The Akron Art Museums
collection is always changing, and the galleries are updated frequently to reflect new artistic perspectives. Sending works out on loan or for conservation, borrowing works and acquiring amazing new objects can significantly change the look and experience of the galleries.
The Akron Art Museum Board of Trustees recently approved two major purchases. This month, works by acclaimed contemporary artists Kiki Smith and Trenton Doyle Hancock wow visitors to the Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Galleries. The installation of these new acquisitions, along with several other works on view for the first time, bring a near-total makeover of galleries devoted to the theme of Interior Landscapes, dramatically altering their mood.
Purchased in honor of Dr. Mitchell D. Kahans 25-year tenure as museum director, Smiths Seer (Alice I) is a life size figure that is based on the role of the seer or oracle in classical Greek mythology as well as ideas from Lewis Carrolls Alices Adventures in Wonderland. The figure rests on the skirt of her dress, gazing into an imagined pool of water. Hovering slightly above the floor she appears to float. Her mysterious gaze lends the work a deeply reflective and even mystical mood.
Seers seemingly delicate surfacethe figures face, hands and feet look like fine porcelainbelies its actual makeup, which is bronze. The metal surface is hidden under a layer of white auto body paint, rendering the figure dreamlike. The dress and hair suggest materials like plaster or wax rather than metal. The sculpture measures 63 ½ x 72 x 41 inches and was made in 2005. Purchase funds came from the museums Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture.
Equal parts drawing, painting and collage, Hancocks Holed My Hand (98 3/4 in. x 133 in. x 3 1/2 in., 2010) is a sculpted paper pulp hand set against a background of collaged and painted drops. The work was bought in memory of George and Peg Seeley, longtime museum supporters, with income from the museums General Acquisition Endowment.
For the last decade, Hancock has chronicled the saga of two invented races of creatures. Holed My Hand represents a more abstract and metaphorical approach to storytelling for the artist. In his epic battle between good and evil, the hand has appeared as a pledge of faith and justice, as a symbol of support and strength or of control and power. In this work, the giant hand is wrought with crater-like holes, stigmata that allow drops of blood, sweat, tears, rain or possibly oil to slip through its grasp. States the artist, Whose hand is that? I don't know. . . . I like that there's no answer."
Holed My Hand adds another voice to the museums growing collection of works by contemporary African-American artists. It embodies Hancocks obsessive style in its scale, use of materials and textures and expands the major themes of morality, acceptance and power in his ongoing saga.
The daughter of American minimalist sculptor Tony Smith and actress and opera singer Jane Lawrence Smith, Kiki Smith (b. 1954) was born in Germany and grew up in New Jersey.
Childhood experiences heavily influence her work. Helping her father make cardboard models for his geometric sculptures provided early artist training and her experience as a learning disabled child in school motivates her to create work accessible to her audiences.
Best known for sculptures, Smith has produced a myriad of works in other media such as prints, installations and drawings. Her work has been admired for its highly developed, yet sometimes unsettling, sense of intimacy in its timely political and social provocations. Such traits have brought her critical success.
Often considered a feminist artist, Smiths work touches on a wide range of issues surrounding the human condition. Raised by religious parents her mother was a converted Hindu and Catholic and her father was raised by Jesuits she describes herself as spiritual. There are underlying themes of devotion, religion, repetition and spirituality in her work, whether in reference to her own spirituality or the spirituality of other cultures and their history. Life, death and resurrection are themes represented in her sculptures in which she often portrays the female body as a receptacle for knowledge and storytelling. Recently she has been inspired by images of women and animals in folklore, mythology and fairy tales.
Smith has participated in three Whitney Biennials and her work is included in such prestigious museum collections as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, among others.
In 2005, Smith was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives and works in New York City.
Trenton Doyle Hancock
Raised in Paris, Texas, Trenton Doyle Hancock (b. 1974) earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Texas A&M University and a Master of Fine Arts from the Tyler School of Fine Art at Temple University in Philadelphia. For over a decade, Hancock has developed a dramatic narrative featuring a cast of characters who populate a wildly fantastic, invented landscape. His prints, drawings and collaged-felt paintings work together to tell the saga of the Mounds a group of mythical, half-animal, half-plant creatures that are the tragic protagonists of the artists unfolding narrative as they defend themselves against the evil, underground Vegans.
Influenced by the history of painting, especially Abstract Expressionism, Hancock transforms traditionally formal decisionssuch as the use of color, language, and patterninto opportunities to create new characters, develop sub-plots and convey symbolic meaning. His paintings often rework Biblical stories that he learned as a child, balancing moral dilemmas with wit and a musical sense of language and color. His work also bears evidence of influences ranging from comics, graphic novels, cartoons, 1970s and 1980s music, and a variety of film and painting traditions.
Hancock has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, participating in two Whitney Biennials, one of the youngest artists in history to partake in this prestigious survey, as well as at the Lyon and Istanbul Biennials. He has had solo exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh. His work is included in such museum collections as that of Museum of Modern Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The recipient of numerous awards, Hancock lives and works in Houston, where he was a 2002 Core Artist in Residence at the Glassell School of Art of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.