Current Exhibitions
Australian Glass Art, American Links

Australian Glass Art, American Links is an ambitious exhibition organized by the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.

The exhibition features the work of 21 Australian and five American contemporary glass artists—all leaders in the field internationally.

It is the first American museum exhibition dedicated to the wide spectrum of Australian studio glass and the clear link between artists and institutions in Australia and the Pacific Northwest.

"Expect to be awed," wrote exhibition curator Vicki Halper, a noted decorative arts scholar and former Seattle Art Museum curator. "The connections between Australia and the Pacific Northwest are longstanding and fascinating. But, the differences between the art of the two regions are just as intriguing. Australians excel in fused and cold worked glass, which are not as prevalent in the Pacific Northwest. Opaque surfaces and muted colors are likewise more dominant in Australian glass than in the Pacific Northwest."

The exhibition tells two related stories that began in the 1970s—threading the land down under to the Pacific Northwest. In 1974, American artist Richard Marquis travelled to Australia to lecture at the invitation of the Australia Council for the Arts. Marquis’ relationship with Australian artist Nick Mount initiated a lineage of blown-glass artists in Australia. The second story centers on kiln-formed glass and the relationship between Klaus Moje, founder of the glass workshop at Australian National University in Canberra, and the Bullseye Glass Company in Portland, Oregon.

In 1979, Moje met Boyce Lundstrom, co-founder of Bullseye Glass Company, while at a workshop at Pilchuck Glass School founded by artist Dale Chihuly in Washington. At Moje's instigation, Bullseye Glass Company developed a line of compatible, fusible glass that solved long-standing technical problems. This glass is widely used by Australian artists today.

Night: Works on Paper from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

Although night scenes--or nocturnes--have been produced by artists for  centuries, it was American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) who made the subject famous--or perhaps more accurately, infamous.

In 1877, one of Whistler’s nocturnes, displayed in London, enraged critic John Ruskin who declared, "[I] never expected to hear a coxcomb ask 200 guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the public’s face."

In response, Whistler sued Ruskin for libel and the subsequent court case essentially became a trial about the validity of modern art. During the highly publicized trial, the artist defended his nocturnes as artistic arrangements, based on transcendent ideals of harmony and beauty.

Although Whistler eventually won the suit, his settlement was insultingly small (only a farthing), and he was soon bankrupt. Ruskin, angered at the decision, withdrew from his professorship at Oxford. Despite the personal outcomes of the case, the field of modern art and the subject of the nocturne were forever changed.

Before Whistler produced his nocturnes, the night was treated merely as background. Artists would create narratives set at night, often because the scene was rendered more dramatic by virtue of the nighttime setting. After Whistler, however, night became a subject in itself. Artists began to depict the contrast of darkness with lights from the city in clean-line modernist works, the atmospheric effects of the night in abstract expressions, and the density and mystery of nighttime in surrealist compositions. No longer moralizing or didactic in nature, nocturnes were expressions of artistry, harmony, and beauty.

Prints are an especially fitting media for nocturnes. Rich, dense, and inky, they share characteristics with the night. The versatile techniques offered by printmaking have enabled generations of artists to capture an endless variety
of nighttime scenes and subjects. From narrative work by publishers Currier and Ives, to atmospheric work by Whistler, to abstractions by Ben Shahn, this exhibition--from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art--features key examples of nocturnes from the 19th century to the 1960s. This exhibition has been organized by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas.


At left: Ellison Hoover (1888‑1955), Manhattan Midnight, ca. 1942‑1945. Lithograph, 10 7/8 x 8 5/8 inches. Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth

Political Animal: The Cartoons of Thomas Nast

Thomas Nast defined the art of the political cartoon.

During his 26-year career at the popular New York journal Harper's Weekly, Nast created more than 3,000 cartoons. Many of his creations--including the Democratic Donkey and the Republican Elephant--are still in use today.

Just in time for election season, this collection of cartoons drawn entirely from WAM's holdings explores the artist’s use of animals to parody 19th-century political culture. A powerful figure in his own day, today Nast is recognized as one of the most important cartoonists and political commentators of all time.

White Symphonies and Red Flowers: Color Abstraction of Natvar Bhavsar

Following exhibitions at the 2009 Venice Biennale and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Natvar Bhavsar is a world-renowned abstract painter.

Yet, it was Wichita Art Museum that first recognized Bhavsar's unique vision, giving him his first one-person museum exhibition in 1979. Bhavsar begins his work by laying a monumental canvas, soaked with acrylic binder, on the ground.

Moving back and forth and around the canvas, the artist showers clouds of dry pigment onto the prepared surface. Bhavsar notes that his canvases invite the viewer to explore their own feelings and thoughts kindled by the pure visual language of color.

Former Wichita Art Museum director Howard Wooden perhaps described Bhavsar's work best, noting, "If you have to classify him, he is an abstract expressionist but his work is unique. [His paintings] always
remind me of the state of mind just before you awaken from a dream."

Gesture and Expression: Isabel Bishop and the Fourteenth Street School

Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was one of New York City's leading artists from the 1930s to the 1950s. She is best known for her paintings, drawings, and prints  depicting shop girls, vagrant men, and teeming life around Union Square.

In Bishop's time, Union Square was one of the busiest commercial and entertainment districts in this booming metropolis. Home to major department stores, theaters, and movie houses, the small businesses in the area provided close to 10,000 jobs.

She was a force in the cadre of artists called the 14th Street School, so called after the thoroughfare  at the south end of this famous public square. In the artist's words, "the beauty, drama, and miraculous effects" of Manhattan inspired her to combine a style drawn from the Old Masters with a contemporary taste for urban realism.

With an interest in gesture, sensitivity to detail, and remarkable artistic expression, Bishop portrayed ordinary people in an extraordinary way.

Using models that she would find on the street, Bishop created dozens of sketches and etchings to capture a specific moment. The artist's depictions of everyday people caught at casual moments, nevertheless, engage with the significant social debates of gender and class differences that marked the 1930s.

Bishop taught at the Art Students League as the only female full-time instructor from 1936 to 1937. Additionally, she was the first woman to hold an executive position in the National Institute of Arts and Letters when she became vice-president in 1946. Yet, Bishop maintained, "I didn't want to be a woman artist; I just wanted to be an artist."

Utilizing the strong holdings in WAM's permanent collection, this exhibition presents Bishop’s socially engaged work and examines her role at the Art Students League as well as her lasting artistic

Steuben Glass from the Wichita Art Museum Collection

The Wichita Art Museum holds the largest collection of Steuben glass outside the Corning Museum of Glass, the museum in the city of the former Steuben Glass Works. An impressive selection of the Dr. Robert S. Burnstein collection is now on display in the F. Price Cossman Memorial Trust Gallery.

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