While the Arkansas Arts Center is home to more than 12,000 works of art, we are particularly noted for our collection of drawings – drawing being loosely defined as a unique work of art on paper in any medium, including pencil, charcoal, ink, pastel, watercolor, silverpoint, acrylic, oil and collage. The drawings in our collection were created by a variety of artists, from Old Masters to contemporary artists, and they tackle a diverse subjects, spanning hundreds of years of artistic production. But they all have one thing in common: works on paper are extremely susceptible to light damage and can’t remain on display indefinitely.
“Works on paper fade quickly in the light,” Curator of Drawings Ann Prentice Wagner said. “We want to grant access to these lovely works, but also to preserve them for future generations.”
So every six months, the exhibitions team reinstalls a different set of works from the collection in the galleries. The rapid reinstall schedule allows visitors to see, over time, a much larger selection of works from our collection. We’re also able to feature new acquisitions and highlight themes that complement our special exhibitions. We just completed the most recent reinstall of the AAC Collection, and with help from Wagner and Chief Curator Brian Lang, we’ve picked five favorites that you can see now.
The Circumnavigation of the Rose
For years, there was great consternation that no woman artist had ever been granted a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Finally, in 1953, Irene Rice Pereira and Loren MacIver shared the honor of having the first two one-woman exhibitions at the Whitney. This painting, recently conserved and re-framed by local conservator Norton Arts, is a beautiful example of the very abstract, conceptual work Pereira was producing at the time she was granted that exhibition. The title, The Circumnavigation of the Rose, refers to the compass rose and has to do with the artist’s spiritual journey through life. She explored these ideas both in her paintings and in her unpublished autobiography “Eastward Journey,” which was written in 1953.
Irene Rice Pereira, American (Boston, Massachusetts, 1902-1971, Marbella, Spain), The Circumnavigation of the Rose, circa 1950s, oil on canvas, 40 x 40 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Wanda Rock. 1981.038.001
Trompe L’Oeil Table
Wendell Castle’s 1978 Trompe L’Oeil Table is an exciting new acquisition into the Arkansas Arts Center Collection. Throughout his more than fifty-year career, Castle has sought an ongoing connection between furniture and sculpture, which he often views as interchangeable. In the process, his work has challenged public perceptions toward furniture as a metaphor of everyday life and the paradoxical relationship of form vs. function. Whether carved, laminated, manufactured, fabricated, or assembled, his designs reveal an incisive command of form and content, combined with a highly sophisticated and diverse use of materials and processes. Departing from the very fluid lines of his early organic pieces, by the mid-1970s and lasting into the early 1980s, Castle began to further push the “furniture as sculpture” dialogue by producing a number of trompe l’oeil (“fool the eye”) forms, such as Trompe L’oeil Table.
Wendell Castle, American (Emporia, Kansas, 1932 – ), Trompe L’Oeil Table, 1978, walnut, stack-laminated and carved, 40 x 41 x 23 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund and with a gift from John and Robyn Horn. 2016.015.
Untitled, From the Yes, Yes Series
Louis Watts’ Untitled, From the Yes, Yes Series was created using archival book-binding tape, thread and charcoal on paper. This drawing, which is by an outstanding local contemporary artist was original shown in the 2014 Delta Exhibition. It fits beautifully with the history of the grid in contemporary art that is also illustrated in this gallery by Louise Nevelson’s Tide Garden IV and Irene Rice Pereira’s The Circumnavigation of the Rose. The combination of precision, balance, and sheer beauty allows this drawing to break free of the cold grid to become vibrantly expressive.
Louis Watts, American (Little Rock, Arkansas, 1984 -) Untitled, from the Yes, Yes Series, 2014, archival book-binding tape, thread, and charcoal on paper, 50 x 38 ½ in. Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Tabriz Fund. 2015.029.
Diego Rivera’s 1914 Dos Mujeres, a longtime favorite in the Arkansas Arts Center Collection, recently returned from a loan to the Columbus Museum of Art. Rivera painted Dos Mujeres in 1914 when he was living in Paris and exploring Cubism. Here, the artist shows people and objects from a variety of viewpoints, as the viewer glimpses them moving through space and time. The rooftops of the workshops and warehouses outside the window seem to invade the room. We see the woman in the blue dress at multiple moments – her blue dress appears to fragment across the painting’s surface as she gathers her long skirt and walks toward a friend seated opposite her. The seated woman’s face appears both in profile, looking towards her friend, and looking out at the viewer. Has she turned her head or have we stepped into the room with her?
Diego Rivera, Mexican (Guanajuanto, Mexico, 1886 – 1957, Mexico City, Mexico), Dos Mujeres (Two Women), 1914, oil on canvas, 77 ¾ x 63 ½ in., Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Gift of Abby Rockefeller Mauzé. 1955.010.
Shiva’s Night Sword
Artist William Harper has long had a penchant for the use of discarded objects in his work. The ultimate elevation of these objects to preciousness in his art is referenced in a series of works, including Shiva’s Night Sword, that he began working on following his return from a trip to India and Nepal in 1989. While this object isn’t technically a sword, its title alludes to the axe (parashu) – known as the most lethal close combat weapons of the epics – which is held in the hand of Shiva and often depicted in images and sculptures of the Hindu god. The purchase of this piece is made possible with funds donated in honor of Glass Fantasies artist Thom Hall, who had learned the cloisonné enamel technique from William Harper during a visiting artist workshop in the AAC Museum School in 1976.
William Harper, American (Bucyrus, Ohio, 1944 – ), Shiva’s Night Sword (Brooch), 1989, gold cloisonné enamel on fine silver and fine gold, 24 karat gold, 14 karat gold, and amethyst, 4 3/8 x 2 ¼ x 5/8 inches, Arkansas Arts Center Foundation Collection: Purchase, Thom Hall Acquisition Fund. 2016.022
What’s your favorite work in the AAC collection? Let us know in the comments.