The National Gallery of Art announces new acquisitions

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The National Gallery of Art announces new acquisitions
Christopher Myers, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy), 2019, cotton appliquéd on furnishing and specialty fabrics, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of Glenstone Foundation, 2021.1.1. Courtesy of the artist and Fort Gansevoort.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The National Gallery of Art has acquired its first work by contemporary artist Jonas Wood (b. 1977). Wood’s graphic painting style uses familial relations to address the real and psychological spaces that capture the intimacy and personal nature of his work. An important example of the artist’s work, Helen’s Room (2017) refers to an upstairs bedroom in Wood’s maternal grandfather’s home in Binghamton, New York. This painting, the artist has explained, created a "new, heightened memory of spending time with family."

Wood combines several studies into a single image, resulting in spatial contradictions and subtly interrupted or overlapping elements. Characteristic features of his work include art historical references (Henri Matisse’s cut-outs Jasper Johns’s linear inventions) and the interaction of pattern with large areas of color, a mix of acrylic paint (for flat areas) and oil (for impasto details).

In Helen’s Room, Wood combines autobiographical elements and historical references with a deliberately cool tone that is highly personal. These elements create a viewing experience of depth and complexity. "Helen" refers to a housekeeper who had used the bedroom shown in the painting. Aided by a photo of the original space, Wood made the work as a combination of real and invented imagery "as remembered at age nine." The "real" elements from the photo include the cat (a Siamese belonging to the artist’s parents), the bed, copies of Matisse paintings made by SUNY Binghamton students commissioned by his grandfather, the lighting, folded maps behind the floor lamp, the phone, and the remote control on the side table. To these items, Wood added the butterfly/moth picture above the bed (a colored version was owned by Wood’s maternal uncle in a different home), and the nature scene out the window to the right (which was covered with a drape in the photo.)

Christopher Myers Work Inspired by Black Lives Matter Movement Enters Permanent Collection

Christopher Myers (b. 1974) creates works of art in a variety of media, from books and films to theater and quilts, that address the experience of people of color around the world. He has collaborated with the American artist Hank Willis Thomas (b. 1976) and with craftspeople and musicians in cities such as Ho Chi Minh City, Yogyakarta, and New Orleans. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy) (2019) memorializes adults and children who have died at the hands of the police. Acquired in January 2021, the work is the first by Myers to enter the National Gallery of Art's collection, made possible by a generous gift of Mitchell and Emily Rales.

A combination of sumptuous pattern and tragic content, What Does It Mean to Matter (Community Autopsy) was first shown at a 2020 exhibition of Myers’s fabric works at the Fort Gansevoort gallery in Los Angeles. The title of the show, Drapetomania, was a reference to both the draped medium of the works and the name of a 19th-century pseudo-disease used to pathologize the behavior of fugitives from slavery.

Myers has said: “The image of the autopsy sheet marked by a coroner has become central to the imagery and conversations of Black Lives Matter. Here I combine several of the wounds from some of the more high-profile cases. . . . I wonder what can be done to tell our young people that they matter, before they are inscribed in a coroner’s report. Included in the piece are the autopsies of Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown Jr., Antwon Rose Jr., Miriam Carey, Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., Ezell Ford, and Jordan Edwards.”

Recently Acquired Painting of I.M. Pei by Richard Estes on View When East Building Reopens

Best known for his complex photo-realistic scenes of urban environments, Richard Estes (b. 1932) rarely painted portraits, except for a few images of close friends. Portrait of I. M. Pei (1996) is the first painting by Estes to enter the collection, where it joins 34 prints by the artist. The work is as much a portrait of the Gallery’s Study Center as it is a portrait of the architect.

Portrait of I. M. Pei is unique among Estes’s art because it combines a portrait with complex architectural forms. In 1995 Dodge Thompson, chief of exhibitions at the Gallery, approached Estes to paint a portrait of Pei (1917–2019), who was the architect of the East Building. Ian M. Cumming, a patron of the Gallery, and John Wilmerding, the Gallery’s deputy director, encouraged Estes to paint the portrait against the setting of the East Building.

In 1967 Andrew Mellon’s children, Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, offered funds for a second National Gallery of Art building, and Pei was selected to design it. The modernist structure he conceived was inspired and informed by its trapezoidal site, located between Pennsylvania Avenue and the National Mall and between Third and Fourth Streets NW. Pei designed the East Building as two triangles—one to hold a library, offices, and community of scholars and the other as public gallery space for the permanent collection and exhibitions. Pei linked his design for the East Building to John Russell Pope’s neoclassical design of the West Building by using the same Tennessee pink marble to clad the exterior. Construction of the East Building began in 1971, and on June 1, 1978, Paul Mellon and President Jimmy Carter dedicated the new museum to the people of the United States.

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