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Joslyn Begins 2010 with Exhibition of Contemporary Artworks
Roland Fischer, "Untitled", (L. A. Portrait), 1994–2000. C-print and acrylic on fiberboard. RBC Wealth Management Art Collection.

OMAHA, NE.- Joslyn Art Museum begins the New Year with an exhibition of contemporary artworks devoted to the human figure. "The Human Touch: Selections from the RBC Wealth Management Art Collection" ranges from serious to whimsical, from realistic to abstract, and includes photography, painting, and sculpture. The title refers to both the ability of the figure to reflect the human condition and to the facility of artists to depict it. "The Human Touch" opens at Joslyn Art Museum on Saturday, January 9 and continues through April 18.

The human figure in art carries, in different ways and through different periods, enormous significance. It is the most direct means by which an image can address the positive and negative aspects of human existence. In early societies the meaning of the human figure was supernatural, a rendering of gods or spirits in human form or ritually important people. In Ancient Egypt it was common for non-spiritual persons to be depicted and for the human form to appear in secular context. Later, in the Renaissance, western art’s obsession with the figure reflected an increasingly humanist outlook, with humankind at the center of the universe. Each of the 48 works in the eclectic Human Touch exhibition explores concepts of self and identity and features a contemporary take on the human figure as portrayed by a wide diversity of emerging and established artists.
Included are thought-provoking works by, among others:

• Cuban-born José Bedia’s (1959) work is rich with symbolism and its emphasis on lines, simple forms, and minimally rendered figures reflects his interest in the lives and art of indigenous peoples.

• Frank Big Bear, Jr. (American, born1953) — his colorful drawings chronicle the Native American experience.

• Chuck Close (American, born 1940) — Close’s portraits reflect his interest not only in his subject but also in the pictorial surface, resulting in hybrids of mechanical reproduction and expressionistic painting. A quadriplegic since 1988, Close holds a brush with a device attached to his wrist and forearm, and the squares of his portrait grids are now filled with colorful splotches and swirls, giving the newer paintings an energy and liveliness absent from his earlier work.

• Painter, sculptor, printmaker, photographer, and performance artist Leslie Dill (American, born 1950) mixes materials, including fragile papers and transparent fabrics, images, and text in her work. She is particularly interested in the many ways in which the human condition is both hidden and revealed by the language we use and clothes we wear.

• Major American artist Jim Dine (born 1935) has utilized an array of images — hearts, tools, robes, skulls — to evoke a variety of emotional responses and as objects on which he can display his technical virtuosity. In recent years, he has expanded his inventory of icons to include flowers, trees, birds, and Pinocchio.

• Photographer Roland Fischer (German, born 1958) submerges his subjects up to their necks in swimming pools. The water surrounds each head, isolating it like a classical bust and highlighting each person’s distinctive character.

• Till Freiwald’s (American, born 1963) approach to watercolor portraiture challenges the tradition of both the genre and the medium. He paints his smaller portraits directly from life. His large-scale portraits are based on the smaller artworks but are painted exclusively from memory. They are not about specific likeness but the artist’s perception and recollection of his subjects.

• One of the 20th century’s best known artists, Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997) is recognized for his cartoon-inspired images reflecting his signature style — a familiar pattern of Ben-Day dots, simplifying and drawing the viewer’s attention to the small details of life.

• Robert Rauschenberg’s (American, 1925–2008) enthusiasm for popular culture and his rejection of the angst and seriousness of the Abstract Expressionists led him to seek a new way of painting. He found his signature mode by embracing materials traditionally outside of the artist’s reach. He would cover a canvas with house paint, or ink the wheel of a car and run it over paper to create a drawing, while demonstrating rigor and concern for formal painting. His works, which he termed “combines” (meant to express both the finding and forming of combinations in three-dimensional collage) cemented his place in art history.

• Jaune Quick-To-See Smith (American, born 1940) creates artwork that addresses the myths, values, and experiences of her ancestors in the context of current issues facing Native Americans today.

• Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953) produces art that addresses issues concerning African-American culture in general and, in particular, the ways that media images shape perceptions of color, gender, and class. She manipulates the conventions of documentary photography with insight and wit. RIGHT: Carrie Mae Weems, untitled (Woman with Friends) (detail), 1990, silver print triptych

The RBC Wealth Management Art Collection
For 18 years, RBC Wealth Management has collected and presented art that features the human figure, encompassing a wide range of artists and artistic mediums. Don McNeil, curator of the collection, states that RBC Wealth Management features the human figure in its art collection “because it believes that this age-old need to understand the human condition is still vital and that the human form remains its most direct manifestation." The corporate collection, which is displayed at the firm's headquarters in Minneapolis, has grown to more than 400 pieces. It surrounds the company’s employees with images of a wide range of people and introduces them to new ideas, diverse ways of thinking and differing points of view. The human figure makes the collection accessible yet thought provoking; entertaining yet challenging; timeless yet relevant. The Human Touch exhibition is the first time RBC Wealth Management has toured works from its collection. Venues include cities across the country where RBC Wealth Management offices are located.

Joslyn Art Museum | RBC Wealth Management Art Collection | Don McNeil | "The Human Touch" | The human figure in art |

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