Highlighted Works from Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection, a traveling exhibition curated and organized by The Whitney Museum of American Art, opened at the Asheville Art Museum earlier this summer. This exhibition features a wide selection of art works from a historic gift pledged to The Whitney in 2010 by longtime trustee Emily Fisher Landau. This exhibition includes more than eighty works from Landau’s collection of 419 works by nearly one hundred key figures in American art.

Earlier this month, Museum volunteers and staff were able to take part in an in-depth tour and discussion led by the Museum’s Adult Programs Manager. Because Legacy is a large exhibition with many complex works, this week’s blog post highlights several works that are particularly intriguing.

Edward Ruscha’s Lion in Oil, for example, is an interesting and complex work. Ruscha is a prominent Pop Artist, whose text-based works frequently comment on the absurdity of mass-media images and information that are fed to us daily. In Lion in Oil, the text painted on the work is a palindrome; it says the same thing whether you read the letters forward or backwards. The painting itself is also symmetrical. Through this work Ruscha challenges the conventional style of reading and forces the viewer to rethink his or her approach to language. Lion in Oil can be seen in the Museum’s second floor galleries. Adjacent works on view in the same space are primarily focused on the use of text and language, and most portray themes of self-reflection.

In an adjacent room on the second floor are several works by artist Jasper Johns. Jasper Johns is frequently viewed as a bridge between the Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art movements. He uses primary colors that were common in Pop Art, but his works are typically more abstract and, in several cases, more minimalist than traditional Pop Art. Each of the works displayed in the ‘Jasper Johns room’ portrays one of three prominent motifs: crosshatching, targets, or flags. Johns believed that crosshatching was a form of semiotics, or a specific artistic language, so crosshatching is present in nearly all of his works. His use of targets and flags are examples of Op-Art, in which the artist elevates the status of an everyday object to art, inviting the viewer to look carefully and contemplate things that are normally mundane in a new way.

Upstairs, in the Appleby Memorial Gallery, visitors will see several Rodney Graham photographs depicting trees that appear to be hanging upside down. These photographs were meant to emulate photographs produced in ‘camera obscura’ form, a primitive photographic technique of taking pictures upside down. While Graham did not use a camera obscura (he took his photos right side up and then flipped them for display), the similarities to the once-popular technique cause the viewer to re-think the artist’s chosen method and appreciate the beauty of the trees in a new way.

Also seen in the Appleby Memorial Gallery are several paintings by Glenn Ligon, an African-American artist whose works explore the controversy of the Central Park Jogger case of 1989. According to widely-publicized news reports on the case, five young African-American and Latino men were wrongfully convicted of assaulting a white, female jogger in Central Park, New York. The five men served between six and thirteen years in prison before the real perpetrator was caught. Ligon stencils redacted text from the New York Times describing the suspects on white canvas interposed with larger symbols, such as the profile of a man’s head and a large letter X. These works are part of the artist’s Profile series, which refers to racial profiling, profile portraiture, and police profiles. For more information on the Central Park Jogger Case, Ken Burns’ documentary “The Central Park Five” reviews the case and its impact on New York City and the world. http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/centralparkfive/about/overview/

Finally, a painting by Susan Rothenberg, found in the same room as Glenn Ligon’s works, provides lighter subject matter. Though Rothenberg’s large painting is entitled Tuning Fork, the work is also part of Rothenberg’s series of paintings depicting horses. If the viewer looks closely, the tuning fork also resembles a horse and his shadow. This optical illusion demonstrates how a viewer’s perception is greatly influenced by language. Because the title of the work is Tuning Fork, most viewers will only see a tuning fork, and perhaps will never see the horse and his shadow in the painting. Susan Rothenberg was particularly influential in the 1980s, when the art world returned to painting after a long emphasis on conceptual and mixed-media art.

The works highlighted here provide only a small sample of the vast collection of works on view in Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection. These works explore many themes and represent artistic movements such as Pop Art, Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism. Legacy: The Emily Fisher Landau Collection will be on view through Sunday, September 8, 2013.

 

Works discussed in this blog post include:

Ed Ruscha, Lion in Oil, 2002, Synthetic polymer on canvas with tape. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of the Fisher Landau Center for Art  P.2010.330

Jasper Johns, Target, 1973, Color screenprint on paperEdition no. 41/100, Printed by Simca Print Artists, New York. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.138

Jasper Johns, Corpse and Mirror, 1976, Color screenprint, Edition no. 17/65. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.141

Jasper Johns, Cicada II, 1979/81, Color screenprint on paper, Edition no. 29/50, Printed by Simca Print Artists, New York and Tokyo; published by the artist and Simca Print Artists. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.149

Jasper Johns, Usuyuki, 1981, Color screenprint, Edition no. 56/85. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau.

Jasper Johns, Screen Piece, 1972, Color screenprint, Edition no. 29/37. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.133

Jasper Johns, Usuyuki, 1983, Synthetic polymer and collage on plastic. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.117

Jasper Johns, Flags II, 1973, Screenprint, Edition no. 25/60. Printed by Simca Print Artists, New York and Tokyo; published by the artist and Simca Print Artists. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau.

Jasper Johns, Flags I, 1973, Screenprint, Edition no. 64/65. Printed by Simca Print Artists, New York and Tokyo; published by the artist and Simca Print Artists. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.135

Rodney Graham, Oak, Swalcliffe, 1990, From the portfolio Oxfordshire Oaks, Fall 1990, 1990, Chromogenic print. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift from the Emily Fisher Landau Collection  2011.153

Rodney Graham, Oak, Banford, 1990, From the portfolio Oxfordshire Oaks, Fall 1990, 1990, Chromogenic print. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift from the Emily Fisher Landau Collection 2011.151

Glenn Ligon, Profile Series, 1990/1991.

The Son of a Role Model, 1990-91

A Loner, Shy and Sad, 1990-91

Little Brother with a Big Brother, 1990-91

Peaceful Demeanor and High Scores (Charges Dropped), 1990-91

Strict Discipline and Class Cutting (Charges Dropped), 1990-91

Learning Disability and a Temper, 1990-91

Sharp Dresser with a Strut, 1990-91

Success with Girls, 1990-91

Oil on eight canvasses. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.1901-h

Susan Rothenberg, Tuning Fork, 1980, Synthetic polymer and vinyl-based paint on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; promised gift of Emily Fisher Landau P.2010.247