Bentonville showplace last week: Kerry James Marshall's “Our Town” and Mary McCleary's “The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer.”
Most of the acquisitions Crystal Bridges has announced in the past year have been contemporary works. Crystal Bridges Curator Chris Crosman said in an interview Monday with the Times that the acquisitions reflect a decision to engage younger audiences with the “artists and artworks of their own times” and a “coming to the realization that to tell the story of American art you couldn't leave out the last chapter.”
In 2004, when Walton announced she would build the museum, the collection was described as being limited to works made before 1950. John Wilmerding, who has advised Walton on the collection for several years, has himself gotten more involved with contemporary art, Crosman noted. Wilmerding, an authority on American art and who has his own important collection, has recently published writings on pop artists Robert Indiana and Tom Wesselman and photorealist Richard Estes.
“Our Town,” which at 8 feet 4 inches by 11 feet 10 inches is certainly on a late 20th century scale, depicts two African-American children painted Dick-and-Jane reader style, cruising their well-to-do neighborhood, he on a bike, she running alongside. Blue birds carry streamers above the children's heads a la Cinderella and “Our Town” is painted across the top of the picture. It's purely cynical of course; the little girl has all-white thought bubbles coming from her head and the lower left side of the picture has been painted with white graffiti. The expressions on the children's faces — one dull and one suspicious — are anything but happy, as if they're clued in to the unreality.
The painting was bought at auction for $782,000 (including the buyer's premium) at Christie's “Post War and Contemporary Evening Sale” last May in New York. It was the same auction at which a Richard Diebenkorn (“Ocean Park No. 117) was purchased by an anonymous bidder on the phone for $6.5 million. At only 45 inches by 45 inches, it would fit nicely on the walls of CBMA. Just have to wait and see on that one.
“Our Town” will be exhibited in a retrospective of Marshall's work May 8 to Jan. 10, 2011, in Vancouver, Canada.
New museum director Don Bacigalupi saw McCleary's work in an exhibit and brought it to Walton's attention. The work on paper (39 and a half inches by 50 and three-fourth inches) is a collage; a man with a painted face stands in front of a burning house rendered in what Crosman said was unparalleled detail in wire, twigs and glitter. You will, of course, recognize the title as being from William Butler Yeats' “The Second Coming” (“Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer”). The artist is, like Walton, a Texan, and a Regent's Professor Emeritus at Stephen F. Austin State University.
Ouachita Baptist University is a stop on South Carolina artist Jonathan Brilliant's “Have Sticks Will Travel Tour,” which means folks will be able to watch the South Carolina artist assemble a giant sculpture out of coffee stir-sticks in the school's Hammons Gallery this week and next. The work will be complete by March 11, when a reception will be held from 5:30 p.m. in the gallery, in the Mabee Fine Arts building.
Vietnam war photos by former Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and Bruce Wesson go on exhibit March 5 at the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. “Warrior: Vietnam Portraits by Two Guys from Hall” includes work Tucker did as a civilian war correspondent in 1965 and 1967 and Wesson did as leader of the Army's Military Assistance Command Vietnam combat photography and film team. Tucker and Wesson will be at the museum for a preview at 2 p.m. March 4. A second Vietnam exhibit will open Nov. 11.