Go ahead and open your calendar app on your smartphone or tablet, or if you’re old school, then flip the page forward a couple of weeks. Highlight Nov. 13, because you’ll need all the advance warning you can get.
That’s when something nearly unprecedented is happening at the Mobile Museum of Art (MMoA), as six exhibits you don’t want to miss will premiere at the fine arts showplace in West Mobile’s Langan Park.
Be forewarned: It’s the same evening as the November LoDa Artwalk, one of the few that is practically guaranteed to have hospitable weather. Some of you torn between the two locales can attend an opening at 6:30 p.m. on the previous evening, Oct. 12, reserved for museum members only.
The exhibits on hand run a wide gamut of artists, styles and disciplines. A lot of tastes will undoubtedly be sated.
The latest installment of MMoA’s ongoing series on American Art manifests in “American Art: 1945 to the Present.” Previously focused on our continent’s works from roughly the close of the 18th century through World War II, this new portion furthers a narrative wherein U.S. artists became global luminaries while expression of our culture matured to reach international renown.
Not only did the U.S. rise to an unrivaled economic status in post-war 20th century, but the world’s cultural center shifted from battle-weary Europe — Paris, in particular — to New York City. Pushed by a country of boundless horizons and optimism, artistic scale increased as did vision and theme.
This exhibit comprises numerous pieces by major U.S. artists in MMoA’s collection. Many have rarely been displayed, some not at all.
One section entitled “A Passion for the Past” is composed of acquisitions from the Schoenknecht-Paul Collection. Gathered since the 1980s, the craft works are fashioned from ceramic, glass and metal and part of a re-emergent appreciation which flowered in the last half-century.
Perhaps typically American is an artist who brought cultural expression from other shores and reinterpreted it through U.S. experience. Hiroshi Sueyoshi has been elbow deep in clay for 40 years after receiving initial training in the folk pottery center of Mashiko, Japan. Upon coming stateside, he worked in Ashboro and Seagrove, North Carolina, then moved on to Washington, D.C., to study under Teruo Hara and develop his expressionist style.
Sueyoshi’s MMoA exhibit “Rock Garden” is his interpretation of a Zen garden. It comprises 24 stoneware coil and hand-built “rocks” and four slip-cast face masks. Now a resident of Wilmington, North Carolina, he was formerly an artist in residence at the Louise Wells Cameron Art Museum where current MMoA Executive Director Deborah Velders served as director for six years.
California muralist and installation artist John Cerney’s “Selfie” is obviously about the modern obsession with self-photography made facile by emergent technology. But when the artist combines this craze with a penchant for species not seen since a meteor impact 65 million years ago, humor emerges. The exhibit’s display in conjunction with its subsequent placement in a public park is sponsored by PNC.
As apparent from its title, the exhibit “size MATTERS” is about scale and scope’s interplay with perspective. Appropriately enough, it pulls in eight disparate artists to comprise its whole. They are:
• New Orleans’ David Boyd, who focuses on pop culture;
• Houston’s Paul Kittleson, who admits a longstanding fascination with scale;
• Chattanooga’s Hollie Chastain, who chiefly works in paper;
• Elizabeth Fox, who bounces between Orlando and New Orleans and whose cinematic narratives have been said to contain “cultural commentary and charming personal wackiness”;
• Nashville’s Shana Kohnstamm, who explores “soft sculpture”;
• Melinda Matthews of Birmingham, a member of the Alabama Miniature Art Society;
• New Orleans’ Richard McCabe, who is curator of photography at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art; and
• David Pound of Nashville, who creates tiny portraits in reclaimed lumber, lined with collage.
The exhibit that hits closest to home is undoubtedly Raine Bedsole’s “You Are the River.” A member of a notable Mobile family, Bedsole now calls New Orleans home and has earned a reputation in the Crescent City for near-spectral work, visions of boats and humans constructed from unusual materials.
For MMoA, Bedsole was commissioned to create a site-specific installation, a typically ghostly flotilla that alludes to the prominence of water in Gulf Coast culture and the impermanence of our reality. The C.D., Helen and Jeff Glaze Foundation and Jaguar Gulf Coast sponsor this exhibit.
All exhibitions will be on display for the next three months. The earliest departures are “Selfie” and “size MATTERS,” which leave MMoA on Valentine’s Day 2016.
For more information, call 251-208-5200.
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