Blogs Centerpoints Art History

From the Archives: The Walker Curator Who Sparked a Red-Baiting Scandal

Art Interrupted: Advancing American Art and the Politics of Cultural Diplomacy is a new touring exhibition that sheds light on what one scholar called “one of the most infamous examples of red-baitingand censorship in the pre-McCarthy era United States”—and on the Walker’s first curator, J. Leroy Davidson, who was at the center of it all.

From the Archives: A tribute to Louise Walker McCannel (1915 – 2012)

Louise Walker McCannel, granddaughter of Walker founder Thomas Barlow Walker, played a critical role in the history of the Walker: both the private Walker Art Galleries and the public Walker Art Center. After graduating from Smith College in 1937, where she earned a degree in Fine Arts, Louise and her brother, Hudson, became the caretakers […]

Louise Walker McCannel, granddaughter of Walker founder Thomas Barlow Walker, played a critical role in the history of the Walker: both the private Walker Art Galleries and the public Walker Art Center. After graduating from Smith College in 1937, where she earned a degree in Fine Arts, Louise and her brother, Hudson, became the caretakers of the vast and varied art collection amassed by T.B. Walker. Louise was appointed director of the Walker Art Galleries and while Hudson left for New York in 1938, she stayed to help facilitate the Walker Art Galleries 1939 transition to the Walker Art Center. She worked at the new institution in many capacities: as director of the Children’s Gallery, editor of the Magazine of Art, and assistant curator.

Smith College yearbook photograph, 1937

As curator, she worked on the Walker’s extension program: educational outreach in the form of 36 small exhibitions that circulated throughout the state of Minnesota. These thematic shows—on jewelry, Chinese painting, and Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt, and based on works in the T.B. Walker Collection—used portable panels for easy transport, a format that may seem old fashioned and quaint today, but was a very progressive form of outreach in 1940.

Louise Walker, far left, reviewing installation panels for the exhibition “Egypt, Greece, and Rome,” 1940.

 

“Egypt, Greece and Rome” exhibition panels in transport, 1940 (This photo and photo above: Rolphe Dauphin for Walker Art Center)

McCannel was instrumental in helping the Walker through its early years as an art center, and continued to serve on its board for more than 60 years. She was an active member from 1950 to 1997, and in 1998, after she became an honorary board member, continued to be a staunch supporter.

Louise, foreground, at a board meeting with Alma Walker and Justin Smith, 1950s (Photo: Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)

McCannel, in documentarian mode, films the 1969 demolition of the Walker Art Center building, which made way for the 1971 building designed by Edward Larabee Barnes. With her is longtime board member David M. Winton.

  McCannel’s work and her philanthropy extended far beyond the Walker, as well. In a story about her life in the Star Tribune, Walker director emeritus Martin Friedman, who worked with her over several decades, described her as “a fierce, no holds-barred liberal when it came to social causes. She was always on the side of the little guy. She had a great sense of community and was an enemy of anything that smacked of racism. She was really dedicated to making a better world.”

 Read the full Star Tribune story here, and McCannel’s obituary here

Louise Walker McCannel (This photo and photo above: Minneapolis Star Tribune)

 

 

 

 

Sez Oprah: “everyone’s crazy about” International Klein Blue

The freight trucks arrived at the Walker last week and installation crews are currently installing Yves Klein’s first U.S. retrospective in more than 30 years, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, which opens here October 23. Meanwhile, thanks to the show’s acclaimed run at the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C. — and fashion editors and […]

yves klein blue acessories

from "The Color of Style for Fall 2010," in the October issue of "O"

The freight trucks arrived at the Walker last week and installation crews are currently installing Yves Klein’s first U.S. retrospective in more than 30 years, Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers, which opens here October 23. Meanwhile, thanks to the show’s acclaimed run at the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C. — and fashion editors and stylists, whose long-range schedules are nicely in sync with the museum world’s — “International Klein Blue” has become the breakout hue for fall.

A sizable fashion-and-home spread in Oprah’s O magazine features an interview with Leatrice Eiseman, head of the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training, who notes that IKB “has a luminous, intense quality that’s really striking. … You’re drawn into it, almost like you’re seeing a light illuminated through it. It’s magical, mystical, infinite, deep” — an observation that sounds strikingly similar to reviwers’ takes on Klein’s monochromes in the retrospective.

As with Oprah’s stylists in the image above, those at Anthropologie are also sprinkling IKB pigment around like so much fairy dust — or its close cousin, presuming they were unable to acquire Klein’s actual, patented IKB pigment. The picture below, from the Walker’s Shape of Time exhibition of works from the Walker collection, shows a trough of the true blue stuff, positioned in front of Klein’s Mondo Cane Shroud.

FYI, some lucky devils in this world have coffee tables made with vitrines full of (yes, patented) IKB pigment, as shown at Design Crisis, whose co-blogger Erin is “OBSESSED with Yves Klein and his badass blue.” She covered Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers here, but last March (i.e. months before the current Klein-o-rama), she also wrote a lengthy post on Klein and interior design, which she called “a labor of love. As in, I literally feel like I just squeezed out a giant blue baby” — a comment that must have had Klein dancing with delight somewhere in his blue heaven. After all, he liked to say that he “impregnated” visitors to one of his gallery openings with IKB, in the form of cocktails that carried his International Klein Blue out into the world, via their urine.

Moving back to fashion, the IKB trend also embraces looks for men; the following puzzling angle on Kleinian fashion from the “men’s clothing, men’s wear” blog may well be a result of a Google translation, but it does attempt a broader art-historical positioning of the artist:

2011 Spring Men's ten week point prevalence

Jil Sander

2011 Spring Men's ten week point prevalence

Prada

“In 1957, French artist Yifukelai because (Yves Klein) in Milan exhibition on display at the 8 same size , similar group of green pigments painted canvas – ” Klein Blue , ” an official appearance in front of the world . Since then, this color was officially named ” International Klein Blue “(International Klein Blue, called IKB). Looking around the spring and summer show season games Gucci handbags, all from Jil Sander to Prada Klein blue preference seems to have added a large number of blocks of color rendering , so the original white male models become more pale , sharp . Live to 34 -year-old Klein, June 6, 1962 in a heart attack . He is considered the most important representatives of Pop ArtFigureOne , and Andy Warhol (Andy Warhol), Marcel Duchamp (Marcel Duchamp) and Yuesefubo AES (Joseph Beuys) , together known as the second half of the 20th century the greatest contribution to world arts The four artists”

The Walker’s  design director, Emmet Byrne, has been digging up more on this storied and celebrated hue — watch the design blog for a series of upcoming posts on the topic.

Robert Bergman, Alec Soth, and contemporary portraiture

    Robert Bergman: Portraits, 1986-1995 opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts a few days ago, following a pretty amazing triple-play last fall, with Bergman shows at the august National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; P.S. 1, the MoMA affiliate in Queens devoted to contemporary art; and the Yossi Milo Gallery in Chelsea. Among a host of glowing […]

 

Untitled, 1989; © Robert Bergman

 

“Adelyn, Ash Wednesday, New Orleans, Louisiana”; 2000; Alec Soth

Robert Bergman: Portraits, 1986-1995 opened at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts a few days ago, following a pretty amazing triple-play last fall, with Bergman shows at the august National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.; P.S. 1, the MoMA affiliate in Queens devoted to contemporary art; and the Yossi Milo Gallery in Chelsea. Among a host of glowing reviews (see below) and compelling profiles of the Minneapolis-raised Bergman (who turned down a show at the MIA in 1968 and has worked almost entirely outside art-world circles until now), critic Andy Grundberg sparked a controversy in the current Aperture magazine when he concluded that ”  … Bergman is out to convince us that he is a great photographer. Unfortunately, he has appeared a half-century too late.”It wasn’t long before Alec Soth called out a “photo critic rumble!” on his Little Brown Miscellanea blog, pointing to Aperture’s Exposures blog, where David Levi Strauss countered Grundberg with the title of his response, claiming that Bergman is “Right on Time.” Reading the review, the response to the review, Grundberg’s counter-response, and the commentary from others is a great primer on some key issues related to contemporary photography.

Which brings us back to Soth. It’s too bad the Bergman show ends (August 22) before From Here to There: Alec Soth’s America opens (September 12); it would be fun to zip between the MIA and the Walker and compare the formidable portraits by these two photographers.

That said, would it spark another photographic controversy to claim that the average art fan might conduct such an exercise just as well or even better with a dual-monitor setup? (To be clear — a display of considerably higher quality than is presented on this page.) Photographs reproduced in books are one thing — in a recent interview related to his show here, Soth said “A picture in a book is often nearly as good, and sometimes better, as a picture on a wall” — but has a similar argument been made for photographic display on computers? Notwithstanding the shift to digital photography over the past 15 years or so, that idea seems more germane than ever with the impending iPad revolution.

Robert Bergman’s work reviewed in (among many other places):
The Wall Street Journal
The Washington Post
Brooklyn Rail

Plant as Decorative Element in a Gallery

One aspect of my position as a photographer here at the Walker is to document the exhibitions. This has been an ongoing process dating back to the beginning of the Walker Art Center. While reviewing images of past exhibitions, I began to notice something now absent in the galleries, potted plants.  Up until the opening […]

One aspect of my position as a photographer here at the Walker is to document the exhibitions. This has been an ongoing process dating back to the beginning of the Walker Art Center. While reviewing images of past exhibitions, I began to notice something now absent in the galleries, potted plants.  Up until the opening of the Barnes building in 1971, potted plants were a staple in the galleries.  While there are few exhibition views containing patrons, the plants were always present.  In these images they seem to act as the stand-ins for the patrons, sometimes aloof and in the background or congregating around the radiator as if in discussion.  And then there are those that are really into the work, standing in front of a sculpture’s light, their shadows enveloping the work.

Due to a multitude of reasons, plants only reappear in the galleries if they are part of the artwork.  Many of the plants seem to have been around for many years and well taken care of by the staff.  Enjoy this look at Exhibition Photography and Plants from the Walker archives.

Bits & Pieces: Alec Soth; Xmas kitsch, Shanghai-style; the coming Inquisition; more

How to spend the money from all those gifts you’re going to return. Find some ideas browsing Alec Soth’s top 10 photo books of 2009. Fans of Soth’s earlier blog — and they were becoming legion — are elated that he’s back, at least in a bloggy kind of alter-ego way as one “Lester B. Morrison.”  They […]

Lester B. Morrison's Facebook photo

Lester B. Morrison's Facebook photo

How to spend the money from all those gifts you’re going to return. Find some ideas browsing Alec Soth’s top 10 photo books of 2009. Fans of Soth’s earlier blog — and they were becoming legion — are elated that he’s back, at least in a bloggy kind of alter-ego way as one “Lester B. Morrison.”  They should also keep an eye out for more information about Soth’s first survey, opening here at the Walker next September.

Christmas, as only the Chinese can do it: My friend Adam Minter, a writer based in Shanghai, has been snapping photos of every Christmas tree he’s seen in the past few days — 141, to be exact.

redemption house

The script at the bottom of that tree says “Redemption House.” See the other 140 Christmas trees — some pathetic, some downright creepy, and many pushing kitsch into entirely new realms — at Adam’s blog, Shanghai Scrap.

Barbara Kingsolver & Walker history: In Lacuna, Kingsolver’s first novel in nine years, a character named Tom Cuddy writes to the protagonist, Harrison Shepherd:

“The Department of State is getting into the art business. … the idea is to pack up a fresh load of paintings on Uncle Sam’s ticket, and parade them around the museums of Europe. A special show of American paintings to send overseas, to show those Parisians we’re not a bunch of rubes. … They recruited my old boss for the job, Leroy Davidson from the Walker. He only got 50 thousand clams to work with but he’s done a killer job, Leroy chose everything himself. He’s fed up with the Europeans sniggering about heart-throbbing landscapes and the American Scene, so he decided to give them an eyeful. Seventy-nine paintings, mostly Modern Art: Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, it’s a killer.”

Joseph LeRoy Davidson (1908 - 1980)

Joseph LeRoy Davidson (1908 - 1980)

Incidentally, work from those painters is currently on view in Benches & Binoculars. Two outlines of Davidson’s distinguished career (here and here)  note that he was an assistant director and curator at the Walker before moving to Washington and heading up the feds’ initial efforts at cultural PR through contemporary art (which, according to some, came into full flower with Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s). Our archivist Jill Vuchetich notes, however, that “the timeline is slightly off.  He would have been the first assistant director starting in 1940 when the Walker Galleries became the Walker Art Center, under director Daniel S. Defenbacher.”

Your most burning questions about art … answered! Watch the informative and instructional video below, which tells you how to submit queries for the upcoming Inquisition — a revival of a public quiz forum that played out at the Walker in 1940. In fact, Davidson probably got in on this game, as it was invented by his boss, Defenbacher.

Look who’s hanging in the White House

The Huffington Post has an AP story today about the contemporary art revolution that has taken place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the Obamas took up residence there. There have been a few reports on this development since the election — including excited reactions from gallery owners and museum directors — but with today’s story […]

The Huffington Post has an AP story today about the contemporary art revolution that has taken place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the Obamas took up residence there. There have been a few reports on this development since the election — including excited reactions from gallery owners and museum directors — but with today’s story it would appear that the checklist has been finalized (or at least the First Lady’s office released a list earlier this week).

Work by Glenn Ligon and Ed Ruscha, both of whom are important to the Walker’s collection, is on view (at left is a Ligon piece from the Walker – not the White House!), along with pieces Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, and Richard Diebenkorn; the HP story has a pretty extensive slide show of some of the selections, but the Washington Post’s has even more (along with a review of sorts by critic Black Gopnik).

“Would this material be interesting if it wasn’t Frida Kahlo?”

That’s the rhetorical question the author of a new book posed to the New York Times in a fascinating — and still unfolding — story concerning Mexico’s most famous artist (not counting Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera). The material Barbara Levine refers to is a trove of some 1,200 recently discovered artworks, diaries, letters, and artifacts […]

finding frida imageThat’s the rhetorical question the author of a new book posed to the New York Times in a fascinating — and still unfolding — story concerning Mexico’s most famous artist (not counting Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera).

The material Barbara Levine refers to is a trove of some 1,200 recently discovered artworks, diaries, letters, and artifacts attributed to Kahlo, which she explores in the newly published Finding Frida Kahlo. Although officials at Princeton Architectural Press say the book states clearly that authentication of the works is still an issue, according to the Times, it is not a central part of the book (let alone its thesis).

The story about the discovery has its own fairly-tale-like quality, involving an art and antiques dealer, a reclusive Mexico City lawyer, and a wood carver in the mountain town of San Miguel de Allende. The carver is said to have made frames for Kahlo, who in turn is said to have entrusted to him several trunks and boxes of her possessions. Now the circle of characters has expanded to include a grand-daughter and other relatives of Diego Rivera; a host of Kahlo scholars and art experts (self-appointed and otherwise), including artists who worked with her and Rivera; officials from Kahlo’s trust; and handwriting and chemical-analysis experts. And, naturally, more lawyers!

There’s also a criminal complaint filed in Mexico and attempts to halt the sale of the book in the U.S., not to mention a whole lot at stake, financially and otherwise. (The Walker’s presentation of Kahlo’s 2007-2008 touring retrospective was among the highest-attended exhibitions here). So stay tuned. And since everyone’s an expert, check out the Times“Frida Kahlos or Frauds? slide show and judge for yourself.

Eno Gets Freaky

In anticipation of the sold out Brian Eno and Jon Hassell conversation on Sept 22, here is a gem for your pleasure.  Eno performs here with legendary Roxy Music in the early 70’s, freaking out on tambourine and, er, keyboard?  Here he is rocking his crucially dangerous “vampire peacock” look.  Check out that skullet! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UODv3aCVxg Also, here’s one […]

Impressionable Youth

I really enjoyed Walker photographer Gene Pittman’s recent post about his portrait of skateboard videographer Ty Evans.  I immediately got excited when I saw that old school Powell Peralta ripper graphic, and I commented that the graphic was one of the images that got me interested in art.  As a fiery young dork imprisoned in […]

I really enjoyed Walker photographer Gene Pittman’s recent post about his portrait of skateboard videographer Ty Evans.  I immediately got excited when I saw that old school Powell Peralta ripper graphic, and I commented that the graphic was one of the images that got me interested in art.  As a fiery young dork imprisoned in small town USA, I was riveted by the danger and recklessness that the image represented.  As an added bonus, Ma absolutely HATED it.  It got me thinking about other images that inspired my creative path in life.  Here are some, in no particular order:

 Picasso's Guernica

barrel

Oh no, what have I started?  I had better stop now.  What are your influential images?  Post them in reply.

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