Amateur Art History Reports: Mint Museum Uptown

(View from the Mint Museum Uptown)

On Sunday, I went to the member brunch and looked around the museum before the higher-ups open it to the public.  Four immense floors and two dedicated to art from America, Europe, and Asia.  They have some big names too.

On the fourth floor, they had American the 1700s to the present.  As I walked through the exhibit, I watched the exhibit go from mostly white men (with the occasional woman) to artists of different backgrounds.  From John Trumbull to Kehinde Wiley.  It also feels a lot more orderly than the exhibit in the Mint Museum on Randolph Road.  Every now and then, some displays featuring furniture and clothing show up too.  However, one of the caption boxes for a John Trumbull painting had the word “merican” on it.  I wanted to say something every time I came across a worker, but I kept forgetting to.  Hopefully, somebody noticed.

They had some great standouts on display.  I had a thrill of excitement when I saw that they had an Augusta Savage.  Her plaster sculpture titled Gamin, a simple bust of boy.  A precious work, given how cruel time was to Savage’s work.  They also had some lesser known art movements such as the Luminist and Ashcan Movement.  However, artists such as Romare Bearden and Ansel Adams had their own rooms.  Romare of course because he came from Charlotte.  By the way, the Ansel Adams room?  Amazing.  To see this man’s work in person?  You witness sublime grandeur captured in silver gelatin.  The way he framed his shots to the lighting?  I have no words.  Looking at his work, I understand one person mistook a black and white photo of mine as a drawing.  In an age of digital color photography, these do resemble drawings.  To see a reproduction on the internet, magazine, or book brings only a pale imitation.  They have another show on the opposite of this one.  This show has art that came from contributions courtesy of Bank of America.  Real contemporary art, too with lovely examples from the Pop Art, Abstract Expressionist, and Minimalist eras.  Now, for those who first saw artwork from these movements via reproductions from books and magazines and felt disappointment from looking at them, see them in person.  Why?  It comes from their size, and how they overwhelm you.  You will not experience that from a small reproduction.  In other words, when you look at a work by Ellsworth Kelly, do not focus on the story behind it.  Focus on the form and the color.  Instead, you should feel like Dave Bowman when he went through the Stargate.  You should feel overwhelmed and conquered by these works.

Some personal favorites of mine from this section come from Deborah Oropallo and Vija Celmins.  Oropallo’s Coal Mines consist of a canary in a cage while surrounded by a black background with ghosts of earlier canaries.  Celmins’ two works with the titles Jupiter Moon-Constellation and Constellation-Uccello feature photos and sketches attached to each other.  With some exceptions, this show has an overarching theme of the void and how artists interpret them.

While small, the European room makes up for it with its roster of artists.  Mostly from the Barbizon era of art, they have  artists such as Giorgio de Chirico, Eugene Delacroix, and Amedeo Modigliani found here.  However, I loved Kathe Kolwitz’s series of prints.  She captures human suffering so well.  As the saying goes, while this section lacks in quantity, they make up for in quality.

Image via Photobucket and jmscoon

(This museum did not have this own, I just wanted to give an example.)

The third floor represents the entire exhibit from the renovated Mint Museum of Craft and Design.  At the beginning of this section, they have an immense sculpture by Danny Lane entitled Threshold.  How àpropos, really.  Regarding Lane and this sculpture, I loved it.  The way he handles glass with such skill and theatricality.

Continuing on, they divide up this part by the materials artists used to create their works.  For example, you will have the glass room and the wood room.  The museum also provides a lot of useful information such as terms and what kind of processes used to manipulate the material.  I recommend the wood room.  You will find immense talent here with the way the artists who created such works that look like they could fall apart if you touch them.  Furthermore, they have little exhibits of appliances and the way they looked back in the fifties and sixties.  Just think, if you lived during that time, your coffeepot ended up in a museum display case in the early 2000s.  On the opposite end, they have a show of British ceramics.  Ceramics that range from cool and elegant tea sets to the whimsical and disturbing pots.  One example of elegance came from Prue Venables with her tasteful one color pottery.  Regarding the example of what I considered disturbing came from Richard Slee.  His work entitled Spook consists of a simple white ceramic drinking container with two black holes carved in.

The Mint Museum Uptown opens this weekend, and I recommend going.  You will have an easy time walking around each section of the museum.  This building acts as a next door neighbor to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.

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