Arkansas Arts Center presents an Independent Vision

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Exhibitions, Museum

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Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection on view Sept. 28 – Dec. 30, 2018

Martin Muller with 4 Legs by Charles Arnoldi, 2011. Photo by Philip Cohen. Image courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

The Arkansas Arts Center presents the striking vision of a master collector in Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection, on view September 28 through December 30, 2018.

Joel Besmar, Cuban (Camagüey, Cuba, 1968 – ), Descensus (The Descent), 2013, oil on canvas, 78 5/8 x 57 1/2 inches. Image courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

San Francisco-based gallerist and collector Martin Muller curated the exhibition from his personal collection as a tribute to Little Rock – the city where he spent his formative early years in America. During those years, Muller discovered an affinity for post-war American painting in the quiet library of the Arkansas Arts Center. It was the beginning of a lifelong, relentless pursuit of new artistic treasures.

“This was the beginning of a rich, colorful, challenging and rewarding journey, started in Little Rock, where I made many lifelong friends,” Muller said.

Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection features 89 works from Muller’s personal collection representing his journey through contemporary art. The works in the exhibition represent a range of artistic expression, from American photographers Diane Arbus and Robert Mapplethorpe, modernist masters Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, pioneers of the Russian avant-garde Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Bogomazov, and El Lissitzky and pop artists Andy Warhol, Mel Ramos and Edward Ruscha. The show also includes a diverse array of contemporary works by artists such as Joel Besmar, Damian Elwes and Jean-Charles Blais.

“The thing that brings all these works together is their superlative quality,” said Brian Lang, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Craft. “They are exceptional examples of their type.”

Independent Vision draws from Muller’s personal collection – and represents 77 artists he has championed throughout his career. Together, these works form a picture of Muller the collector, on a life-long journey for enlightenment through art and literature.

Born in Switzerland, Muller moved to Little Rock in 1975 to take a job with a Swiss-American company based in Little Rock.

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, called Le Corbusier, Swiss/French (La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 1887 – 1965, Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, France), Coeur sur la main, 1948, collage and gouache on paper, 19 1/8 x 14 1/2 inches. Image courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco.

Muller was an avid student of 19th and 20th century Russian literature and art – but developed a fascination with post-war American painting – Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism. While living in Little Rock, he pursued his studies in the Elizabeth P. Taylor Library of the Arkansas Arts Center. In 1977, having decided to pursue his passion for art professionally, Muller moved west and opened Modernism, Inc. in San Francisco’s warehouse district South of Market.

“During my trip cross country, I marveled at discovering masterpieces of modern American art, from Edward Hopper to Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and later, the Pop and Minimalist artists, especially Donald Judd,” Muller said. “Now, some 40 years later, it gives me great joy to have come full circle back to Little Rock and be able to share at the Arkansas Arts Center some of the wonderful artworks gathered along the way.”

Founded in 1979, Modernism has since presented more than 450 exhibitions, both historical and contemporary, in media ranging from painting to photography, sculpture to performance, by an international roster of artists. Throughout its 39 years, Muller has aspired to keep the gallery’s challenging, museum quality program at the forefront of the art world, with exhibitions encompassing Dada, Cubism, Surrealism, Vorticism and German Expressionism. Muller was also an early promoter and champion of the artists of the Russian Avant-Garde (1910–1930) in the United States. The gallery has held a long list of exhibition “firsts” – in 1980, Modernism held the first exhibition of the Russian Avant-Garde in a West Coast gallery, the first Andy Warhol show in San Francisco in 1982, and in 2003, the first Le Corbusier gallery show in the United States.

“This exhibition celebrates the individual collecting vision in all of us,” Lang said. “We can all see ourselves in the variety of works Martin has chosen to collect.”

Independent Vision: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Martin Muller Collection was organized by the Arkansas Arts Center and Modernism Inc., San Francisco. Independent Vision is sponsored by Brenda Mize, Jane McGehee Wilson and Stifel.

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Executive Director Todd Herman to Depart Arkansas Arts Center

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Faculty & Staff

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The Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Arts Center announced Thursday that Executive Director Todd  Herman will leave the center, effective August 10, 2018, to accept a position as President and CEO of The Mint Museum in Charlotte, N.C. The Board of Trustees is conducting a search for a successor to direct the AAC’s transitional goals of growth and expansion. Laine Harber, Deputy Director and CFO, will act as interim Director until the position is filled.

“We regret that Todd is departing, but know that our priorities for the Arkansas Arts Center remain unchanged,” said Merritt Dyke, President of the Board of Trustees of the Arkansas Arts Center. “We are encouraged by the positive response and participation from the community regarding our capital campaign, co-chaired by Harriet and Warren Stephens. Everyone in the organization is focused on making the AAC an unparalleled cultural destination for the citizens of central Arkansas and beyond.”

Herman came to the Arkansas Arts Center as Executive Director in 2011, and led one of Little Rock’s premier cultural institutions through a period marked by growth, expansion and financial stability. During his tenure, the Arkansas Arts Center saw seven consecutive years of balanced budgets and increased endowment funding. Herman oversaw the campaign to launch the transformation of the Arkansas Arts Center’s building in MacArthur Park. He also brought nationally recognized exhibitions to the Arts Center, developed a five-year strategic plan focused on civic involvement, arts education and cultural significance, and directed the organization through reaccreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.

“It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing that I will be leaving the Arkansas Arts Center,” Herman said. “We accomplished a lot in the past seven years with the help of dedicated and talented staff, board, foundation and donors, and the commitment of both the City of Little Rock and our loyal members. As you know, you can’t always plan when opportunities will find you. The opportunity to lead an institution and to be in close proximity to family was likely an opportunity I will never have again. The Arts Center is in very good hands, with one of the finest staffs I have ever had the pleasure to work with. I am honored to have been a part of the history of this fine institution and of this community.”

“We thank Todd for his contributions to the AAC and his help launching this exciting transformation,” Dyke said. “We wish him the best in his new endeavor and look forward to working with Laine through this transition.”

The Board of Trustees and the Foundation Board will continue to implement the strategic plan developed in 2016. The Arkansas Arts Center redesign is underway with the new museum scheduled to open in 2022.

Featured image courtesy of Little Rock Soiree magazine.

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Voices of the Delta: Dusty Mitchell

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Delta 60, Delta Exhibition, Exhibitions, Museum, Voices of the Delta


Dusty Mitchell, Pressure, 2017, digital scales, 1 x 192 x 120 inches

I make work out of ordinary things that have been manufactured to perform specific functions in our society. People have a relationship with the materials I use prior to seeing my work, therefore they immediately identify with the materials when they do. My intention is to manipulate this pre-existing relationship by presenting familiar objects and images in unfamiliar ways.  I prompt viewers to reconsider the role of the objects I use by extracting the conceptual value out of the ordinary. The work is accessible. You are allowed in. You are invited in. It’s not intended to keep you at a safe distance or impress you with some undefined mysterious vagueness. It’s intended to be accepted (or not) for what it is. I’ve been accused of being “clever”, and the work has been labeled as “novelty” at times, which I have no quarrel with. However you choose to label it, count me in. Mark me down for a thumbs up. This is the way I think and the language I speak. I see the work as smart, relevant, right on time, and appropriately sarcastic for our current cultural climate. You may not see it that way.

IMPORTANT TO ME: Ideas, Materials, Craftsmanship, Presentation, Relevance, Relatability, Impact

NOT IMPORTANT TO ME:  Whether or not “you could have made it,” Pretending I know things you don’t, Impressing people with my (non-existent) natural ability to draw or paint, Buyability (made-up word)

The work is excessively deliberate. I don’t have OCD, but I do think about art in a mathematical way. My ideas are strategic, not spontaneous. I am not a person that has whimsical, fleeting inspirations for beautiful artworks that contain evidence of a master painter’s individual touch. My individual touch is that of a robotic arm. I have pre-programmed every idea and have carefully considered the ramifications of every decision made throughout the process of creating the work. It’s quite possible that some of the meat on my artwork’s bone has been sacrificed during the cooking process, but you can be sure that the recipe has been followed exactly. And that taste you are tasting now as you view it? That’s exactly how I wanted it to taste.

–Dusty Mitchell

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Arkansas Arts Center presents the jewelry of Robert Baines

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Exhibitions, Museum

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The exquisite and beguiling creations of Australian National Living Treasure Robert Baines will be on view at the Arkansas Arts Center July 20 through October 7, 2018. Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies celebrates the dazzling and witty work of the master goldsmith, craftsman and scholar.

A leading scholar in the field of archaeometallurgy, Baines has studied and revived Bronze Age goldsmith techniques in service of international jewelry scholarship. His study of the ancient techniques also has informed his artistic practice for more than 40 years. In Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies, Baines assembles a fictitious jewelry narrative, captivating not only in the creativity and craftsmanship evident in the works, but also in the artist’s fascination with the enigma of jewelry as material evidence of authentic history.

Baines’ jewelry references the design vocabulary of historic European metalworking techniques in a completely distinct aesthetic. By using ancient techniques in playful new ways, Baines challenges the mythology present in contemporary culture. By combining precious metals and contemporary materials, he pushes the boundaries of what wearable art can be.

Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies features 76 works organized into three narrative arcs – ArmbanditsCollecting, and The Official History of the Compact Disc – each presenting jewelry as material evidence. The jewelry, however, should be viewed with caution – the artist’s linear “histories” are rife with myth, riddle, puzzle and possible subversions of their origin. In Armbandits, Baines explores how an 11th century Islamic armlet in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art may have been “misunderstood, misinterpreted and become a fantasy of influence of further design,” ranging from armbands, bracelets, and finger rings to a hair clip and buttons. He even posits that the design of the popular Australian VoVo® marshmallow biscuit is “a result of a series of misinterpretations” of the armlet.

In Collecting, Baines curates “the smallest collection of large jewelry in the world.” Assembled both for the significance of their scale – large and small – the works are fabricated in complex detail and contain multiple, intricate components. In The Official History of the Compact Disc, Baines argues how the “B.C. and the A.D. of the C.D. is a fractured historical narrative of the evolution of the now common compact disc (CD)” as seen through “its repetitive manifestations in a linear jewelry history.” The section contains a variety of disc-shaped brooches, including an early and very complex Etruscan gold disc said to be from the fifth century B.C. and concludes with the most technically complex work, Brooch, Meaner Than Yellow. Between them is a variety of brooches featuring a menagerie of animals, including felines, giraffes, and rabbits.

One of the most prominent contemporary goldsmiths in the world, Baines is the recipient of numerous international awards, including the Bayerischer State Prize (2005) and Friedrich Becker Prize (2008) in Germany; and the Cicely and Colin Rigg Craft Award (1997), the richest craft prize in Australia. He holds a Ph.D. from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), where he is a professor of gold and silversmithing. In 2010, he was designated a Living Treasure: Master of Australian Craft. Baines’s astonishingly detailed metalwork, which reflects his studies in archaeometallurgy, embodies ancient techniques such as linear wirework and granulation but with the scale, grandeur, and irony of current practice. His jewelry is contained in countless international museum collections, including: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Powerhouse Museum, Sidney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Schmuckmuseum, Pforzheim, Germany; Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg; and Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; among others.

Robert Baines: Living Treasure and Fabulous Follies is organized by Gallery Loupe for Contemporary Art Jewelry, Montclair, New Jersey, in collaboration with the Arkansas Arts Center. Its American tour is generously supported by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts. Its presentation in Arkansas is supported by: Marion W. Fulk; Alan DuBois Contemporary Craft Fund; and Ginanne Graves Long.

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Meet the Speaker: Leonard Choo

Author: Arkansas Arts CenterFiled under: Art of Fashion, Events, Meet the Speaker

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Leonard Choo

Art of Fashion: Leonard Choo
An Exquisite Pursuit: Shopping and Design in Ballet Costuming
5:30 p.m. Wine Reception | 6 p.m. Lecture

Barbara Streisand once sang, “Everything is beautiful at the ballet”…and it has to be. The quest for beauty in ballet extends beyond the sweeping grace of its dancers – to the complex, fascinating, and often intricately specialized costumes that contribute to the wonder of its mise-en-scène. How do these dimensional garments begin their lives? What are the various components, and how do they make their way to the stage?Leonard Choo, principal Shopper for the New York City Ballet, will discuss all this and more in his upcoming Art of Fashion lecture. We caught up with Leonard before his visit to learn a little more his work.

What is your current role at the New York City Ballet?

I am the principal Shopper for the costume department of the New York City Ballet. I am responsible for swatching, sourcing, and purchasing all the fabric, trims, stones, accessories, and even tools that go into the making or refurbishment of the costumes that go on stage at NYCB.

How did you first become interested in fashion?

I have always been somewhat interested clothing, but really developed a keenness for fashion when I was pursuing my MFA in costume design. I particularly love the craft and art of clothing construction, and of couture…it reminds me of a childhood obsession with origami, actually. Well-made and thought out clothing design is so exciting to me that I am that person who will watch shows purely for the joy of watching the costumes’ design and details.

How does art influence your work?

Art influences my work is such a multitude of ways that to be honest, so it’s quite difficult to pinpoint one primary motivation! Aesthetically, I often turn to art for color and mood (such as the impressionists and Henri Rousseau), for line, movement and figure (renaissance sculpture and Rodin), and for general love and celebration of intricate detail (16th-18th century European portraiture). I also find it very useful to observe how artists visually addressed social/political/economic contexts and messages in their art – particularly useful when creating designs that can effectively respond to the context of a performance. It is a nebulous, constantly evolving pool of inspiration.

How does fabric shopping or designing for the stage differ from shopping or designing for the runway?

Designing, shopping, and building clothing for the stage and performance is such a wildly different job from designing for the runway — it is something I feel quite passionately about. Our process must take into account an entire context (character, plot, movement, space, time, mise-en-scène), exist within it, and work semiotically and pragmatically with the requirements of actual performance. For the the stage, I prioritize scale, repetition, contrast, and movement — especially the way a fabric hangs or relates to a body. It is all often bigger, more heightened, or more prominent than on the runway.

Do you have a favorite look that’s appeared on stage at the New York City Ballet?

I wish I could pick just one, but in fact I have several because they are all wonderful in their separate ways.

Most recently, for a group of 1940’s style dresses for a Something to Dance About designed by Toni-Leslie James, I worked with a French textile company to create a selection of flocked nets from scratch – watching fabric you have helped create come to life on stage is thrilling.

I also really love watching rebuilds on stage because the process of remaking these costumes is always such an exercise in balancing creativity and fidelity. For example, the fabrics for the ladies in Serenade and the snowflake corps in The Nutcracker are all new, specially developed fabrics that bring life back to Karinska’s iconic designs.

Lastly, I would say one of the most wonderful costumes I’ve seen move about on stage was our rebuild of Carabosse, the evil fairy in Patricia Zipprodt’s design for The Sleeping Beauty. It was an incredibly elaborate costume that required weeks of work, and when it finally hit the stage and the light, it came to breathtaking life and truly embodied and extended the dancer and character.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I try and find inspiration in the visual or aesthetic context of the work I’m doing. It might be furniture and décor from certain period, clothing from a certain place, or paintings by a certain person.

I also tend to find a lot of great visual inspiration in nature… in colors, or shapes, or even moods. For a recent dance design that featured dock workers, for example, I drew the color palette from algae and lichen growths on the underside of docks.

Do you have any advice for aspiring young costume designers?

Analytically see and experience as much design as you can, to learn from great artists and designers. A curatorial eye is extremely beneficial to learning what works and what does not, and why. I really believe that learning the form and craft provides a strong foundation for meaningful, innovative, exciting design.

Tickets for Art of Fashion are available at

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