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Huntington presents exhibition of works by contemporary artists Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow
Ricky Swallow, Retired Instruments (yellow), 2012. Patinated bronze, 8 1/2 x 5 x 5 ins. Unique. Image courtesy the artist; Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London; and Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo: Fredrik Nilsen.

SAN MARINO, CA.- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens presents an exhibition of contemporary paintings and sculpture by Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow in the Huntington Art Gallery, which displays the institution’s venerable collection of European art and once served as the residence of Henry E. Huntington and his wife, Arabella. “Lesley Vance & Ricky Swallow,” on view Nov. 10, 2012, through March 11, 2013, is an unprecedented project at The Huntington, placing the couple’s contemporary work in the context of Old Master paintings, Renaissance bronzes, and 18th-century French decorative arts and British portraiture.

The approximately nine abstract paintings by Vance and 12 domestic-scale sculptures by Swallow have been installed in an upstairs room of the mansion that currently displays paintings and examples of decorative arts associated with family life in 18th-century England. Those works have been re-installed elsewhere in the building as a part of an ongoing re-installation program.

Co-curated by Catherine Hess, chief curator of European art at The Huntington, and Christopher Bedford, recently appointed Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Boston, “Lesley Vance & Ricky Swallow” is accompanied by a publication with essays by the curators and Suzanne Hudson, assistant professor of art history at University of Southern California.

The works were selected after the artists studied the residence and its collection. Approximately one-third of the work on display was made especially for the exhibition. “Here we have a married couple, who share a studio, collaborating on an art installation where another married couple lived and assembled a distinctive art collection a century ago,” said Hess. “The parallels are interesting to consider.”

Wisconsin native Lesley Vance is inspired by Old Master painting, including 17tht-century Spanish still lifes. She often carefully arranges and lights small groups of objects that she photographs to use as a basis for her abstract paintings. Of her evolution toward abstraction, Vance said, “There isn’t much abstract painting that feels warm and intimate. I wanted abstraction that works like representation, that invites you in.” Although grand in concept and dramatic in palette and lighting, her works are small and intimate in scale. They have received increasing critical acclaim since 2010, when her work appeared in the Whitney Biennial.

Ricky Swallow grew up in Australia, which he represented in the 2005 Venice Biennale. Like Vance, Swallow is interested in the still-life tradition. His most recent sculpture often takes as a point of departure household objects—such as a lamp, clock, or cup—that he models in simple materials, including cardboard, then casts in bronze, and patinates with surfaces that recall ceramic glazes. The resulting work plays with the perception of medium and object type.

“We think the introduction of a contemporary art display inside the Huntington Art Gallery will create a thought-provoking moment that enlivens the museum visit in a novel way, inspiring people to look with a fresh perspective on the permanent collections,” said Hess. “Lesley’s work reflects on the rich tones, technique, and composition of some of the 18th century British paintings here, though abstracted and produced on a more domestic scale; while Ricky’s pieces link with some of the very refined bronze sculpture and porcelain objects in the collection, though his work takes humble substances and domestic objects as points of departure. I think our visitors will find the connections between this work and the artwork in the rest of the house surprising. It’s interesting how their highly original work feels, at the same time, so familiar.”

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