On April 4, the Art History Program hosted its Distinguished Scholar Lecture in Abramson Recital Hall in the Katzen Arts Center. The undergraduate Art History award winners were also announced during the program. Jordan Hillman won the Robert and Susan Pence Award for Outstanding Art History Senior, Thomas Williams was awarded the Art History Faculty Award for Outstanding Art History Senior, and Caroline Marsh was presented with the Maiden Scholarship for Junior Art History Major.
John Ravenal, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, delivered the Distinguished Scholar Lecture to students, faculty, and members of the American University community.
Ravenal’s talk was entitled “Building a 21st Century Collection.” He discussed his method for creating a modern and contemporary collection for VMFA that represents a wide range of cultures, materials, and subjects while still remaining appropriate to the museum’s status as a state institution.
Ravenal highlighted several key works in VMFA’s collection, including Fred Tomaselli’s Woodpecker (2008; above). Woodpecker is an extremely detailed, meticulously produced collaged and painted work. The eye of the woodpecker, for example, is made up of tens of tiny collaged images of eyes, while the feathers consist of hundreds of images of natural forms.
Ravenal concluded with a discussion of Ryan McGinness’ Art History is Not Linear (2009), commissioned by the museum. The work, consisting of sixteen four-by-four foot panels, responds to objects in VMFA’s collection. McGinness studied and sketched selected VMFA works, created “logos” based on the works, and then silkscreened the logos onto the panels in carefully designed arrangements. Ravenal discussed how McGinness’ painting serves as an excellent introduction to the collection and also provides unexpected connections between works in different departments.
VMFA completed an expansion project in 2010 and now boasts a new wing and sculpture garden. Make sure to check out their website and plan a visit. The museum’s current exhibitions include “Making History: 20th Century African American Art,” and “Diana Al-Hadid: Trace of a Fictional Third.”
Thank you to John Ravenal for an engaging lecture, and congratulations to this year’s award recipients!