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Orlando Museum of Art acquires works by renowned artists
Frederick MacMonnies, Nathan Hale, 1890, bronze, brown patina, 28 3/8 x 9 1Ž2 x 6 3/8 in. Purchased with funds provided by the Friends of American Art. Image courtesy of Taylor | Graham Gallery.

ORLANDO, FLA.- The Orlando Museum of Art has acquired three important works of art by: Robin Rhode, a contemporary performance artist and photographer; Kate Gilmore, a contemporary performance and video artist; and Frederick MacMonnies, a 19th Century American sculptor of the Beaux-Arts school. These purchases were facilitated with generous support from the Museum’s collecting groups: The Acquisition Trust (Rhode & Gilmore) and the Friends of American Art (MacMonnies).

Last fall, the Acquisition Trust provided funding to acquire Scales by Robin Rhode. It represents the 50th purchase in 32 years by the Acquisition Trust. Scales is the first purchase of work from a "global" artist. Rhode is South African and grew up in a post-apartheid world. Recognized as a performance artist and a photographer, he now lives in Berlin and exhibits internationally. Scales is a distinct example of a common theme in Robin’s work, which explores mathematical and scientific concepts, play and celebration, class disparity in South Africa. In Scales, Rhode continues his more recent investigation of color theory as a metaphor for racial identity. It appears joyous with color and movement but upon closer inspection one comes to understand the meaning of the black hexagon as both color theory and social metaphor.

The second purchase by the Acquisition Trust is a video by Kate Gilmore. For each work, she creates a set and carries out a series of actions that lead to a conclusion. When finished, the set has been transformed in some way by her performance. After the event is over and the set cleared, the video stands as a lasting record of an otherwise transient work of art. In Blood From a Stone, Gilmore lifts 10 one-foot cubes of solid plaster onto shoulder-high shelves. The blocks weigh 75 pounds apiece, and as Gilmore manages to heave each into place, wet paint on the shelf splatters and drips down the wall. As she goes on, the work becomes more and more difficult until she can barely manage the last block. The resulting work, a row of white cubes and paint drips on a grey wall, recalls the austere abstract sculptures of 1960s era Minimalism. Is Gilmore mocking the revered, ultra-serious and mostly male artists of that period? There is an absurd humor in Gilmore’s frumpy famine outfit and her intent physical struggle to place each block correctly in place.

Lastly, OMA acquired a sculpture by Frederick MacMonnies, one of the most successful American sculptors of the late 19th century, with funds provided by the Friends of American Art. As a young artist, he won a number of distinguished prizes for work shown at the annual Paris Salon. In 1890, MacMonnies won the competition to design a monument to honor Revolutionary War hero Nathan Hale. His completed life-size bronze figure was erected in New York’s City Hall Park in 1892, where it remains today. Nathan Hale was executed by the British in New York after being captured spying for the Continental Army. Just before his death, Hale uttered the now famous words: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” MacMonnies portrays Hale as a young martyr to the American cause whose example of courage is indicative of the national spirit. He stands with his shoulders thrust back and his head lifted. MacMonnies’ sculptural masterwork expresses the vitality of Hale at this dramatic moment with his erect stature and the vivid realism of his countenance and disheveled clothing.

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