Elizabeth Willson’s Take on “Edvard Munch: Master Prints”

The Vampire (Vampyr), 1895

On two occasions I have had the pleasure to see Edvard Munch: Master Prints, an exhibition currently running at the National Gallery of Art, here in Washington D.C.  The exhibition – which runs until November 28, 2010 – features over fifty of Munch’s lithographic, woodcut, and intaglio prints.  Pulling from three collections (the National Gallery’s own collection, and the private collections of the Epstein Family, and that of Catherine Woodard and Nelson Blitz Jr.), the exhibition showcases Munch’s haunting impressions of love, sin, modern life, and alienation, among other topics.

There were a few aspects of the NGA’s exhibition that really struck me, and that led to richer contemplation and a very enjoyable experience.  The first element used to great effect was the curator’s choice to juxtapose different versions of the same composition; this led to the viewer questioning how composition choices such as color, placement, and scale can affect the inherent meaning to both the artist and the viewer.  A good example were the three Sin prints, in which the different hair color chosen by Munch give three totally different visual and emotional impressions of the same theme.  Secondly, the exhibition’s focus on Munch’s personal life and how his feelings were communicated through his methods and chosen subject matter are particularly moving; the viewer feels both sympathy for and empathy with the artist’s plight.  On the whole, Edvard Munch: Master Prints is a fantastic, moving assemblage of work that should not be missed.


Great Studio Art Installation

Today a group of Art History students ventured up to the second floor, where the AU MFA students have their studios. We were excited to find an amazing installation, done by Adam Hager.  Adam, with the help of some friends, wove crepe paper into large sheets. He then hung these sheets up like walls and a ceiling, forming a small room. On either end of the small room he hung mirrors, which greatly magnify the space. The results are stunning. The piece is difficult to capture in photographs, but we tried our best.

Unfortunately the installation can only stay up for a day due to fire safety violations. However, another MFA student told us that the piece will be re-assembled in a pop up space in Arlington. A pop up space is a temporary exhibition area, often in unused retail space. This form of exhibiting is conducive to installation art because artists are able to have more freedom than in traditional gallery space. If you happen to be on campus today, check out this great installation in studio 266. If not, it’s definitely worth seeing when it goes to Arlington!


The outside of the work



Emily in the space



The very colorful interior


Adam Hager also has a small crepe weaving piece hanging up in the Rotunda-


Adam Hager, Untitled, 2010, crepe paper


Great work Adam!

Graduate Student Symposium: Emily McAlpine’s Experience

Click to see the flyer!

Click to see the flyer!

Last Saturday I was one of the selected students from AU to present papers at the Eighth Annual Graduate Student Symposium in the History of Art, put together jointly by American University and George Washington University. Held at GWU’s Smith Hall of Art this year, four students from each of the two schools presented talks from developed papers that they worked on in seminar classes. This year, American’s selected presenters were myself, Tiffany Meadows, Laura Phillips and Katie Boccard. We had a great turnout with an audience that was very interested in our various topics!

I presented a study of issues of formal style found in Japanese and American color woodblock prints. My topic came from one of my two “in-lieu-of-thesis” papers that I’m working on. It was developed out of Dr. Langa’s spring 2010 seminar on transnational influences in American art. The larger paper includes a study of European exchanges in the same woodblock medium, my argument being that an international style developed after the opening of Japan’s trade in 1853-1854 and culminated around the 1930s with extensive cross-cultural influences and artistic exchanges. I began by establishing a background on Japan’s new relationship with the Western world, and how Japanese artists began reacting to Western culture.

Kobayashi Kiyochika, Distant View of Mt. Fuji from the Hakone Mountains, 1880

Kobayashi Kiyochika, Distant View of Mt. Fuji from the Hakone Mountains, 1880

From there, I looked at how Japanese artists like Kobayashi Kiyochika, after growing up in a Japan open to the West, began to assimilate Western elements into his work. The subject of works like Distant View of Mt. Fuji from the Hakone Mountains shows an iconic subject of Japanese prints, but now with a Western sense of atmosphere, light and illusionistic space. In addition, the placement of the telegraph pole shows that modern technology has come to a Japan that will never be the same again.

Helen Hyde, Mount Orizaba, 1912

Helen Hyde, Mount Orizaba, 1912

The same type of formal hybridization of Japanese and Western aesthetics was also seen in the work of American artists, as seen in this print made by Helen Hyde. The recession between foreground and background is typical of Western perspective construction, but the tree branches and their placement are very Japanese ideas.

Chiura Obata, Upper Lyell Fork, 1930

Chiura Obata, Upper Lyell Fork, 1930

By the 1930s, there was an international style in place, as evidenced by Japanese-born artist Chiura Obata’s work. Obata moved to America early in his life, but was a very transnational figure. After making watercolor images of Yosemite—images of an iconic American West—Obata returned to Japan to have his watercolors turned into color woodblock prints in a very traditional Japanese workshop setting of carvers and printers. After these were made, Obata returned to America to exhibit and sell these prints. These are but a few examples that show how I traced this merging of formal elements and find that by the 1930s, color woodblock prints from both Japan and America have a nearly indistinguishable aesthetic!

Though I’d done formal presentations in the classroom before, this was my first symposium and first official talk open to the public. After excitedly finding out that my proposal had been selected in mid-June, I began to work on formatting my presentation for the symposium, improving the depth of my research over the summer. I worked with Dr. Langa in September on the final revisions and further refined and clarified my major points. We also held a rehearsal that allowed for some last-minute issues to be addressed by the other professors and students. Though I was definitely nervous, I was ready to present by the time the symposium came around. My only nerves at that point really were for the Q&A portion! All in all, it was a great experience and has given me some fresh perspectives and questions brought up by others that I can address as I complete the final paper. Thanks for reading! –Emily

Jessica Cooke’s Registrar Internship at International Arts and Artists

Second year M.A. student Jessica Cooke has a great internship at International Arts and Artists (IA&A).  IA&A is a non-profit visual arts organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural understanding and international exposure to the arts.  Founded in 1995, IA&A fulfills its mission by providing programs and services to artists, arts institutions, cultural organizations and the public.  Jessica is interning with the Traveling Exhibitions Service.  This department develops and circulates fine art exhibitions to  institutions throughout the U.S. and abroad.  These exhibitions cover a broad range of art and cultural concepts from both international and American artists, as well as compiling works from significant collections and art movements world-wide. During its fifteen-year history, the organization has collaborated with more than 300 museums and cultural institutions in 49 states and 30 foreign countries.

As the Traveling Exhibition Registrar Intern, Jessica is responsible for approving shipping arrangements, maintaining checklists, and managing crate lists. She regularly collects Certificates of Insurance, facility reports and condition reports from various venues. Jessica has also been creating artist biographies for the IA&A website and helping with general collection maintenance.  Jessica is currently assisting with a deaccession project for the Hechinger Collection.  The Hechinger Collection was donated to IAA by John Hechinger, the founder of Hechinger hardware stores.  Hechinger used his collection to decorate not only his home but also the headquarters of his chain of stores.  Not surprisingly, the collection consists of artwork that utilizes or is themed around tools.  It includes works by Fernand Leger, Jim Dine, and Jean Tinguely.  Selections from IA&A’s Hechinger Collection are on view in IA&A’s offices and are also exhibited at the Hillyer Art Space.  IA&A regularly provides groupings from the collection for tour as with the exhibition Tools in Motion and can loan individual works to other exhibiting institutions.  To check out some examples from this collection see their webpage here- http://www.artsandartists.org/exhibitions/hechingerdatabase.html or see below.

Wayne Thiebaud, Paint Cans, 1990


Jacob Lawrence, Carpenters, 1977


Fernand Leger, Les Constructeurs, 1951

Daniel Mack, Chair Maker's Chair, 1989