THE McMULLEN MUSEUM OF ART AT BOSTON COLLEGE PRESENTS FOUR INNOVATIVE FALL EXHIBITIONS:
William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Landscape
Simon Dinnerstein: “The Fulbright Triptych”
Alen MacWeeney and a Century of New York Street Photography
Mary Armstrong: Conditions of Faith
Exclusive Exhibitions on Display September 9–December 8, 2019
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (August 2019)—The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will present four innovative, exclusive exhibitions, from September 9 through December 8, 2019, including: the first monographic examination of nineteenth-century landscape painter William Trost Richards’s art in Boston; the New England debut of Simon Dinnerstein’s renowned masterpiece, The Fulbright Triptych; the gritty New York street photography of Alen MacWeeney; and seascapes and landscapes by Mary Armstrong.
William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Landscape
Daley Family Gallery
The first monographic examination of William Trost Richards’s (1833–1905) art in Boston, this exhibition explores the artist’s career, from his earliest sketches and exemplary Pre-Raphaelite technique of the 1860s, to his late masterful seascapes and landscapes. His landscapes come to light within the context of the nineteenth century’s burgeoning appreciation for the environment. The exhibition reveals how Richards’s works manifest the Romantics’ hieroglyphic interpretation of nature, a metaphor embraced by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, and reflect nascent scientific discoveries of contemporary geologists who revolutionized understanding of evolution and history.
“The possibility of re-examining the career of a significant artist like William Trost Richards in an exhibition with an interdisciplinary team of outstanding scholars and spectacular loans emerges rarely,” said Inaugural Robert L. and Judith T. Winston Director of the McMullen Museum of Art Nancy Netzer, a BC professor of art history. “The McMullen is honored to seize this opportunity to share these great works and new discoveries with our audiences.”
William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Landscape features more than 190 oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and sketchbooks, including many drawings loaned by the family of Ellen P. and Theodore Richards Conant (descendants of the artist), 20 of which are promised gifts to the McMullen. In addition to works from the McMullen Museum’s collection, loans come from the Bowdoin College Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Davis Museum at Wellesley College; Mark Twain House & Museum; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Nantucket Historical Association; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Newport Art Museum; William Vareika Fine Arts, and many private collectors.
“The art of William Trost Richards is primed for popular and critical re-evaluation,” according to exhibition curator and Boston College Professor Emeritus of Art History Jeffery Howe. “This exhibition explores the different facets of his art and career, highlighting his unique contribution to the development of American art. Stimulating multidisciplinary catalogue essays combine to tell a new story about Richards and the art of landscape in American culture, and explore the ways in which nature and art convey meaning.”
Richards’s paintings and drawings, Howe adds, “reveal an obsessive concern to depict the external world honestly and with scrupulously observed detail, reflecting the influence of Victorian era English art critic John Ruskin. Radiant with beauty, his landscapes are increasingly relevant for their environmental implications. Richards’s life and art were a lifelong quest inspired by the key question posed by Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put….Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?’ (Nature, 1836).”
Howe edited the exhibition’s accompanying scholarly catalogue, which contains essays by Ethan F. Baxter, Rebecca Bedell, Linda S. Ferber, Howe, and James D. Wallace. The writers probe the artist’s background and psychology, illuminating links between his works and the artistic, geologic, and philosophical currents of his era.
Organized by the McMullen Museum, William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Landscape has been underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum and Mary Ann and Vincent Q. Giffuni. [MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images/captions is available at https://bit.ly/2KzFMwC. Please email Kate Shugert with questions.]
Simon Dinnerstein: “The Fulbright Triptych”
Simon Dinnerstein’s The Fulbright Triptych (1971–74) was produced in an era of postwar art when minimalism, video art, and installation dominated the New York scene. At the time, figuration and even painting were out of fashion.
His first foray into the medium, Dinnerstein started the monumental suite in Germany during a 1971 Fulbright fellowship to study printmaking. Adopting the medieval sacred form of an altar-sized triptych, he substitutes secular and highly personal, idiosyncratic iconography for traditional religious subject matter. In the central panel he features an engraved plate and printmaker’s tools below two windows depicting views from his studio in Kassel, Germany. The artist paints himself, his wife, and baby daughter in the side panels. He fills the walls of each panel with details of well-known Old Master paintings, drawings, prints, children’s drawings, photographs, quotes, and sketches. Completed in Brooklyn in 1974, the Triptych was called “a little known masterpiece of 1970s realism,” by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, in which the intersection of the personal and the historical prefigured the path that postmodernism would take a decade later.
“Thanks to our colleagues at the Palmer Museum of Art at the Pennsylvania State University, the McMullen is delighted to share Dinnerstein’s renowned masterpiece for the first time with a New England audience and to allow visitors to explore the rich artistic heritage that stands behind The Fulbright Triptych’s complex iconography,” Netzer said.
The Fulbright Triptych is accompanied by an interactive presentation created by Rachel M. Straughn-Navarro of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, which allows visitors to more fully understand the complex iconography of the work.
The Fulbright Triptych is on loan from the Palmer Museum of Art at the Pennsylvania State University. Its presentation at the McMullen, curated by John McCoy, has been underwritten by Boston College and supported by the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. [MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images/captions is available at https://bit.ly/31RuwBb. Please email Kate Shugert with questions.]
Alen MacWeeney and a Century of New York Street Photography
In conjunction with a November 13 panel discussion organized by BC Professor of the Practice of Photography Karl Baden, titled When Everyone Has a Camera: Street Photography, the Right to Free Expression, and the Right to Privacy in the Internet Age, the McMullen Museum presents a selection of documentary photographs from its collection. All were made on the streets or in the subways of New York City, one of the world’s capitals of street photography.
The documentary genre known as street photography is one of the past century’s most fundamental and pervasive forms of photographic image-making. Producing such images, for the professional artist and hobbyist alike, requires little more than a camera and a comfortable pair of shoes.
Because street photography occurs in a public space, it has been protected as a right to free expression under the US Constitution’s First Amendment. The digital revolution of the past three decades, social media, the ubiquitous smartphone, and high resolution, affordable surveillance cameras, however, have blurred the line between public and private spaces. Suspicion and resistance by the general public to being photographed by an unknown individual without permission have increased. At the same time, particularly in urban environments, the public is constantly on camera, surveilled by governmental and corporate entities, from body cams on a police officer’s lapels to satellite cameras powerful enough to read license plates. It is these paradoxical issues that the panel and exhibition seek to highlight and debate.
“The McMullen Museum is pleased to present these key works from its permanent collection to encourage dialogue in anticipation of a formal discussion among experts about one of the most pressing questions of our day, i.e., free expression versus the right to privacy,” Netzer said.
The first section of Alen MacWeeney and a Century of New York Street Photography features MacWeeney’s rarely seen subway photographs. MacWeeney took them in the late 1970s with a small, hand-held camera, and printed them recently, through the archival inkjet process, as large-scale panoramas. However, these outsized images are not true panoramas; rather, each print is the sum of joining two photos of conventional 35 mm proportion and printing them as a single panorama. The result is a surreal blend of format and content, approximating the confinement of a subway car.
The exhibition’s second section includes images by a diverse group of photographers who took pictures on New York City streets from the 1920s into the twenty-first century. Walker Evans was the first to create a series of candid photographs in the New York subways, which he later published in a book Many Are Called. Berenice Abbott, Aaron Siskind, Jerome Liebling, and Walter Rosenblum participated in the Photo League, a group that banded together around social causes between 1936 and 1951.
Organized by the McMullen Museum, the exhibition has been curated by Karl Baden with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. [MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images/captions is available at https://bit.ly/2Xuv9l0. Please email Kate Shugert with questions.]
Mary Armstrong: Conditions of Faith
This exhibitionpresents 23 seascapes and landscapes painted over the last seven years by Mary Armstrong, in which nature and memory inspire her layered, complex compositions. Oil and wax depict forces of nature, both imagined and real, in the seascapes. For Armstrong—who taught painting in BC’s Department of Art, Art History, and Film from 1989 to 2019—roiling currents, sunlit estuaries, and particularly rising waves are “a perfect visual metaphor for change, both desired and feared, destructive and regenerative, personal and political,” according to Armstrong.
“The McMullen is pleased to present this outstanding series of recent paintings by acclaimed New England artist Mary Armstrong in dialogue with works by William Trost Richards, an American landscape painter from the nineteenth century,” Netzer said. [More on the Richards exhibition, page one.]
Armstrong’s desert landscapes illustrate the mountain ranges of the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California, where she has visited since the early 1990s. In these oil pastels, she replaces tumultuous Maine waters with swirling clouds over the Borrego Valley, capturing the shifting relationship between earth and sky.
Conditions of Faith is accompanied by an e-book with contributions from the artist and Suzette McAvoy, executive director and chief curator at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland, Maine. Armstrong divides her time between Georgetown, Maine and Newton, Massachusetts, and exhibits throughout the United States. [MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images/captions is available at https://bit.ly/2Rwojpx. Please email Kate Shugert with questions.]
Accompanying Free, Public Events
Public programming is planned for families and the general public. For more information, and to sign up for those events that require advance registration (as indicated below), please visit the McMullen Museum Events Calendar. More events will be added leading up to this exhibition; visit the website and subscribe to the McMullen mailing list for programming updates.
Free Sunday Docent Tours: 2–3 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
Every Sunday beginning on September 22, the Museum will offer free docent tours from 2 to 3 p.m. No prior registration is required. To schedule a separate, private tour, please contact the Museum, at 617.552.8587, at least two weeks in advance.
Museum Current: “Science in an Art Museum: Stories from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston” with Head of Scientific Research Richard Newman: Thursday, September 19, 5:30–6:30 p.m. (McMullen Museum Hill Room 111)
The McMullen Museum welcomes Richard Newman—head of scientific research at the MFA, Boston and visiting faculty member in the Art, Art History & Film Department’s new Museum Studies concentration—for an illustrated lecture on the history of science in art museums. His presentation will focus on three stories from the MFA’s research lab.
Walk + Talk with the Curator of William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Nature Jeffery Howe: Friday, September 27, noon–1 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
Join curator and Professor Emeritus of Art History Jeffery Howe for an informal tour and Q+A session. Howe will introduce major exhibition themes and offer details about how the show came together. Visitors are welcome to ask questions along the way.
Lecture: “Who Was William Trost Richards? The History of a Reputation” by Linda S. Ferber: Thursday, October 3, 5:30–6:30 p.m. (McMullen Museum Hill Room 111)
Ferber, museum director emerita at the New-York Historical Society, will focus on Richards’s ability to respond to changes in taste, emerging scientific interests, and the loss of cherished patrons through the lens of the historical context of his time.
Facebook Live Walk + Talk with the Curator of Alen MacWeeney and a Century of New York Street Photography Karl Baden: Wednesday, October 9, noon–1 p.m.
Join curator and BC Associate Professor of the Practice of Photography Karl Baden for a Facebook Live tour. Baden will discuss the development of street photography and connections between artists practicing in Europe and the United States.
Panel Discussion: When Everyone Has a Camera: Street Photography, the Right to Free Expression, and the Right to Privacy in the Internet Age: Wednesday, November 13, Time TBD (McMullen Museum Hill Room 111)
Gallery Tour: A Geological Journey through the Landscapes of William Trost Richards with Professor of Geology Ethan Baxter: Friday, November 1, 3:30–4:30 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
BC Earth and Environmental Sciences Department Chair and Professor Ethan Baxter will take visitors through William Trost Richards: Hieroglyphs of Nature, to focus on the rising interest in geology in the nineteenth century and what the rocks prevalent in Richards’s works reveal about the landscapes captured within.
Into the Collection (Meet in Museum Atrium)
These events offer visitors an opportunity to view and learn more about objects from the McMullen Museum’s permanent collection that are rarely on display. They may learn from Museum staff, ask questions, and share their own knowledge and observations. Fall events include:
Nineteenth-Century Landscape Painting: Sunday, October 20, 3:30–4:30 p.m. The Museum will showcase a series of nineteenth-century landscape paintings, including new acquisitions now on view in the museum’s adjacent first-floor meeting rooms.
New Acquisitions of Contemporary Photography: Sunday, November 17, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
The Museum will introduce its most recent acquisitions of contemporary photography.
Members-Only Crash Course in the History of Nineteenth-Century American Art with Curator Jeffery Howe: Sunday, October 27, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
One of the benefits McMullen Museum members receive includes exclusive opportunities to take crash courses in art history with Boston College professors. For this event, curator and Professor Emeritus of Art History Jeffery Howe will give a lecture on American art in the nineteenth century. Become a member today. [BC faculty, staff, and students are all automatic Museum members.]
Kids and Families Workshops
The Museum offers children and families monthly opportunities to engage with its temporary exhibitions. Through a variety of activities including artmaking, storytelling, tours, games, music, and crafts, kids explore themes in the works on display. Kids and Families events are free and open to the public; space is limited for these events and prior registration is required.
Into the Woods with Botanical Journals: A Tree Identification Workshop (Ages 5–12): Saturday, September 21, 2–4 p.m.
Elements of Composition: A Plein Air Workshop (Ages 7–12): Sunday, October 6, 2–4 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
“The Art and Science of the Earth: Every Rock Has a Story” with Professor and Department Chair of Earth and Environmental Sciences Ethan Baxter (Ages 5–12): Saturday, November 2, 3 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
Holiday Celebration: Sunday, December 8, noon–5 p.m.
This annual celebration features festive activities during opening hours: holiday-themed vocal performances and live music; hot chocolate and treats; exhibition viewing; arts and crafts activities; and more.
McMullen Museum of Art
The McMullen Museum aims to cultivate learning, celebrate artistic excellence, explore the visual traditions of diverse cultures, and inspire transdisciplinary faculty and student research based on the visual arts. The McMullen offers exhibition-related programs and resources for diverse audiences of all ages on campus, in the Greater Boston area, and beyond.
The Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, exhibitions are accompanied by academic catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 for the late BC benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen. In 2005, the McMullen Family Foundation provided a lead gift to renovate and build an addition to the Museum’s new venue at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Designed in 1927 in the Roman Renaissance Revival style by architects Maginnis and Walsh, it originally served as the home of Boston’s cardinal archbishops. The renovation was completed in spring 2016 and opened to the public on September 12, 2016.
McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission is free; wheelchair accessible, open to the public. Located at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135, on BC’s 65-acre Brighton Campus. Hours during this exhibition: Monday–Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. The Museum will be closed: Monday, October 14 and Thursday and Friday, November 28–29, 2019. Contact: email@example.com, 617.552.8587. All events are free. For directions, parking, and program information, visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum.