Art Complex Museum

Exhibitions - 2019

Some Assembly Required

April 28 - September 1


Donna Rhae Marder, The Burqa, 2006-13, silk pieces connected by free-motion sewing.

Everyone is an assembler. If you’ve cooked a meal that had more than one ingredient, you qualify. In the art world, unless you are chipping away at a slab of limestone, or throwing a pot on a wheel you are most likely an assembler as well. Painters assemble brush strokes, quilters assemble pieces of fabric, woodworkers assemble wood. The artists in this exhibition all assemble three dimensional work by putting together a variety of smaller parts, sometimes, a large variety.

Some use found materials, others create their own. Michael Ulman uses discarded, found pieces from recognizable sources. His motorcycles, for instance, may contain the assorted flotsam and jetsam of vacuum cleaners, bicycles and wood stoves. Any discarded metal part is fair game. Michael says, “Being a found-object sculptor, I am in the unique position of finding my materials anywhere, such as junk yards, dumpsters, and trash heaps. I look for objects that were destined to some mundane existence and give them new purpose through my sculpture. Remnants of the Industrial Age are reincarnated as motorcycles, race cars, and speed boats. A frying pan becomes a fender, a vacuum cleaner a sidecar, and a mailbox a hot rod.”

Donna Rhae Marder has been using domestic themes, materials and methods to create artwork for over twenty years. All of her work uses a sewing machine as a sculptural tool and the debris of daily life as the material of art. Marder refers to herself jokingly as an indigenous suburbanite trying to make use of native materials. She says, “I’ve been taking items of little value and turning them into cherished ritual objects. My husband and children have been supportive of my activity, if sometimes confused. My oldest daughter recalls going away to college and stopping herself before she asked a family where they put their used teabags. She recognized that not everyone saves their used teabags. At our house, they have been kept (sometimes for years) to become Japanese teapots and little girl’s dresses. The matches my parents saved became rya rugs and embellishment on moccasins. Later I accumulated my own matches to incorporate in vessels made of dollar bills. My life and work are Siamese twins—too late to separate them now.”

Other participating artists include: Martin Ulman, Lisa Kokin, Yuri Tozuka, John McQueen, Michael Stasiuk, Tom Deininger and Jee Hye Kwon. A special thank you goes to Libby and Jo Anne Cooper of Mobilia Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts for their invaluable help in the assembly of this show.

Craig Bloodgood, Contemporary Curator

Highlights from the Permanent Collection
Working the Land

April 28 – September 1


Theodore Rousseau, France, 1812–1867, The Cherry Tree, plate 1855, cliché-glace print

For the summer segment in Rotations Gallery, visitors will be able to explore not only the subject of people working the land, but also how the artist worked the landscape, responding to natural surroundings. Some of these environs were new destinations for artists, visited for the purpose of being ensconced by nature. They had the freedom to directly respond to it - with their artist’s supplies enhanced by the invention of the portable tube of paint.

Ancient Greeks and Romans created wall paintings of landscapes, but after the fall of the Roman Empire, the landscape declined as main subject matter, becoming merely the setting for religious and figural scenes until the sixteenth century. The shift to the landscape as subject corresponded to growing curiosity about the natural world and its workings, spurred by the Renaissance.

As Dutch artists developed landscape as a popular subject in sixteenth century painting, ‘landschap’, the Dutch word for ‘region’ or ‘tract of land’, acquired the artistic connotation of ‘a picture of scenery on land’. The rising Protestant middle class was increasingly in search of more worldly art for their homes. Landscape art was one vigorous response to that need.

Italian artist Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1750-1819) argued that landscape painting had comparable value to that of traditional historic or academic painting. He published a pioneering book on the subject, Eléments de perspective practique, in which he proclaimed the ideal historic landscape should be done from a direct study of nature. The Academie des Beaux-Arts was thereby persuaded, initiating acceptance to his open-air or plein air painting. This method was subsequently embraced by Corot, in particular; Barbizon artists as a group; and the forthcoming Impressionists.

The Barbizon School is documented as the first French generation of artists who rejected the classical traditions of the Salon de Paris, the official art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. 2 Among them were the first artists presenting a new style of landscape painting to also be accepted by the Salon. The acceptance of Corot’s painting, “Forest of Fontainebleau” in 1846 was a pivotal event, due to the focus on the natural surroundings and not on the human subject within those surroundings. This genre was sustained throughout the Barbizon artists’ use of media whether it be painting, pastel, drawing, etching or cliché-glace prints.

The Forest of Fontainebleau in France is an immense and dense woods with a variety of inspiring features including many stately tree specimens, on which Pierre Etienne Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867) became quite fixated. He and fellow-artists ventured by train to those woods knowing lodging could be found at the recently established inn, Auberge Ganne at the forest’s border in the village, Barbizon. 3

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, who was greatly influenced by Valenciennes, had discovered the village of Barbizon in 1827. Although he did not settle there, he marked the beginning of its transformation into a veritable artists’ colony. Other hamlets were subsequently populated with artists, most of whom would return to their Paris studios for the winter – not Corot or Rousseau who continued working in any climate, including winter’s freeze.

Rotations Gallery will present cliché-glace prints from the time Rousseau and fellow-artists surrounded themselves with the Forest. The technique of cliché-glace or cliché-verra is an image scratched through an emulsion on glass and then transferred onto photographic paper with exposure to light. Similar prints and etchings planned for exhibition were created by other master Barbizon painter-etchers: Charles Francois Daubigny, Jean-Francois Millet and Charles-Emile Jacques.

Additional works linked to working the land which will be exhibited include sixteenth and seventeenth-century Dutch prints; nineteenth and twentieth-century American paintings and prints; and a selection of tools and crafts by several self-sufficient Shaker communities.

Maureen Wengler, Collections Manager

Printmakers of Cape Cod: Floating Worlds

May 19 – August 11


Leslie Kramer, The Red Canoe, 2017, collagraph/linocut monoprint

The Printmakers of Cape Cod was founded in 1976 by a group of five artists dedicated to the art of creating original prints. The original group included Marcia Howe of Orleans, who was a driving force among artists on the lower Cape, investigating new media and a variety of printmaking methods. Membership has grown to more than fifty artists.

The purpose of the Printmakers of Cape Cod is to foster and expand knowledge of printmaking in its members as well as in the general public. To that end, the group sponsors workshops, demonstrations and group exhibits which are open to the public. They offer social and educational opportunities for all interested in the production, enjoyment and acquisition of original prints. Current members practice traditional printmaking techniques, such as relief printing, intaglio, lithography and silkscreen. Many also incorporate innovative digital and photographic processes into their original prints and create unique prints, known as monotypes and monoprints.

The theme, “Floating Worlds,” might comprise water, air, emotion or other elements of nature or the imagination. Members will express this theme through a variety of printmaking techniques.

Steve Novick: Approximation

August 18 - November 10


Steve Novick, Carrot and Stick, 2017, wood, paint

A number of artists exhibiting at the museum in 2019 create work from the assembly of many parts. Steve Novick is an assembler of a few. The Somerville artist says of his work, “My process involves assemblage of found objects and materials. Collecting these from thrift stores, yard sales, and flea markets is an important facet of my work. In this phase, I often will undertake the use of a new item or form, or realize the solution to a previously intractable problem.” “Although the physical resolution of my sculptures may be quick”, he explains, “the ideas behind them tend to gestate slowly. Simple items, and parts of more complex ones, are fitted together via a process of trial, error, and serendipity. Cleaning, polishing and refinishing aside, virtually all objects and materials are used as-is.” His influences — cartoons, folk art, Surrealism, Minimalism — are evident in the work’s straightforward use of materials, simplicity of form, anthropomorphism, and sense of humor. Recent themes include the construction of language and symbols (visual and otherwise), nature as interpreted through culture, nostalgia, and obsolescence.

Draw the Line

September 15 – January 12, 2020


Michele Lauriat, untitled from the series, Spot Pond, 2014, mixed media on paper

Henri Matisse once said that drawing was “putting a line around an idea.” This exhibition is full of ideas — and the lines around them. While the artists in the show each approach drawing from their own directions, the common thread might be best described by participating artist Tim McDonald who says, “The initiation of a mark is the ground of imagination, a primary point of contact, of clarity, that is before language, before thought — a direct experience of mind operating along a wild edge. Whether representation or abstraction, no matter the media used, be it charcoal, graphite, paint, or ink; paper or fire, or ice, or tape; a photograph, a walk, a lost or found thing - it all comes back to drawing. Drawing, offers me, as poet Gary Snyder has written, ‘an open space to move in with the whole body, the whole mind.’” Artists in the exhibition include: Shona Macdonald, Shane Savage-Rumbaugh, Lesley Cohen, Sandra Allen, John Roman, Michele Lauriat, Cobi Moules, Stephen Cipullo and Tim McDonald.

Highlights from the Permanent Collection

September 15 - January 12, 2020


Henri Eugene Le Sidaner, France, The Music Pavilion at Versailles, Moonlight, 1921, oil on canvas

As the new Collections Curator, I am delighted to be researching and writing about the collection in anticipation of The Art Complex Museum’s Fiftieth Anniversary in 2021 and the celebratory exhibition. Assisting with the curation of Rotations Gallery allowed me the opportunity to become familiar with works in the collection that will be part of the upcoming exhibition of Nocturne imagery.

Nocturne painting was a term coined by James McNeill Whistler (American, 1834–1903) to describe a painting style that depicted scenes evocative of the night or subjects as they appear in a veil of light, or at twilight. More broadly, the term has come to refer to any painting of a nighttime scene. The phrase, associated with the Tonalist movement of the American Impressionists in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, is “characterized by soft, diffused light, muted tones and hazy outlined objects, all of which imbue the works with a strong sense of mood.” Along with winter scenes, nocturnes were a favorite Tonalist theme.

Whistler’s painting, Nocturne in Black and Gold: Falling Rocket (1875), in the collection of the Detroit Museum of Art, was inspired by a fireworks display over London’s Cremorne Gardens, and led to the artist’s coining of the painting style. Though the painting is admired by today’s viewers, when it was first exhibited at a London Gallery in 1877, the public was insulted by the abstract quality of the work. Unknowingly, Whistler set the stage for the acceptance of future work in the nocturne style (both realistic and abstract).

This exhibition will feature works by a variety of artists living and working in different times including Lowell Birge Harrison (American, 1854–1929), contemporary artist Suzanne Hodes (American, b. 1939), Kawase Hasui (Japanese, 1883–1957), George Inness (American, 1825–1894), Johan Barthold Jongkind (Dutch, 1819–1891) and Martin Lewis (American, 1881–1962).

A highlight of the exhibit, The Music Pavilion at Versailles, Moonlight, (1921), by Henri Eugene Le Sidaner (French, 1862-1939), depicts the buildings of the Versailles palace, Versailles, France, cast in a mysterious, dream-like light. Le Sidaner spent time at the French palace late in his career painting the scenery. This work is one of several that the artist painted in 1921, inspired by the gardens and the architecture of the palace. The canvas entered the collection in 1980, from the estate of Maud Moon Weyerhaeuser Sanborn of St. Paul Minnesota, the mother of Museum Cofounder Carl Weyerhaeuser. For a time, the name of the painting was a mystery, but in 1992, former curator Nancy Grinnell confirmed the title of the canvas through contacts at the Maurice Sternberg Galleries in Chicago, Illinois.

Though Henri Eugene Le Sidaner doesn’t appear on the short list of major Impressionist or Post-Impressionist artists, he was deemed one of the most original and impressive of France’s young painters by an early art critic, referred to as D.C.P., “Sidaner shows in his work the energy of a great artist, his is not the imitative work . . . he is not a mere follower of the convention of the masters of Impressionism.” The artist chose subjects such as country villas, large gardens, rural by-ways and village streets along with the more majestic views of Versailles and Paris cathedrals. He often painted at dusk, or the “alluring hour of twilight,” when the setting sun enveloped these scenes in warm light and eerie shadows.

Le Sidaner began his early studies in the academic tradition, in Paris with Alexandre Cabanel (1823-1889), but soon gravitated toward the Impressionist and symbolist movements. He began exhibiting at the Salon in 1887. His naturalistic figural groups were well received and won him trips to Italy and Holland in 1891. Later, he exhibited Impressionist works inspired by Claude Monet (French, 1840-1926) at the less conservative Societe Nationale des Beaus-Arts. His work was shown widely and became coveted among American collectors. After the turn of the century Le Sidaner continued to depict urban areas of London and Venice and enjoyed continued favor and solo exhibitions in Paris, London, Brussels and the United States, until his death in 1897.

Julia Courtney, Collections Curator

George Herman: Found Paintings

November 17 - February 16, 2020


George Herman, North Brook, oil and mixed mediums on wood

George Herman, who paints out of a studio in the former school now called Artspace Maynard, talks about his work, “I find the subjects for my paintings while either driving or walking, or somehow in transit. Going about my life. If I’m driving somewhere, I might see something by the side of the road that catches my eye. I’ll either stop and take a picture, or photograph it while driving (not recommended). It might be a tree stump, part of a house and backyard, a field with standing water. I’ve found subjects by walking behind a strip mall to find a small dam and the building that controls the flow of water, or an abandoned house by the railroad tracks behind the place where we pick up a Greek salad with grilled chicken. I’ll take pictures out the window of a moving train or bus, of an abandoned factory, or a barn, fading in the Spanish countryside. Walking in the woods, I’ll find the edge of a vernal pool, where the water meets and merges with the foliage. Or the sticks that I walk on. Usually things that are behind, to the side of, underneath, abandoned, often unseen.”

Herman finds his painting in the process of painting it. It might begin as a reworked image from one of his photographs, or as a few washes of color. As the work develops, the water, the land and the sky all ebb and flow, each using more or less space as the painting demands. Colors, light and shadow, shapes and textures are in a constant state of flux. “The painting,” he explains, “changes over the course of days, weeks, months, years, as I search for the moment when it ‘feels right.’ When the painting stops swirling and everything falls into place. When I’ve found what I didn’t know I was looking for.”

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