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Colby College Museum of Art opens first scholarly Bernard Langlais retrospective
Bernard Langlais, The Town (French Island—Old Town) (The White City), 1956−57, oil on canvas, 26 x 59 ¾ inches, Colby College Museum of Art, The Bernard Langlais Collection, Gift of Helen Friend Langlais. Photo: Pixel Acuity.

WATERVILLE, ME.- This summer, the Colby College Museum of Art presents the first scholarly retrospective of the work of the artist Bernard Langlais, whose estate Colby College received as a bequest in 2010. Bernard Langlais, on view July 19, 2014 through January 4, 2015, explores in full the major themes and diverse stylistic experiments that run through the artist’s career. Following its 2013 expansion, which added 10,000 square feet of exhibition space for its substantial and important American art collection, the Colby Museum also is presenting Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision (June 7–August 31, 2014) and has re-envisioned its installation of highlights from the permanent collection.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer three powerful exhibitions this summer,” said Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art. “As the beneficiary and steward of the Bernard Langlais Collection, we feel especially honored to present the first major retrospective exhibition of this original and prolific artist, enabling audiences to appreciate for the first time the fierce independence that characterizes his remarkable work.”

Bernard Langlais
Bernard Langlais features more than 120 sculptures and reliefs, oil paintings on panel and canvas, and works on paper. Curated by Langlais Curator for Special Projects Hannah W. Blunt, the exhibition is organized by period and medium and features many works that have not been shown in more than half a century.

Langlais (1921—1977, b. Old Town, Maine) created art driven by a deep sense of place and a search for materials and subjects that would reconcile his rural roots with postwar artistic movements. As a student in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he explored both figuration and abstraction in painting. Subsequently, interested in a more physically engaging practice, Langlais began to work in wood. He caught the attention of the New York art world with his first works in this medium: abstract reliefs that were included in the watershed exhibition New Forms, New Media at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1960, a solo exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1961, and at the Whitney Museum’s 1962 Drawing and Sculpture Annual.

Disenchanted with New York gallery culture, Langlais returned permanently to Maine in 1966. In the barns and fields of his property in the rural, coastal town of Cushing, he began to create large-scale sculptures and reliefs in wood. Constructing what he called an “environmental complex,” Langlais completely integrated his life and work in the last decade of his career.

Highlights of Bernard Langlais include the artist's early paintings, such as The Town (1956–57), which he reworked several times, depicting his hometown of Old Town, Maine. Critically acclaimed works in wood from the middle of his career include the iconic Around Four (c. 1959–62), a richly tactile counterpoint to the era’s hard-edge Pop painting, and figurative reliefs that reveal an interest in the wild and domestic animals of coastal Maine: shore birds, awe-inspiring raptors such as Eagle (circa 1964), horses, cows, and bulls.

The exhibition’s dynamic installation of Langlais’s late works features expressive representations of the animal kingdom, many of which were deeply connected to his immediate environment. In the last nine years of his life, Langlais populated his Cushing property with well over 100 wood reliefs and three-dimensional pieces, including more than 65 monumental sculptures. Many of these works are being represented in the exhibition in a display of working models, photographs, and archival video footage of his Cushing property.

A portion of Langlais’s Cushing property is being made into a public sculpture park thanks to a partnership among the Colby Museum, the Kohler Foundation, and the Georges River Land Trust to preserve the artist’s work and legacy. As part of this partnership, the Kohler Foundation has gifted nearly 3,000 Langlais artworks to nonprofit institutions. The Langlais Preserve will open to the public in fall of 2014.

Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision
Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision celebrates the gift of drawings that the artist gave to the Colby Museum in 2010. Featuring more than 50 works on paper--drawings, watercolors, and prints—the exhibition sheds light on the results of Dodd’s drawing practice as finished works in their own right.

Growing up in the Tri-State area, Dodd was influenced both by her studies at Cooper Union in New York City and by her summers spent on Penobscot Bay on Maine’s mid-coast. The themes she represents are often specific to her location, such as Maine landscapes peppered with old farmhouses, gardens, and verdant fields, as seen in Green Landscape with Seated Figure (1957), or glimpses of buildings and cityscapes through windows, as depicted in From 85th Floor, Looking East (1998). The exhibition joins a selection of paintings from the artist’s studio, made in the 1950s and 1960s and exhibited for the first time in 50 years, with drawings from Colby’s collection that have never before been shown publicly, to demonstrate the relationship in Dodd’s use of these mediums.

Reinstallation of the Permanent Collection
In addition to presenting the temporary summer exhibitions, the Museum re-installed its permanent collection galleries, integrating works from the recently gifted Lunder Collection with the Museum's core holdings, including recent gifts from the Alex Katz Foundation, and select loans. Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, this display reflects the Museum's ongoing commitment to a deep representation of American art from the 19th century through the present.

Highlights include David Smith's steel sculpture Voltri Bolton II (1962), Maya Lin's monumental marble sculpture Disappearing Bodies of Water (2013), a meter box by Donald Judd (1977), and Robert Mangold's 18 acrylic and pencil drawings (1991) given by the Alex Katz Foundation. Cherished cornerstones of the collection, such as Albert Bierstadt's View of Chimney Rock (1860) and Winslow Homer's The Trapper (1870) are being featured, as well as recently acquired works by Jacob Lawrence, Helen Torr, Frederic Edwin Church, William Matthew Prior, and Joshua Johnson.

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