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Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University presents four new exhibitions
Philip Guston (American, 1913-1980), Door, 1981. Lithograph, 20 x 30 in.
MILWAUKEE, WI.- The Haggerty Museum of Art on the campus of Marquette University will feature four exhibitions from January 18 through May 20, 2012 including The Europeans Photographs by Tina Barney; Philip Guston Inevitable Finality, The Gemini G.E.L. Prints; John Stezaker Marriage; and Selections from the Mary B. Finnigan Collection that features works from the Haggerty’s permanent collection.

The Europeans Photographs by Tina Barney provides an intimate look at wealthy Europeans at home through the eyes of American photographer Tina Barney (b. 1945). Known for her large, lush and colorful photographs, Barney began capturing images of friends and family in 1975 and quickly gained art-world attention for her often candid, tableau-like images. To produce the works in the exhibition, Barney embarked on her own modern version of the Grand Tour of Europe between 1996 and 2004. She traveled to Austria, Italy, England, Spain, France, and Germany, photographing people of means who earlier would have commissioned painted portraits of themselves. The exhibition presents 20 works from that series including a 2010 Haggerty acquisition, The Daughters. The Haggerty exhibition of The Europeans is the first time a large selection from the series has been seen in an American museum.

Upon viewing The Europeans, one is drawn to the background of the images as much to the subjects. This is one of Barney’s hallmarks, distinguishing her photographs from standard professional portraits with statically posed subjects in unremarkable settings. She redefines the photographic portrait through her use of selective focus to ensure that specific elements of the image are clear and pristine, directing our attention in subtle and not-so-subtle ways to the sumptuous surroundings. In the end, it is the patterns, texture, color, and composition surrounding the subjects that make her images distinctive.

Beyond the tableaux, Barney’s portraits are not only about the setting of the photograph; they also mimic decisive moments of honesty. These images can be less-than-ideal takes on her subjects, often hinting at distanced social interactions and awkward dynamics among families and peers. The viewer may often be unsure about the authenticity, or spontaneity, of Barney’s perfectly orchestrated moments of “real life.” By creating a sense of both formality and intimacy in her photographs, she retains the spontaneity of snapshots while suggesting a more cinematic narrative, rich in its nuances. The mise-en-scène and scale of the photographs can distract the viewer from the relationships between the subjects and the narrative of the work. This clever blurring of the true subject of each photograph, encouraging active involvement from the viewer in finding it, is the remarkable signature of this series.

The Haggerty exhibition Philip Guston Inevitable Finality, The Gemini G.E.L. Prints presents for the first time, in one place, all 25 lithographs created in the last two months of the artist’s life. As a collection, the works reveal Guston’s lifelong passion for drawing, his return to the figurative, and his deep appreciation of the immediacy and liveliness inherent in drawings.

Guston began his experimentation as an artist while a high school student in California. In his 20s and 30s he often painted works with political themes influenced by a range of works from Renaissance painters to Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. In the 1950s, Guston joined his high school classmate Jackson Pollock as members of the first generation of American Abstract Expressionists. He enjoyed success as an abstract painter but abandoned pure abstraction in the late 1960s, in favor of a return to figurative painting stating, “I got sick and tired of all that Purity! I wanted to tell stories.” In response, he created a vocabulary of cartoonish dystopian protagonists that he called “Hoods,” featuring heads with cyclopean eyes and disembodied limbs. Drawn in heavy black outlines, these disturbing yet humorous figures evoke the comic-strip characters of the 1920s and ’30s he so admired.

In the late 1970s, a decade after Guston returned to figuration, having refined his new lexicon, Sidney Felsen, cofounder of Gemini G.E.L., a printmaking workshop in Los Angeles, approached Guston about creating a new series of prints. Since Guston was in poor health at the time, Gemini transported aluminum lithographic plates and transfer paper to the artist’s studio in Woodstock, New York, to allow Guston to work on the prints as he continued with other projects. Simple and crudely drawn, the imagery of these prints often came to the artist in the middle of the night. Spontaneous and quite personal, Guston’s prints feature images of objects found in his studio—a chair, an easel, a set of paintbrushes—along with fantastic forms that defy easy interpretation.

In addition to the Gemini prints, this exhibition includes a series of photographs of Guston in his studio by Felsen, also a photographer and author of The Artist Observed: Photographs by Sidney B. Felsen. Gemini master printer James Reid will speak about his collaborations with Philip Guston and fellow modern American artists Ellsworth Kelly and Richard Serra at the Haggerty on Wednesday, February 15, at 6 p.m., followed by a reception at 7 p.m.

John Stezaker Marriage is an exhibition of nine “Film Portraits” made between 2009 and 2011 by the British conceptual artist John Stezaker (b. 1949). The artist mined boxes of old photographs, specifically vintage film stills and publicity shots of classic movie stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age to create a new series of collages that are simultaneously whimsical, ironic and uncanny.

Like the Cubist artists before him, Stezaker is explicit about both his use of appropriated material and his method of construction. By carefully splicing an actor’s face from a bygone era and then placing it over the portrait of another, he creates a caricature of the original personalities. In some cases, the artist combined a photograph of a man and a woman to create a “marriage”; in others, he uses two men, or two women. The latter collages describe his He and She series, which were a direct outgrowth of the original Marriage series.

Since the scale of each of the united portraits is similar, we read each collage as a unique face. Rather than an ordinary flat photographic representation, Stezaker’s faces are dynamic. Amusing and clever, each image both complements and contradicts the historic portraits on which they are based. By playing with the scale, pose and character, not to mention the gender of the individuals represented, Stezaker gives his modern icons a truly surreal yet human quality.

Selections from the Mary B. Finnigan Collection includes select works from the permanent collection purchased with funds provided by the Mary B. Finnigan Art Endowment Fund. The exhibition will include paintings by Lovis Corinth, Jean Fautrier, Wifredo Lam, and Jacob Lawrence, among others. A longtime supporter and Friend of the Haggerty Museum of Art board member, in 1991 Mary Finnigan gave a major gift to the museum to establish the art endowment fund, enabling the museum to collect significant 20th-Century American and European artworks. Over the past twenty years, the Finnigan fund has brought 13 art gifts to the Haggerty collection.

Since it opened on the Marquette University campus in 1984, The Haggerty Museum of Art has dedicated itself to being an integral part of the educational experiences offered at the university and to providing a rich variety of art to the Milwaukee community, with visibility on a national and international level. As a university museum, the Haggerty sponsors lectures, symposia, workshops, and tours to interpret the arts to its various audiences.



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