A Pick Above the Rest

Peter Henningsen

This fall, the Picker Art Gallery is hosting two new exhibitions, “A Painters’ World” and “I See You,” both of which feature selections from Colgate’s permanent collection.

The first of these, “A Painters’ World,” is perhaps most notable for the variety of the featured artists’ ethnic backgrounds, which include the Mediterranean, the Ukraine and Iceland, just to name a few. While some of these artists, such as John Graham and Paul Klee, are immediately recognizable to those familiar with twentieth-century art, some of the most remarkable pieces featured in the exhibitions are from artists whose names remain virtually unknown.

“There are some strong pieces here from artists being displayed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” said Picker Art Gallery Curator Joachim Homann, “but at the same time we’re showing the work of a lot of artists who haven’t really ‘made the cut’ because of the fact that they’ve been working in areas of the world that have only just recently entered our focus.” ?

According to Homann, the diversity of the exhibition is due in large part to benefactor Herbert Meyer, a Colgate alumnus who, in the 1960s, decided to use the money he had made as a television executive to start an internationally-focused gallery in New York City.?

“50 years ago, the New York art world was interested only in itself,” said Homann. “Herbert Meyer created the ‘House Galleries’ and sought out international artists that were otherwise invisible.”

When Meyer closed his gallery in 1966, he left Colgate hundreds of works of art, many of which are currently on display.

The second exhibition, “I See You,” is a collection of portraits from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and includes conventional portrayals of the human face and figure as well as some more abstract takes on the subject.

“This exhibition includes strong pieces from our collection that focus on the human figure and space,” Homann said of the featured works.

He is quick to note, however, that these portraits are about much more than just accurately capturing their subjects’ appearance.

“In a lot of ways, these pictures stand for ways of looking at each other,” Homann said.

A quick stroll through the exhibit will leave no questions as to what Homann means by this comment. No two portraits take the same approach to their subjects, and very few adhere to realism, opting instead for more emotionally suggestive methods that oftentimes say as much about the artist as they do about those individuals being painted.

William De Kooning’s “Two Women,” for example, uses an aggressive style of painting to capture both the eroticism of its subjects as well as the paranoia that this induces in De Kooning himself. Yet another example is Bernar Ranet’s “David Gold,” a portrait that adapts the style of an instruction manual that sarcastically informs its audience of the proper manner of “constructing” a portrait. The painting is both a painstakingly accurate portrayal of its subject and a biting satire of portraits in general that vents the artist’s own frustration with his medium.

A reception for both exhibitions is being held in Picker this Thursday, featuring free food and live jazz. Both exhibitions will close November 26.