COLUMBIA, SC.- The Columbia Museum of Art
is presenting two special exhibitions, Animal Instinct: Paintings by Shelley Reed and Cheer for the Home Team: Animal Mascots from the Collection, on view concurrently through Sunday, September 14, 2014. Animal Instinct illustrates animals in exquisite detail in the tradition of Old Master painting-but with a contemporary twist-while Cheer for the Home Team explores the power and symbolism that animals have to rally our spirits and camaraderie. Both shows offer delightful and fascinating visual experiences to inspire and educate all audiences as the CMA continues to fulfill its mission to bring to the Midlands exceptional exhibitions of fine art.
The CMA is the first to present a career retrospective of American artist Shelley Reed. Animal Instinct: Paintings by Shelley Reed is an impressive selection of approximately 40 large-scale black and white paintings of animals, including a wall length mural. These oils on canvas are based on Old Master paintings where animals often stand in for people and are used to create visual parables about the strengths and failings of human nature. Animals in lush, gorgeous paintings communicate with each other, flirt with each other, and consume each other. Reed is an unexpected painter because she does not use color in her current work, although she started out as a colorist. Her palette shrank as she became less interested in exploiting color and more interested in exploring the meaning of Old Master paintings.
"Reed's art is unexpected," says CMA Chief Curator Will South, "because she works exclusively in black and white where the tradition of animal painting has been all color. She also works on a very big scale. The combination of silvery, shimmering surfaces and huge canvases makes us feel like we're looking at old Hollywood movies;only here the animals are the stars."
Reed not only makes Old Master paintings feel contemporary by making them large and dismissing color, but she focuses on the contrasting mixture of wildness, as represented by tigers, lions, birds, and other animals, with high culture. She is fascinated with how human beings tend to understand the world in terms of themselves, yet wild animals have their own natures. She explores this complexity in both complicated narratives and simple animal portraits. The result is that we readily identify animals that boast, strut, threaten or attract other animals and at the same time realize, too, that despite being the subjects of fine art, wild animals resist civilization. It is not their nature. The art says they fit in, and so Reed has a built-in tension to her narratives. The grandest narrative in the show is a 47-foot-long mural entitled, In Dubious Battle, where a panorama of fighting and playing and posing unfolds. The mural, with its cast of characters and dynamic action, feels like a silent movie where we get to invent the story along with the animals and the artist.
"The rewards for looking at the art of Shelley Reed are many," says South. "We are awed by her expert control of paint, and entertained by the high-energy compositions she puts together. And, beyond all that, we think about the ideas embedded in these wonderful pictures: how civilized are we, really? Are we not animals too, of a different stripe? Her paintings say we are."
Reed is represented by Danese/Corey and the Sears-Peyton Gallery, both in New York. She has had solo shows in New York, Toronto, and Boston and has participated in many group shows around the country. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has awarded her the 2005 Maud Morgan Award and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston gave her a Traveling Fellowship in 2013. Reed's work can be found in public and private collections including: Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Lila Acheson Wallace Collection, Bank of Boston, Rose Art Museum, Danforth Museum, and the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park. The artist is based in Boston.
Cheer for the Home Team: Animal Mascots from the Collection is a family-friendly exhibition comprised of 41 works from the CMA collection featuring animals that serve as college mascots. The exhibition explores the qualities of certain animals that make them popular as symbols of luck to lead their schools to victory on the field, like the fighting gamecock and the tiger. A diversity of objects is drawn from all aspects of the collection, including European paintings, American folk art, and Asian ceramics. Cheer for the Home Team features a number of the Museum's Audubon prints, as well as works by Eugène Delacroix, Romare Bearden, Edmund Yaghjian, Constantine Manos, and Sigmund Abeles. Many of these pieces are being shown for the first time in a number of years.
"This exhibition has such a wide variety of objects and animals in it that every visitor will find something to love," says CMA Curator Victoria Cooke. "It is fun to learn more about the history of animals in art, but also the stories of the mascots and how they were chosen by the colleges and universities."
Sports fans have a good time identifying the mascots for various teams across the U.S., while children, animal lovers, and fine art enthusiasts revel in the various styles and assortment of wildlife portrayed in the pieces. Visitors learn about the history of mascots for college sports teams as well as some of the unlikely and unusual mascots that have come to lead the rallying cry for their schools.
Both of these exhibitions are simply fun for all ages and educational as well.