POUGHKEEPSIE – Today, the body you were born with is no longer a "fixed" entity. In our appearance-obsessed society, people can change the physical contours of their bodies in a myriad of ways. Now, a bold new exhibition at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center will explore the modern human form as it is imagined – by contemporary artists.
Out of Shape: Stylistic Distortions of the Human Form in Art from the Logan Collection is drawn from one of the most prominent private collections of international contemporary art in the United States. Many of the artists whose works Vicki (Vassar class of 1968) and Kent Logan have collected are known for depictions of the human form that explore issues of psychological identity, and that reinvent figuration as a conceptual tool.
Exhibitions of works from the Logan collection have previously been organized by and presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Aspen Art Museum, and The Victoria H. Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver. But Out of Shape is the first exhibition of the Logan collection to highlight the theme of figurative distortion and focus exclusively on the works on paper in the collection.
Thirty-five works on paper by 27 artists are presented in the exhibition, many of which have not been displayed publicly since they entered the Logan collection. Out of Shape will be shown Friday, March 14, 2008 through Sunday, June 8, 2008 at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, and will be exclusively exhibited at Vassar. Artist Laylah Ali will deliver a lecture about her work at the museum's reception on Friday evening, April 25.
"The works in this exhibition reflect some of the universal anxieties that plague the human condition, and speak to the fragility of life," said Mary-Kay Lombino of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, who curated Out of Shape in collaboration with the Logans. "In our digital age, one can now embody a new identity based on an imaginary persona or fabricated image. As a result, we see ourselves in the virtual, the physical, and the psychological realms – each a legitimate reality that comprises our experience of the world."
Kent Logan explains that their collection "is often referred to as figurative, however, while many works use the figure, they are not about the figure. The figure is used in a conceptual sense." He continues by saying that much of contemporary art that deals with the human figure has been moving "from representational realism to complex, psychologically charged conceptual portraits reflecting the issues of contemporary society."
Out of Shape will feature the following artists: Laylah Ali, Cecily Brown, Francesco Clemente, George Condo, John Currin, Kim Dingle, Nicole Eisenman, Moyna Flanagan, Gajin Fujita, Antony Gormley, Gottfried Helwein, Oliver Herring, Kurt Kauper, Fang Lijun, Kelly McLane, Jason Middlebrook, Bruce Nauman, Chris Ofili, Richard Phillips, Marc Quinn, Mel Ramos, Thomas Schütte, Nicola Tyson, Andy Warhol, John Wesley, Su-en Wong, and Lisa Yuskavage. All but Warhol are living and actively engaged in the contemporary art world.
Various themes and concerns are explored by the artists including gender, social, and ethnic identity perception of the self (Su-en Wong); distortions of scale (Eisenman and Philips); use of cartoon or highly stylized imagery (Wesley, Ali, Fujita, Ofili); utilizing the superhero image (Warhol and Ramos); revisiting the Surreal figure (Tyson, Dingle, Quinn, Gormley); composite images of fictional characters (Kauper, Yuskavage, Currin, Lijun, Schütte); emotionally charged faces and forms (Flannigan, Gottfried, Helnwein); a twisted notion of reality that reflects a dark world view (McLane, Middlebrook); images of the human form moving through time and space (Herring, Nauman); and the spirit of Neo-expressionism (Clemente, Brown).
The artist's imagination plays an enormous role in the work of Nicola Tyson, represented by two drawings in the exhibition. Her works, which feature strangely disproportioned figures, are linked to surrealism both visually in the expressive distortion of particular features, as well as in their reliance on the practice of automatic drawing. The resulting figures combine elements of both the comic and the grotesque, evoking both the strength and vulnerability of the human form.
Richard Phillips' work investigates the potential of media images to distort truth, disguise reality, and wield power over individuals. A drawing entitled Mirror by Phillips in this exhibition is from a series of dizzying large-scale paintings and preparatory drawings featuring monolithic, extreme close-ups of women's faces. The women resemble the ubiquitous female faces we know from billboards and magazine ads that saturate the visual landscape. His works possess all of the sensual and erotic charge of an image from consumer culture – yet Phillips' painterly style, softer texture, and warm, rich tones set them apart from Pop imagery.
Layla Ali's gouache-and-ink drawings often feature ambiguous cartoon-like allegorical figures. Frozen in mysterious narratives, her signature figures with their matching uniforms and bulbous green heads are intentionally genderless and raceless but often reveal a sinister undercurrent apparent in the obvious power struggles between various groups. Ali's comic aesthetic initially charms and disarms viewers, drawing them into a world fraught with tension and ambiguity.
The arresting, sometimes haunting, imagery, for which Francesco Clemente has gained international acclaim, is exemplified by Fifty One Days on Mount Abu: XIII, Tapas, an expressive watercolor in the exhibition. While he often physically distorts the human figure in his work, it is the emotional impact of Clemente's dynamic gestures and vibrant colors that leaves an impression on the viewer.
About the Vicki and Kent Logan Collection
Kent and Vicki (Vassar class of 1968) Logan began collecting in 1994 and quickly amassed hundreds of works that encompass both masterworks by recognizable names in the art world of the past thirty years, and examples of the most cutting edge art by emerging artists. Two of the broad categories that emphasize the collecting strategies of the Logans are figurative expressionism, including art with the figure as the subject matter; and conceptual realism, with work by artists who address conceptual art through the framework of realism. The Logans are committed to collecting works by artists from various regions including the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Britain, China, Germany, and Japan. Many of the works in this exhibition usually reside in their Vail, Colorado home and adjacent private viewing gallery. Others have been promised to the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Denver Art Museum where they are often on public view.
Exhibition Lecture and Reception (free and open to the public)
Artist Laylah Ali will discuss her work
Friday, April 25, 5 p.m.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie
(845) 437-5632, http://fllac.vassar.edu
Laylah Ali was born in Buffalo, New York in 1968, and lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts where she serves on the faculty in the Art Department at Williams College. She received a BA from Williams College and an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Ali also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. She has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; ICA, Boston; MCA Chicago; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; and MASS MoCA, among others. Her work was exhibited at the Venice Biennale (2003) and the Whitney Biennial (2004).
Friday, April 25, 6 p.m.
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
124 Raymond Avenue, Poughkeepsie
About the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center was founded in 1864 as the Vassar College Art Gallery. The current 36,400-square-foot facility, designed by Cesar Pelli and named in honor of the new building's primary donor, opened in 1993. The Lehman Loeb Art Center's collections chart the history of art from antiquity to the present and comprise over 16,000 works, including paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and glass and ceramic wares. Notable holdings include the Warburg Collection of Old Master prints, an important group of Hudson River School paintings given by Matthew Vassar at the college's inception, and a wide range of works by major European and American twentieth century painters. Vassar was the first U.S. college founded with a permanent art collection and gallery, and at any given time, the Permanent Collection Galleries of the Art Center feature approximately 350 works from Vassar's extensive collections.