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University of Richmond Museums opens four new exhibitions in August
Jack Tworkov (American, born in Poland, 1900-1982), KTL#1, 1982, lithograph on Rives BFK paper, image 24 x 24 inches, Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums, Museum purchase, H2019.02.31. © Estate of the artist, photograph by Taylor Dabney.

RICHMOND, VA.- Structure & Gesture: Abstract Prints by Jack Tworkov is on view in the Harnett Museum of Art, August 20, 2019, through July 5, 2020. Jack Tworkov (American, born in Poland, 1900-1982) came to prominence in the 1950s as a pivotal member of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Along with artists such as Willem de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock, he was part of the 8th Street Club, generally regarded as responsible for introducing the New York School style to the American public. His work from this period was highly gestural abstraction. In the 1960s, his painting moved towards a more geometrical and structural format, and he often echoed his themes in his prints.

The artist wrote of his process, “The limits impose a kind of order, yet the range of unexpected possibilities is infinite.” The prints in this exhibition, from 1975 to 1982, remain expressive yet aptly demonstrate his self-imposed rules and structures. The works exemplify the artist’s abiding interest in mathematics, geometry, and in particular his use of the Fibonacci sequence as a fundamental organizing concept in his compositions. He stated, “I soon arrived at an elementary system of measurements implicit in the geometry of the rectangle which became the basis for simple images that I had deliberately given a somewhat illusionistic cast.”

The exhibition was organized by the University of Richmond Museums, curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, and made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.

On view through July 5, 2020, in the Modlin Atrium and Booker Hall Lobby, is the exhibition “I Am In Between”: Divisions of Self and Place in Art from the Harnett Print Study Center Collection. Inspired by a quote by noted writer Sergio Troncoso (American, born 1961), the exhibition presents works in the collection that address divisions, ranging from physical barriers to ideological and societal limitations. The art examines various subjects to encourage viewers to consider boundaries and transformations in their own lives and experiences, touching upon topics such as race, religion, gender, migration, age, and culture. Featured artists include Jennifer Bartlett (American, born 1941), John Biggers (American, 1924-2001), Judy Chicago (American, born 1939), Jim Dine (American, born 1945), Sheila Pitt (American, born 1940), and Tanja Softić (American, born former Yugoslavia, 1966).

The quote from Troncoso reads: “I am in between. Trying to write to be understood by those who matter to me, yet also trying to push my mind with ideas beyond the everyday. It is another borderland I inhabit. Not quite her nor there. On good days I feel I am a bridge. On bad days I just feel alone.” (from his 2011 publication Crossing Borders: Personal Essays).

The exhibition was organized by the University of Richmond Museums and curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions; with Heather Campbell, Curator of Museum Programs, and Martha Wright, Assistant Curator of Academic and Public Engagement, University Museums. Research assistance was provided by Jacqueline Yu, senior, Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, Richmond. The exhibition is made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund, and it is part of the two-year themed programming, Contested Spaces: This Ground, offered by departments within the University of Richmond’s School of Arts & Sciences.

On view August 22 through September 22, 2019, in the Harnett Museum of Art, is the Annual Student Exhibition. Selected by the visual arts faculty, the exhibition features works by visual media and arts practice majors and minors along with non-majors enrolled in beginning through advanced art classes during the University’s 2018-2019 academic year.

The exhibition was organized by the University of Richmond Museums in collaboration with the Department of Art and Art History and coordinated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums.

Robert Taplin: Everything Imagined is Real (After Dante) is on view August 22 through October 6, 2019, in the Harnett Museum of Art. The exhibition is a series of nine sculptures, seven of which are dioramas, by American artist Robert Taplin (born 1950) inspired by the fourteenth-century classic, Dante’s Inferno. There are thirty-four cantos in the poem, and Taplin uses the first nine to follow Dante in his journey through the first three of the nine circles of hell, led by the Roman poet Virgil. Taplin creates his own versions of the story by infusing contemporary nuances, situations, and personal references into his art works. Also on view are five wall-hung reliefs from his recent series Here and There.

Born in 1950, Taplin earned a B.A. in Medieval Studies from Pomona College in Claremont, California in 1973. By the mid-1970s, he was creating and exhibiting his artwork. He has shown his work in both solo and group exhibitions, executed public commissions, and received grants most notably from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. His artwork and his writing have been featured in numerous publications including Art in America, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times.

Taplin describes his work in this statement, “I make representational work that attempts to reconcile the rationalist and the romantic strains within Modernism in a manner analogous to that of the great mid-century abstractionists such as David Smith and Mark Rothko using, however, an entirely different vocabulary. The sculptures present the image of a contemporary individual not as an emblem of the suffering of mankind or the destiny of the eternal soul but as a protagonist in the development of modern consciousness.”

Everything Imagined is Real (After Dante) is a set of nine sculptures based on the first nine cantos of Dante’s Inferno. Taplin spent six months re-reading the Inferno, drawing, taking notes, and planning. He settled on a set of nine short verses, one from each of the first nine cantos, to serve as a springboard for what would became the exhibition. The idea was to construct a story parallel to the one Dante tells, following the emotional and the narrative progress of the original, but without the theology and metaphysics.

The nine, small sculptural scenes, seven of which are dioramas, portray Dante’s concentric circles of Hell, using imagery much of which is drawn from photo-journalistic accounts of warfare. The first sculpture in the series, Thus My Soul Which Was Still in Flight (The Dark Wood), portrays a contemporary Dante rising abruptly from his bed out of a nightmare. In the sculpture, Dante’s wife is sleeping peacefully next to him in the bed. You can sense the urgency to wake suddenly and impulsively escape the bed.

In another sculpture, She Turned Away (Beatrice Sends Virgil to Dante) illustrates living among the dead. Virgil and Beatrice, cast in greenish-white resin, are seated at a dining room table at night. A single overhead light shines down on the table, while the world outside the windows is black and ominous. Dante, portrayed in naturalistic color, unaware of the ghosts next to him, sits with his head on the table in despair. Virgil and Beatrice watch him placidly. They are uninvited guests who beckon him into the circles of hell.

The series Here and There feature five sculptural reliefs displayed on steel shelves. These pieces, cast in colored resins, take two forms- one, a straight, low relief tilted back like a lectern and two, a higher relief background with detached figures. The low reliefs are “here” and they are depictions of social theater with an undercurrent of sanctioned violence. The “there” pieces are a different form of social theater with unsanctioned violence.

The exhibition was curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, with the artist Robert Taplin.

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