Friday, June 22, 2012

Jesselyn Benson Zurik (1916-2012)

Newcomb Students, gouache on paper, 1935
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist
The Ogden Museum is saddened  to announce the passing of a talented artist whose work and spirit have played an important role in this institutions history. Jesselyn Benson Zurik passed away on Wednesday, June 20, 2012.

Life Study of Teacher, 1936, charcoal on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

Jesselyn Benson Zurik was born December 26, 1916 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She attended Lafayette School and the Arts and Crafts School of New Orleans before enrolling in Isidore Newman School in 1927, where she graduated in 1934. While at Newman School, she served as Art Editor of the Pioneer from 1931 through 1934. This early education in the arts prepared her for a lifelong journey through one of the most influential arts programs in the South and into a professional career as an illustrator, designer and fine artist.
Untitled, 1937, watercolor on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

In 1934, Zurik enrolled in Newcomb College at Tulane University, where she received a Bachelor of Design in 1938. She continued her studies at Newcomb from 1958 to 1960. During her time at Newcomb, Zurik studied under some of the great arts educators in the South at that time, including Xavier Gonzales, Will Henry Stevens and Caroline Durieux. Newcomb was a unique experience in the South of the 1930s. A staff of artists, hand-picked by William and Ellsworth Woodward, brought to the region a strong influence by the Munich School, the Pennsylvania Academy and the Rhode Island School of Design. The pottery studios created not only income for the university, but a legacy of design, iconic to this day. Will Henry Stevens, in particular, brought to the school a view of the natural world that was highly influenced by the Transcendental writers of the American Renaissance.
Women with Apples, 1935, gouache on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

After graduating from Newcomb College, Zurik worked as an illustrator, draftsman and designer for Katz & Besthoff Drug Company, Adler’s Jewelry Store, D.H. Holmes and Higgins Ship Builders. As an artist she has participated in over two-hundred-and-fifty group exhibitions, and has been the subject of over thirty singular exhibitions. As a mature artist, she is most widely known for her minimalist wood sculpture, but continued to draw and paint, even creating a beaded art car from a 1974 American Motor’s Gremlin in the 1980s.

Untitled, 1938, ink on paper
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

An exhibition of her works -- drawn mainly from the gift of approximately eighty-seven paintings, drawings and archival objects from the artist to the Permanent and Study Collections of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art -- was mounted at the Reynolds Ryan Art Gallery in 2010, curated by Bradley Sumrall.  Jesselyn Benson Zurik: The Newman and Newcomb Years offered insight into the experience of a Newcomb student in the 1930s, and background to the career of an important American Minimalist sculptor.

Untitled, gouache on paper, 1937
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of the artist

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist

Southernaire 2, 2011, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella.

When Mark Messersmith first moved to Tallahassee, Florida in the mid-1980s, he was immediately struck by the wildness of the surrounding landscape, a wildness gone from much of America. In Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist, he continues his exploration of the tension between this wild, living place and ever-increasing human expansion.  Drawing on inspirations ranging from the Pre-Raphaelites, Martin Johnson Heade, Southern folk art and medieval manuscripts, the paintings of Messersmith are dense, radiant, and sculptural depictions of the flora and fauna of northern Florida struggling to survive.
Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum

With his large sculptural canvases, Messersmith creates a narrative where animals, insects and plants are in constant struggle – often with the natural cycles of life and the food chain, but more noticeably against the onslaught of human expansion. In this drama, the domesticated dog often represents the destructive nature of man. Logging trucks filled with fresh timber are as common in his surfaces as they are on the back roads of the rural South.

Edge of Town, 2009, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

These canvases are embellished with carved pediments inspired by medieval manuscripts that act to highlight the theme of the narrative. Along the bottom of each canvas, a series of predellas in the tradition of medieval altar pieces serve to expand the narrative. Yet each of these works, like all of Messersmith’s paintings, deals more with light and color than narrative.
From a Dark Twilight, 2012, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella.

Going out regularly into the wetlands and marshes south of Tallahassee, Messersmith documents natural performances – the changing light of a day passing in the wild – with his lushly-colored plein air landscapes. This obsession with light and the passage of time is carried into a series of totems. The six wooden totems in his most recent body of work depict the passing of a single day, from dawn till dusk.

They Fight, They Fail  (Six Hours of a Long Day) 1-3
2011 Oil and mixed media on pine

They Fight, They Fail  (Six Hours of a Long Day) 4-6
2011 Oil and mixed media on pine

Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum

Vespertine Sacrifice, 2006, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist opened on April 19th, 2012 on the fourth floor of the Ogden Museum's Goldring Hall, and continues through July 23rd.

Installation shot of Mark Messersmith: Maximalist and Naturalist at the Ogden Museum.

Mark Messersmith is Professor of Art at Florida State University, where he has taught since 1985. He received an MFA from Indiana University, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Ford Fellowship, four Individual Artist Fellowship Awards from the Florida Department of State, and a 2006 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painting Award.
Wild as Angels, 2012, Oil on canvas with carved wooden pediment and mixed media predella

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alexa Kleinbard: Remedies

Night Blooming Ceres
Collection of Jill and Bob Harper

On April 19th, 2012, the Ogden Museum of Southern opened Remedies, an exhibition of shaped oil-on-panel paintings by Tallahassee artist, Alexa Kleinbard. A self-taught painter, Kleinbard has, for over thirty years, explored folk medicines, scientific advances, the environment and the unsettling role of humans in the balance of nature through her work. In this series of meticulously rendered and richly colored paintings, she has turned her focus to the wild medicinal plants of the Southeast and the endangered wetlands that sustain them. Sculptural portraits of these plants surround lush landscapes of their native environments, and seem to dance on gestural root systems.
Foxglove Digitalis

Informed by a background in sculpture and dance, Kleinbard has, over the past eight years, created a series of individual surfaces that move as if choreographed – a parade of medicinal plants in full bloom, involved in the act of creation. Each piece is an ecosystem of plant, pollinator, and wetland environment. Great filters of toxins, the wetlands heal the environment as they nurtures plants capable of healing humans.

Bloodlines: Pomegranate, Wild Rose, Evening Primrose and Ginger
But just as human expansion pushes native fauna into ever diminishing corridors of natural environment, the later Bloodlines paintings become filled with animals. These are not the calm pollinators involved in the act of creation as in the earlier works. Nests full of hatchlings and birds of prey are sounding the alarm that nature is under attack. The gestural roots are no longer dancing, but combined with depictions of Native American directional trees, point the viewer toward action.
Bloodlines: Passion Flower and Trumpet Vine

Alexa Kleinbard has been the recipient of several awards, including two NEA Endowment Grants and a Florida Fellowship Grant from the Florida Arts Council. She received her BFA in Sculpture from the Philadelphia College of Art, and received training in Dance from the Melia Davis School of Dance and the Ramblerny School of Performing Arts. Her work has been exhibited widely throughout the United States. She lives and works with her husband, artist Jim Roche, in Tallahassee, Florida. In 2011, the Ogden Museum exhibited highlights from their collection of self-taught, outsider and visionary art.

Milk Thistle


Artist Statement:

Over the past twenty-two years, I have focused my work on what human beings must protect in the natural environment. As the fragmentation and division of wild lands all over the world escalates while ninety-six percent of all old-growth forest has fallen to the chain saw, I’ve been driven to work on paintings that hint at the potential silence that will be left in our remaining habitats if more and more species are lost forever, and man’s push toward more population and further stripping of nature’s resources is not somehow subdued.
Bind Weed
I hope to seduce the audience eye into healing views of faraway wetlands and aquatic serenity. As the thickened foliage, lushly painted with flowers and leaves of traditional healing plants, is pulled visually aside in a voyeuristic manner, a scene of natural glory and serenity is revealed. I try to offer a suggestive peek at what we must never lose. These shaped paintings are each a single character unto themselves; each one reads as a single medicinal plant, complete with dancing leg roots. Individual plant shapes have been cut from birch wood and feature leaves, blossoms, pods, fruits and insect pollinators, jaggedly silhouetted and painted with traditional oils. These healing plant cut-out shapes are a foreground through which the faraway horizon of water meeting sky is seen in deep space, carefully depicted with sunsets and reflections that imply hopeful and timeless beauty.
 This exhibition runs through July 22, 2012, and is located on the fourth floor of the Ogden's Goldring Hall.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mississippi Photographs: 1860 - Present

Kathleen Robbins, The Skinning House, 2007, Digital C-print.

Collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

French artist Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented the first practical form of photography in 1839 - the Daguerreotype. In 1850, the Mississippi census reported ten practicing “Daguerreian artists” in the state. Photography in the state of Mississippi has always mirrored national and international photography in both technology and artistic trends.

Photography quickly replaced painting as the most authentic means of recording the human form. In the 1860s, tintypes were the cheapest and most common form of photography. The 1863 portrait of Private Samuel McNulty of the 3rd Battalion, Mississippi Infantry is an example of early tintype portraiture.

Bruce West, BURNING FIELD, MS #1, 1999, Type-C print.

Promised Gift of the artist.

The tradition of photo portraiture is continued in this exhibition with the work of Eudora Welty, Jane Rule Burdine, Bruce West, and Maude Schuyler Clay. These photographers work outside the studio on location, producing portraits within the documentary tradition using natural light.

The power of the photograph as a tool for reportage was pioneered in America during the Civil War. Reportage photography or documentary photography would lead to photojournalism. William Henry Jackson’s 1899 chromolithograph, Mississippi Cotton Gin at Dahomey, is an early example of documentary photography – photo documentation of the daily life of people and places. Chromolithography is a method for making multi-color prints that stemmed from the process of lithography.

In the early 1900s, documentary photography became more socially conscious, as exemplified in photographs of Lewis Hine. Hine photographed the living and working conditions of Americans. His photographs documenting the horrible working conditions of the early 20th century was one of the factors that lead directly to the reform of child labor and workplace safety laws.

Marion Post Wolcott, Movie Theatre, Belzoni, MS, 1939, Silver gelatin print.
Ogden Museum, gift of the Roger H. Ogden Collection.

The documentary power of the photographic image was at its zenith during the Great Depression. Through the New Deal, the Information Division of the Farm Security Administration (FSA), under the guidance of Roy Stryker in the 1930s and 1940s, employed photographers with the goal of “introducing Americans to Americans.” Photographers Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott and others fanned out across America documenting the working and living conditions of the nation. These FSA photographers produced some of the most important images of the 20th century. Examples include Walker Evan’s Edwards, Mississippi and Marion Post Wolcott’s Movie Theater, Belzoni, Mississippi.

Eudora Welty, Child on Porch, 1935, sepia-toned silver gelatin print.
Ogden Museum. Gift of the Roger H. Ogden Collection.

Eudora Welty is known primarily as a writer, but she was also an accomplished photographer. Welty applied to the Information Division of the FSA with the hopes of becoming a staff photographer. Although never hired by the FSA, she worked for the Census Bureau in the 1930s and 1940s, travelling and photographing her native state of Mississippi, producing a wonderful body of work including Child on Porch and Woman of the Thirties.

The ability of the photograph to incite social change continued during the civil rights movement of the 1950 – ‘60s. This is exemplified in the photographs of Matt Herron, George Ballis, Franke Keating, and Danny Lyon. The Southern Documentary Project, founded by Matt Herron, was a group of photographers that recorded the rapid social change taking place in Mississippi and other parts of the South as civil rights organizations brought northern college students to work in voter registration and education. Dorothea Lange served as informal advisor to the project. Many of their photographs were published in newspapers, and magazines such as Life, Newsweek, and Time – bringing images of the struggle for equality in Mississippi to the masses.

The photographs of Jessica Ingram and Milly Morehead West are contemporary takes on the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s – 60s. Ingram’s Prayer Helps, near Meadsville, MS, is part of her Civil Rights Memorial photo series. Ingram re-photographs sites where eventful and sometimes tragic events relating to the civil rights movements took place. Milly Morehead West’s color photograph Schwerner, Chaney, & Goodman shows mug shots of the slain civil rights workers out of context and displayed in a modern convenience store amongst items for sale.

Stuart Klipper, House of the Blues, Clarksdale, 1992, Type-C print.

Collection of the artist.

David Rae Morris, Tom Rankin, Stuart Klipper, Jack Spencer, Mark Steinmetz, Jack Kotz and Kathleen Robbins work within the documentary photographic tradition, but infuse their photographs with a more formal artistic aesthetic. These photographers use their skills as visual artists to produce work that is within a documentary tradition, yet is executed with the craftsmanship and skill of a fine artist. They produce work that reflects both their sensitivity to formal design and their affinity to the land and culture of Mississippi.

Music, folklore, and the cultural traditions of Mississippi inform the photographs of William Ferris, Roland Freeman, Birney Imes and Terry Wood. These photographers use their camera as an anthropological tool, thus attempting to preserve, through their work, the dying traditions of a culture whose way of life is quickly vanishing.

Important historical art movements of the 20th century both inform and influence the work of photographers: Clarence John Laughlin, Lyle Bongé, William Eggleston, and Seth Boonchai.

Clarence John Laughlin, The Enigma, 1941, silver gelatin print.

Gift of the Roger H. Ogden Collection.

A friend of Man Ray and a fellow surrealist, Clarence John Laughlin produced dreamy photographs that pay homage to a mythical past within the context of modernity. Man Ray described Laughlin’s photographic technique as the "symbolic use of the camera." The Enigma, a photograph of the ruins of Windsor Plantation in Port Gibson, Mississippi, is both allegorical and beautiful, combining classical architecture framed within a ghost-like blur of flora – moving like spirits in the wind.

Lyle Bongé’s abstract black-and-white photographs capture amphoral shapes and tones in nature, and relate more closely to Abstract Expressionist paintings than photography. These abstractions are created by utilizing patterns within nature. In Low Winter’s Tide, Biloxi, reflected light off the shifting sands produces white tonal highlights that combine with the water of the gulf to produce dark-toned shadows. The high contrast photographs of Lyle Bongé create a painterly esthetic reminiscent of black paint splattered across a white canvas.

William Eggleston, Clock -- Vignes Florist, 1984, dye-transfer print.

Gift of the Roger H. Ogden Collection.

William Eggleston - one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century - pioneered color photography in the 1970s and invented the snapshot esthetic, in many ways influenced by his love of Henri Cartier-Bresson. Eggleston’s mastery of color in this exhibition is evident in Moose lodge, Greenville MS. In this photograph Eggleston captures the saturated warm light of the magic hour just before sunset.

Conceptual art informs Seth Boonchai’s Cedar Lawn, a floor mounted photograph of a Mississippi cemetery. By placing the photograph on the floor, Boonchai disorients the viewer by requiring the viewer to see the image as it was taken – looking straight down at the ground. The work also allows the viewer to walk on the photograph, which is a statement on the rejection on the preciousness of materials and the sanctity of the photographic process.

S. Gayle Stevens, Pool, West Beach from Pass Series, 2006-2010, tintype.

Collection of the artist.

Mississippi Photographs 1860s to Present, ends where it began with the use 19th century photographic processes in the work of Euphus Ruth and S. Gayle Stevens. The tintypes of Ruth and Stevens are on the forefront of the revival of early photographic processes that has exploded in popularity in recent years to counter the domination of digital photography. Ruth’s photograph, House, Hwy 8 West, looks out of time in 2011, like a relic of the past, and yet it is so modern. S. Gayle Stevens’ tintype series, Pass, documents the aftermath of the destruction of Pass Christian. Placed in a grid, these photographs of ruins, artifacts and the ocean present a lush and fresh take on the destruction of the Mississippi Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Richard McCabe, August 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mark Hewitt Deconstructs Tradition

Collection of Marsha Courchane and Peter Zorn

“Regional pottery traditions are very rare. They are a little like wildflowers that only grow in certain soils and climates.” ~ Mark Hewitt

Born in Stoke-on-Trent, England in 1955, Mark Hewitt grew up in a ceramics tradition, his father and grandfather both being managers for Spode, makers of fine bone china. After studies at Bristol University, a friend gave Hewitt a copy of Bernard Leach’s A Potter’s Book (1940). Leach’s Ethical Pot philosophy, which emphasized a Japanese tradition of simplicity and function, inspired Hewitt to move away from the heavily decorated industrial ceramics of his youth to the simple, utilitarian forms of folk pottery. He received an apprenticeship to Michael Cardew, an English studio potter and student of Leach, who incorporated West African traditions and emphasized the use of local materials.

In 1983, Mark Hewitt moved to North Carolina, “mainly,” he says, “because of the clay and the wood.” It was here that he met Burlon Craig, a Catawba Valley folk potter. Working with a groundhog kiln and local clays, Craig produced stoneware forms with alkaline (wood ash) glazes. Another tradition was added to Mark Hewitt’s repertoire.

Collection of Carol and Mark Hewitt

Using both traditional and abstracted forms, Mark Hewitt creates stoneware vessels ranging from the functional mug to planters and grave markers of gargantuan size. Working mainly with local clays, he continues to fire his pots in traditional ways, working with both salt and alkaline glazes. For almost thirty years, Hewitt has been producing pottery in North Carolina that deconstructs the traditions of Europe, Asia, Africa and North Carolina, and creates a style uniquely his own. His Iced Tea Ceremony vessels show a playfulness in this adaptation, taking the tea ceremony of Japan and placing it firmly on the front porch of his Pittsboro, North Carolina home. In this exhibition, pots like Grandpa, Nunc Dimittis, and Pushing Up Daisy show another example of Hewitt’s adaptation of tradition, this time the nineteenth-century North Carolina tradition of affordable ceramic alternatives to carved headstones. The sheer scale of the markers is unique, and there are elements of style in each piece that Hewitt chooses at will from his knowledge of various traditions.

Nunc Dimittus
Collection of Marilyn Arthur

Pots are made out of clay

But the hollow space in them makes the essence of the pot

And the essence comes from an intangible something

In the spirit of the potter

Which he is able to blend

into all his knowledge of throwing, the glazing and the firing

So that every piece from his hand

is as much his own signature and his heartbeat

Only then will the pot be good, that is alive

And the more highly developed a potter is as a human being,

the better his pot

For there is no real beauty without character.

~ Lao Tzu

6th Century

Collection of Carol and Mark Hewitt
"Adapted from nineteenth-century North Carolina ceramic grave markers, my Markers are an homage to the quirky, abstract forms made by folk potters as inexpensive alternatives to carved headstones. Given license to express the void, these potters veered from their classical functional repertoire to produce objects of stark singularity. This series of Markers explores the formal and emotional complexity of these obscure and challenging objects, and while acknowledging the morbid, I offer them, rather, as affirmations of the pulse of life, and as vibrant reminders of the passage of time.” ~ Mark Hewitt

Mark Hewitt: Big-Hearted Pots opened at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art on January 13 with eighteen large vessels. Closes mid-April.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Robert and Julian Onderdonk

Julian Onderdonk, In the Hills of the Spanish Oaks, c. 1917
Collection of Susan and Claude Albritton

Julian Onderdonk (1882 – 1922), known as “the father of Texas painting,” is celebrated for his poetic renderings of the South Texas Landscape. Trained in his teenage years by his father, the realist painter Robert Onderdonk, Julian spent two formative years on Long Island in New York City, studying with William Merritt Chase, one of the most important painters and teachers of his generation. After an attempt to establish a studio in New York City, Julian returned to San Antonio in 1909, and painted the Texas landscape until his untimely death in 1922.

Robert Onderdonk, Portrait of Julian Onderdonk, 1892
Roger Houston Ogden Collection

While not the first or only painter to capture the shimmering blue Texas landscape with bluebonnets in blossom, Julian Onderdonk is by far the most popular. In 1901, ten years before Onderdonk painted his first bluebonnet landscape, the bluebonnet was named the official Texas flower. This series captures a popular subject with a strong regional identity, using the newly-developed style of American Impressionism.

Julian Onderdonk, Bluebonnet Scene with Girl, 1920
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of Roger H. Ogden Collection

Julian Onderdonk’s style was formed by his studies with William Merritt Chase in 1901 – 1902 in Southampton, New York. There, Chase and his students painted out-of-doors (en plein air), exploring the boundary between perceptual truth and the subjective impressionistic approach of capturing light as it strikes the eye. Lacking the theoretical base of French Impressionism, American Impressionism was rooted more deeply in felt response to the landscape, rendered in a traditional compositional scheme, with a clear foreground, middle ground and background. What Onderdonk shares with the French Impressionists is the love of painting out-of-doors, the exploration of the times of day, an interest in capturing the play of light on canvas, and the subjective filtering of the landscape through the eyes of the artist.

Julian Onderdonk, A Spring Morning, Bluebonnets, San Antonio, 1913
Private Collection

Julian Onderdonk’s bluebonnet paintings stand as important examples of a moment of transition in American art. They also represent a burgeoning concern with place and regional identity, subjects that became increasingly important within the context of American art in the decades after his death in 1922. ~DH

Paintings by Robert and Julian Onderdonk will fill three galleries of the Ogden's Goldring Hall through January 2, 2011.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection

the brown & green collection from Crunchy Bugs Creative on Vimeo.
Interview by David Houston.
Video by J. Elliott Houston

The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art was the first major body of work added to the museum’s permanent collection after Roger Ogden’s founding donation.Inspired by the collections of friends, Brown began seriously acquiring art for himself in the 1970s, a moment when the art world was in a major period of transition, and the art of New Orleans was experiencing a new trend of narrative painting, invigorated by the use of exuberant color. This trajectory - colorful paintings with a strong, clear narrative – became the focal point of Brown’s collecting, and this body of work chronicles several important artists working in New Orleans that define the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Fred Trenchard, Self Portrait While Dreaming of a Day at the Beach, Circa 1971

The sculpture in this collection represents the opposite trajectory of the paintings: far more purist and minimal, with clean lines and a straightforward articulation in metals and wood.

Steve Arthur Prince, Untitled, 1990

In the 1970s, Brown married Linda Greene, herself a collector and art lover. The shared collection continued to grow, resulting in this generous donation. This collection is one of several which, like the Roger Houston Ogden Collection, retains a distinct identity within the museum’s larger permanent collection.

Robert Warrens, I Cried a River Over You, 1975

This exhibition of works from the Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection will be on view through January 2, 2011. Filling three galleries, the exhibition includes works by Peter Dean, Robert Warrens, Frederich Trenchard, Justin Forbes, Noel Rockmore, Roland Golden, Arthur Silverman, Steve Prince, Martin Payton, Jose Torres-Tama,Robert Childers, Jack Gates, Gina LaGuna, William Ludwig, Molly Mason, Jesus Moroles, John Scott, and Clifton Webb.

Justin Forbes, Cooling Off, 1994

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Walker Evans' Louisiana: Photographs from the Collection of Jessica Lange

Walker Evans
[Greek Revival Townhouse with Men Seated in Dourway, New Orleans]
March 1935
Silver gelatin print

Walker Evans is recognized as the most important and influential American photographer of his generation. Working in what he called the “vernacular style,” Evans forged an approach that preferred the everyday to the precious and the factual over the artful. Although he often photographed inanimate objects, with architecture and signage being among his most lasting subjects, he also captured the harsh realities of American life in the grips of the Great Depression. John Szarkowski, long time curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, observed in Looking at Photographs (1973):

“Evans's work seemed at first almost the antithesis of art. It was puritanically economical, precisely measured, frontal, unemotional, dryly textured, insistently factual, qualities that seemed more appropriate to a bookkeeper's ledger than to art. But in time it became clear that Evans's pictures, however laconic in manner, were immensely rich in expressive content. His work constitutes a personal survey of the interior resources of the American tradition, a survey based on a sensibility that found poetry and complexity where most earlier travelers had found only drab statistics or fairy tales.”

The works in the Ogden Museum’s current exhibition were taken during two sequential trips to Louisiana in 1935 and 1936. The first, funded by Gifford Cochran, was to form the basis of a never-realized book on antebellum Southern architecture, and the second, just after Evans began working for the Farm Service Agency of Roosevelt’s New Deal, captured the architecture of New Orleans, the plantations of River Road, New Iberia, and the areas outside of Baton Rouge. His primary tool was an 8X10 view camera, supplemented by a 5x7 Speed Graphic and a Leica 35mm. Many of these vintage prints show variations from later prints, and some are examples of simple mistakes. Evans discussed these errors in a diary entry from this time, where he observed that most of the negatives were “… very successful, very exciting, some very good, some shocking errors. Tend to overexpose, tend to raise the lens board too much, leaving corner rings.” Some of these mistakes have become a part of the larger photographic language, and are sometimes purposefully emulated by subsequent photographers.

The photographs of the American South constitute a major body of work within Evans’ life work. He immediately began exhibiting his Louisiana photographs, and many of them have been regularly included in subsequent exhibitions and publications. Evans’ best known photographs of the South were made in Hale County, Alabama in July and August of 1936, and published in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), with text by James Agee. Although the subject of the South waned in Evans’ output after his leaving the Farm Services Agency in 1938, his connection to New Orleans remained strong. During his first trip to New Orleans, he met Paul and Jane Ninas at the Arts and Crafts Club in the French Quarter. Jane, herself an artist, became Evans’ guide during his two trips in the mid-thirties, and in 1941, became the first wife of Walker Evans, until they divorced in 1955.

Walker Evans

[Woodlawn Plantation, Belle Chase, Louisiana]

March 1935

Silver gelatin print

The architectural photographs in this exhibition follow the same model as his architectural photographs shot in Cuba two years before in 1933. Objective, frontal and documentary in intent, these photographs are a testament to the ebb-and-flow of endurance and loss of the architectural fabric of Louisiana. ~ David Houston, 2010

Walker Evans’ Louisiana: Photographs from the Collection of Jessica Lange will be on display through January 2, 2011 on the third floor of the Ogden’s Goldring Hall. All works are generously on loan from Jessica Lange, who is not only a talented actress, but a skilled and accomplished photographer herself. Special thanks are also owed to Joshua Mann Pailet and A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Visite par les Français

On September 13th, David Houston, Co-director and Chief Curator of the Ogden Museum, led a tour of current exhibitions for the French Senatorial Delegation, former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and staff from the French Consulate. The Senatorial Delegation included senators from across the country, including the Island of Corsica. After an introduction to the museum, the artist, Fred Brown, gave a brief talk about his jazz paintings in the collection. Houston then moved the delegation to the collection of artifacts and images of country music legends from the collection of Mississippi-born Marty Stuart, at which time the former Prime Minister informed the group of his expertise in early Rock-and-Roll. Houston guided them through the current exhibitions relating to Hurricane Katrina and the city's efforts to rebuild in the wake of the Federal Levee System failures, ending the tour with our historical paintings on the third floor and a visit to the to the South's only true Richardsonian building, the Ogden's Taylor Library.

Consul General Olivier Brochenin and Fred Brown, artist.