a museum for oberlin

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New on View: Unlike the fire-breathing, gold-hoarding, and maiden-kidnapping variety in Western mythology, the dragon is a positive symbol in Asia as the bringer of rain and controller of floods and storms.

In this vase, dragons rise dramatically and sinuously from a raging, rocky sea. Considered the highest yang creature in yin-yang symbolism, the dragon came to represent the power and majesty of the emperor, who embodied the highest yang among humanity. Images of dragons with five claws were officially reserved for the imperial family while four- or three-clawed dragons were permitted for lower-ranking nobles and officials, a rule adhered to in ceramics made for the court but less stringently in wares made for the marketplace. In this example, the dragons have four claws, but note that one upraised leg has only three, perhaps a slip of the decorator. Both dragons reach out to grasp the flaming pearl, a symbol interpreted variously as the yang essence, the Buddhist “wish-fulfilling jewel,” thunder, or even the moon.

Image:
Chinese
Vase with Dragon and Pearl Motif, mid–17th to early 18th century
Glazed porcelain with underglaze blue decoration
Charles Martin Hall Bequest (OC 1885), 1915.57

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Postcard from Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson to Eva Hesse, postmarked July 10, 1967

All postcard images courtesy of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio.  Eva Hesse Archive, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash.  © The Eva Hesse Estate. Courtsey Hauser & Wirth  © Estate of Sol LeWitt/ Artist Rights Society (ARS)

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Postcards from Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt (February 23 – May 18, 2014), Blanton Museum of Art. Celebrating the close friendship between two of the most significant American artists of the post-war era: Eva Hesse (1936–1970) and Sol LeWitt (1928–2007).

All postcard images courtesy of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio.  Eva Hesse Archive, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash.  © The Eva Hesse Estate. Courtsey Hauser & Wirth  © Estate of Sol LeWitt/ Artist Rights Society (ARS) 

Cleveland only (2)
Young Monet’s realism
The exhibition ‘Painting the Modern Garden, Monet to Matisse’ was first organised by the Cleveland Museum of Art, before it moved to the Royal Academy in London. I would have loved to see this one in the RA too, but it was only shown in Cleveland…

Claude Monet, Le jardin de la princesse (The Graden of the Princess), 1867. Oil on canvas, 91,8 x 61,9 cm. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, Ohio

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“Do a lot of little things - it’s better than large things.”

Postcard from Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse, New York, New York, postmarked July 2, 1966

All postcard images courtesy of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio.  Eva Hesse Archive, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash.  © The Eva Hesse Estate. Courtsey Hauser & Wirth  © Estate of Sol LeWitt/ Artist Rights Society (ARS)

Eva Hesse, no title, 1965

ink and pencil on paper
8-¼ x 5-7/8 in.
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio
Gift of Helen Hesse Charash, 1977
© The Estate of Eva Hesse, Hauser & Wirth Zürich London

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To accompany Converging Lines: Eva Hesse and Sol LeWitt, this exhibition-specific tumblr will publish many of the postcards sent between LeWitt, Hesse, and their contemporaries, as well as featuring written perspectives from the exhibition curator’s Veronica Roberts and others. To introduce the project, Veronica ruminates on the personal correspondence between these two artists.

Just as LeWitt’s wall drawings have been keeping art students around the world busy for nearly fifty years, the copious number of postcards and letters he wrote kept the United States Postal Service in business; (no wonder the post office is not doing so well these days.) Thirty-nine particularly special postcards that LeWitt wrote Hesse are reproduced in the exhibition and its catalogue. They are thoughtful, funny, and charming—classic Sol. And being the artist he was, he thought carefully about all of its ingredients: the image on the postcard, the message inside—even the stamp he used.

LeWitt’s dry sense of humor really come through in the postcards he dispatched Hesse from around the globe. He sent her an image of Moroccan sand dunes, lobster traps in Maine, and a roaring hippopotamus in the Netherlands. One of my personal favorites is a Smithsonian Museum postcard of an Egyptian mummy bull. (Well, according to the postcard, it’s a bull; it looks a more like a bunny to me.) Wrapped in bandages with just its eyes revealed, it looks like a cross between a rabbit possessed by the devil and an early Christo sculpture. On the back, he wrote a succinct, tongue-in-cheek message: “Dear Eva, I hope this doesn’t scare you.” 

As a curator, I love reading the personal correspondence of artists but I know my attachment to them goes deeper than that. I know part of the reason I’m drawn to them is to see how clearly devoted Sol and Eva were to each other as friends, always making the time to remind each other of this in ways small and big. And I know I personally respond to them because I too have always enjoyed writing letters and receiving them. People seem to appreciate receiving handwritten letters now more than ever, in part, I’m convinced, because we are drowning in the irritating efficiency of emails, which pile up like car wrecks. Unlike emails, which insist upon a response, letters are gifts with no expectations attached—a chance to say something kind without causing someone to blush or requiring anything in return. 

All postcard images courtesy of Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio.  Eva Hesse Archive, Gift of Helen Hesse Charash.  © The Eva Hesse Estate. Courtsey Hauser & Wirth  © Estate of Sol LeWitt/ Artist Rights Society (ARS)

The last section of the “Museum for Oberlin” exhibition offers a selection of recent acquisitions that were presented to the AMAM as gifts-in-kind from donors or purchased with museum funds designated specifically for that purpose. Since general College funds have never been used to acquire art for the museum, Into the Future celebrates the generosity and foresight of the many donors who help the museum to continuously develop the collection. In addition to works that amplify existing collection strengths, the works on view showcase the growing holdings of photographs spanning the entire history of the medium, as well as twentieth-century art from Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe, and Japan. These artworks have already played a central role in inspiring innovative curricular approaches to teaching and learning and support a broad range of class visits across the College and Conservatory.

Image:

Tim Davis (American, born in Africa, 1969)
Rainbow Bread, from the Voidfill/Vanitas series, 2006
C-print
Gift of Cristina Delgado (OC 1980) and Stephen F. Olsen (OC 1979)
AMAM 2010.16