To the untrained eye, Ackland Art Museum’s “Carolina Collects” exhibition appears to be a hodgepodge of eclectic paintings, drawings and sculptures.
But the exhibition — which features art from the collections of about 60 different UNC alumni — aims to show the story of modern art rather than a continuity of themes.
See the Exhibit
Time: Sept. 9 to Dec. 4
Location: Ackland Art Museum, 101 South Columbia Street, Chapel Hill, NC
With a collection comprising so many different loaners, it is expected that obvious cohesion would be scarce. But “Carolina Collects” manages to create a collection one can understand and appreciate.
The exhibition’s chronological organization holds together a random assortment of loaned artwork, which allows the unrelated pieces to fit together.
The concept immediately jumps out with a large piece featured on the wall of the lobby, separate from the gallery rooms.
“OUT OF THE BLUE,” a 1999 typographic work by Lawrence Weiner, features blue capital letters cleanly slanted across the left wall.
Weiner — who Ackland’s Chief Curator Peter Nisbet described as a linguistic sculptor — attempts to bring words and phrases to life with certain fonts, colors and positions.
And thematically, “Carolina Collects” feels out of the blue.
From people to plants to obscure objects, a wide variety of subjects compete for viewers’ attention.
“The Seine at Argenteuil,” an impressionist piece by Claude Monet, neighbors an untitled piece by A.G. Heaton which depicts a black woman and a child reading.
While the Monet focuses on the beauty of Paris, Heaton shows the emotional bond between two people.
In another room, “Keds,” a 1961 oil on canvas by Roy Lichtenstein, shows a pair of knock-off Converse sneakers, highlighting the mass production and advertisements of the late 20th century.
Nisbet, who helped compile the collection, wanted to show the components of modern and contemporary art.
He limited a collector’s contribution to four pieces, none of which could be from the same artist.
“I didn’t want to have 10 Picassos or for the show to become tilted,” he said. “It would have messed up the point.”
Though the pieces don’t find much relation to one another, they are organized chronologically to showcase the progression of different art movements through history.
Beginning with impressionism, “Carolina Collects” guides viewers through realism, expressionism and modernism.
Nature scenes lead to black and white photographs, which point toward explosions of color and sharp patterns. Photorealist canvases and prints reintroduce the audience to artwork of more current times.
In a separate room, tucked away from the rest of the collection, are pieces that Nisbet said did not fit with the timeline.
He said he wanted to include them but could not fit them into the modern art puzzle.
This small room, filled with brightly colored paintings, sculptures and photographs, is a welcome relief from the stiff structure of the history lesson that comprises the rest of the exhibition. It is filled with pieces that are more fun to look at than to read about.
The exhibition’s story is of modern art, not of a single artist, collector or moment in history.
Contact the Arts Desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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