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Norman Rockwell Museum presents "Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion, and Us"
Jarvis Rockwell, “Fantasy,” 1967. Oil and ink on board. Norman Rockwlel Museum Collection. ©Jarvis Rockwell. All rights reserved.

STOCKBRIDGE, MASS.- A singular and visionary image-maker, Jarvis Rockwell, the eldest son of illustrator Norman Rockwell, has forged a path in art that is uniquely his own. This summer, Norman Rockwell Museum explores the continued artistic legacy of the Rockwell family, shining a spotlight on Jarvis Rockwell’s more than 60 years of creative exploration. “Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion, and Us” is on view July 13 through October 20, 2013.

“Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion and Us” reveals the depth and evolution of the artist’s work—from the early portraits and drawings of his youth, to more recent structural works and assemblages. The retrospective includes a documentary on the artist by filmmaker Rachel Victor; and selections from Rockwell’s extensive toy collection, installed on “Maya V,” a vast, whimsical pyramid inspired by Hindu temples and sculptural deities.

Visitors also are encouraged to visit the Museum through the summer and fall to watch the evolution of an in-process wall drawing that will be created on site while the exhibition is on view, with surprise appearances by Jarvis Rockwell himself.

“I was 22 years old when I first met Jarvis Rockwell,” notes Norman Rockwell Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. “Jarvis was already widely regarded in the community as an artist, famed for his string installations, ephemeral environmental performance installations, and fantasy drawings. He was a contemporary conceptual artist seeking his voice; working as distantly as possible from his father’s narrative, idealized painting style, yet evidencing the same exacting hand and eye for the smallest details of daily life. We are deeply honored to welcome Jarvis home to Stockbridge, to invite him to take his place and stand side by side with his father through this imaginative installation of his life’s work.”

On the topic of his famous father, Jarvis Rockwell recently remarked that “it’s funny now that his art was called realism; people called it realism because that is what they saw. But it was a constructed reality, a fantasy.... My work with toys comes off of that. The toys have to do with us, just as my father’s work had to do with us. I think I’m just taking a different turn on who we are. I chose the road less traveled, and it has made all the difference.”

For Jarvis Rockwell (born 1932), art has always been integral to life. His father was the nation’s most prominent illustrator, and his mother, Mary Barstow Rockwell, enjoyed drawing, painting, and experimenting with sculpture. At an early age, he began to draw, encouraged by both his parents. Sketching portraits of neighbors and friends in Arlington, Vermont, and taking classes at New York’s Art Students League and National Academy of Design, prepared him for the art assignments he would assume during the Korean War. He went on to study at the Boston Museum School and Los Angeles County Art Institute and has continued his artistic explorations ever since.

His work has been included in several exhibitions, including MASS MoCA and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.

Rockwell began collecting action figures in 1979 and since then his collection has grown by hundreds of pieces per year. The artist finds fascination in mass-produced toys for their diversity of design, the fictional narratives that are established by their random intersections, and by the stories these icons of popular culture have to tell. After a decade of collecting, Rockwell began to create small groupings, articulating the relationships he saw between the figures, and arrange his tableaux in Plexiglass boxes. In 2001 the artist expanded on the concept with “Maya,” a vast toy-embellished pyramid inspired by Hindu temples the artist witnessed during trips to Chennai and Delhi, India. This work “tells the story of us” through the artifacts of commercial culture, reminding us of the society’s deepest longings and aspirations.

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