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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art celebrates "State of the Art" and new acquisitions
Ellsworth Kelly, White and Dark Gray Panels,1977. Oil on canvas, two joined panels, 106 x 144 in. Black element: 68 1/2 x 58 1/2 x 1 1/2 in. White element: 92 x 110 x 1 1/2 in. Gift of Agnes Gund; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.

BENTONVILLE, ARK.- Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art welcomes back works from State of the Art: Discovering American Art Now and announces new acquisitions as part of All or Nothing, a new exhibition on view November 11 through May 28, 2018.

State of the Art was a culmination of an ambitious year-long process in which the Crystal Bridges’ curatorial team logged more than 100,000 miles, visiting nearly a thousand studios all over the country. What was uncovered brought together works from 102 artists, ranging from works on canvas and paper to photography and video to installation and performance art. State of the Art was on view at Crystal Bridges from September 13, 2014 to January 19, 2015. Soon after, two versions of the exhibition traveled to five venues in 2016-17: Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, Minn., Telfair Museums, Savannah, Ga., Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis, Tenn., The Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville, Tenn., and The Mint Museum, Charlotte, N.C.

“After two years on the road, we are excited to welcome back many of the State of the Art works,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges Executive Director and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. “Since the debut, this exhibition has reached nearly 350,000 visitors at six venues, increasing awareness for contemporary artists working all over the country. The artists have also deeply engaged visitors with works that examine issues related to the environment, economy, or community—connecting us to each other through topics and themes that are universal in our everyday American life.”

Some State of the Art works have been on view at Crystal Bridges since the exhibition debuted, including Gabriel Dawe’s thread installation, Plexus No. 27 (2014), in the permanent collection galleries, and Kim Dickey’s ceramic sculpture, Mille-fleur (2011), on the south lawn. In June, Adonna Khare’s massive 40-foot-long pencil drawing, Elephants (2012) was installed as part of Animal Meets Human. Khare was on-site for gallery talks and continued to develop Elephants, adding to the work by drawing directly on the gallery walls while visitors observed.

Recently added to the 1940s to Now Gallery, Jimmy Baker’s Arrangements 1-4 (2013) merges new and old technology with colorful oil and UV ink. In close proximity are eight works from a series titled Ruminations on the Right Angle (2013) by 90-year-old artist Mary Ann Currier. Vanessa German’s “power figures,” which invoke the power to protect children endangered by circumstance and location, made a triumphant return to the gallery, alongside permanent collection favorites like Kerry James Marshall’s Our Town (1995).

“In 2014, visitors saw these works as part of an isolated experiment – contained within their own exhibition as State of the Art,” says Crystal Bridges’ Assistant Curator Alejo Benedetti. “What is most exciting about their return is the chance to put them into conversation with the rest of our permanent collection as powerful continuations of our unfolding American story.”

On November 11, which marked the museum’s six-year anniversary, additional State of the Art works went on view as part of the collection-focused exhibition, All or Nothing. State of the Art artists represented in All or Nothing include Celestia Morgan, Peter Glenn Oakley, Angela Drakeford, Elizabeth Alexander, Jeff Whetstone, Watie White, and Hiromi Mizugai Moneyhun.

This new exhibition, which is located in the museum’s gallery bridge, focuses on how artmaking often begins in the simplest way: a black mark on a white sheet of paper or canvas. All or Nothing features works from Crystal Bridges’ permanent collection, dating from 1860 to today, that play on the different concepts of these colors. The works utilize black and white in a variety of media to focus on elements such as process, composition, and spatial relationships. The limited color palette also eliminates our emotional associations with color, drawing our attention to the creative and technical processes and meaningful details in the narrative of the works.

“The reason we view black and white as clashing forces is that they really are opposites of one another, and yet linked by their duality as symbols of all or nothing,” says Crystal Bridges curatorial assistant Dylan Turk. “In pigment, black is the mixture of all colors, while in the light spectrum, black is the absence of all color. All or Nothing persuades us to look at the shared characteristics that connect the works and the artists. At a moment of extreme divisiveness, we want to celebrate the beauty that connects us.”

The showpieces of this exhibition are two new acquisitions: Ellsworth Kelly’s White and Dark Gray Panels, (1977), a generous gift from Agnes Gund, and Domino Players (2008), by Willie Birch.

Turk adds, “All or Nothing includes works from the collection that will be familiar to visitors, while introducing them to new artists. White and Dark Gray Panels and Domino Players represent unique moments in American art history and cultural identity—Kelly embraces Minimalism through line and form, while Birch uses storytelling elements inspired by life in post-Katrina New Orleans—both use black and white paint to communicate with us.”

Among the 55 works in the exhibition, there are many that have not previously been on view at Crystal Bridges, including Carrie Mae Weems’s Untitled (Woman Feeding Bird) (1990). Weems, considered one of the most influential contemporary American artists today, will visit Crystal Bridges in December as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series. The museum offers other exhibition-inspired programs, such as an All or Nothing Gallery Talk with curatorial assistant Dylan Turk on November 30, as a way to provide enriching art experiences.

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