An Artist's Eye

The exhibition An Artist’s Eye, opening to members on June 16, presents works from our collection in a new way. The premise is that an artist brings a different ‘eye’ and set of criteria to the table in evaluating art than does a curator or an art historian, whose training tends toward historical context rather than artistic practice. This different viewpoint – born from a background of method, process, creation and materials – can yield a new and interesting perspective to the selection and display of modern and contemporary artwork from our collection.

The key to an exhibition of this nature is finding the right artist. We determined that we wanted someone who was a respected artist within the national scene, had the length of career that would allow him or her to put the artistic developments of the last 50 years (the strength of our modern and contemporary collection) into perspective, was articulate and well-versed in artistic styles and materials of the 20th century, and, if possible, had a connection to South Carolina.

Guest curator Sigmund Abeles provides a new and interesting perspective to the selected modern & contemporary artwork from our collection.

  • Phil/Fingerprint, 1981
  • lithograph, 18/36
  • Museum purchase with funds partially provided by Robert D. Ochs and Edward C. Roberts
  • CMA 1981.24

It is simply irrefutable that Chuck Close has made major contributions to contemporary figuration by being one of the most innovative painters, printmakers and photographers alive. His ambition in scale and sheer volume of art is astounding. Then how does one begin to factor in his serious illness - wheelchair bound - with a brush or printmaking tool attached to his hand as about all he can manage, movement-wise? Thankfully he can speak brilliantly. As the newer works emerge, the elements that make up the forms are more and more loose and comprised of odd, abstracted shapes.

  • Diane's Vase, 1998
  • oil on canvas
  • Fiftieth Anniversary Acquisition, Museum purchase with funds provided by Leona Sobel
  • CMA 2000.14

Diane’s Vase is one astounding painting performance - a truly updated Manet, each stroke Janet Fish applies hits a bulls-eye. As a totality the canvas appears to glow from within. This is a prime example of contemporary realism.

She’s considered one of America’s "Eye Ball Realists" (meaning working solely from life sans photography) along with Jack Beal, Philip Pearlstein, Alfred Leslie and William Beckman. I first met Janet decades ago at Jack Beal’s. Janet is such a warm, caring person with a good sense of humor, and her husband Charles Parness’ art is solely comprised of humorous self-portraits. They are both fun to be around.

Jack Beal and I ran a successful workshop for realist artists in the summer of ’85 in La Napoule, France and the next summer at the University of New Hampshire. Will Cotton, now a rising star showing at Mary Boone, NYC was one of our students the first summer.

  • AMERICAN, 1920-2011
  • Window, 1994
  • lithograph on paper
  • Fiftieth Anniversary Acquisition, museum purchase with funds provided by the Anna Heyward Taylor Purchase Fund
  • CMA 2000.3

George Tooker was a major figure in a very small group of precise, magic realists that included Paul Cadmus and Jared French. They admired early Italian egg tempera painting, stroke by deliberate stroke, building their both intimate and also monumental forms in space. Tooker’s work, which while in my twenties I saw at both galleries and museums, affected me with his almost robot figures, repeated over and over to make NYC a pretty weird, austere, unfriendly place. Tooker is just one of many solid, highly admired and collected figurative artists included in this selection of mine whose careers were crushed by Abstract Expressionism.

I like the term “the constellation of composition” and here our eye moves from one point to another in a deliberate rhythmic pattern. We go from head to head, eyes to eyes, across the hands, appreciating the music of this piece.

  • Mother and Daughter, 1997
  • 8 color screen-print on paper
  • Museum purchase with funds provided by Ethel S. Brody

  • AMERICAN, 1885 – 1973
  • South Carolina Landscape, 1931
  • oil on canvas
  • Museum purchase
  • CMA 1988.18

I have to wonder if George Biddle’s charming painting depicting this poor South Carolina, African-American, most likely share cropper’s farm was done during the WPA art projects? Biddle drew inspiration from a number of artists he knew: the Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, Jules Pascin, and of course the Regionalists. One sees and feels a lot of Thomas Hart Benton in this work. Rhythm is paramount and heightened color pervades this scene. The little girl is coming back from a chore with the bucket in her hand.

In 1955, I was studying at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. One week, George Biddle was our visiting artist while his son, Michael, was a fellow student for that week. Another week, Ben Shahn was the artist in residence and his son, Jonathan, was a student, too. Jonny Shahn and I were roommates. At the time, I was very envious of anyone whose parent was an artist, but later I realized the pressures and tensions often built into that relationship.

  • AMERICAN, 1882 – 1967
  • Night Shadows, 1921 (published in 1924)
  • etching
  • Museum purchase
  • CMA 1980.6

This is one of the greatest etchings in American art. I can never look at it enough and it has burned itself deep into my visual memory. Few know that this Hopper print was offered as a bonus for those who renewed their subscription to the New Republic back in 1924. Today an impression fetches $50,000. Always a unique composer, Hopper was often influenced by the movies, just as moviemakers today are now influenced by the urban loneliness of Hopper’s vision. The shadow of the lamppost sets up a powerful diagonal and visually halts the lone pedestrian.

  • AMERICAN, 1880 – 1980
  • Diana (The Hunt), c. 1921
  • bronze, slate base
  • Gift of Mrs. Carl F. Sturhahn
  • CMA 1952.29

I cut my art teeth at Brookgreen Gardens. There is a snapshot of me at about three pulling the tail of an Anna Hyatt Huntington bronze lion, which I like to say is the first time I made physical contact with art.

Harriet Whitney Frishmuth has a beautiful work at Brookgreen Gardens. And now the new sculpture courtyard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC also boasts a work by Frishmuth. All her pieces are elegant and downright stunningly beautiful. Bless her - she lived to be one hundred years old; and for that matter, fellow sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington lived to and was still working at ninety-seven.

The surging forth of Diana with her Russian wolfhounds is a perfect pairing, as the youth’s smooth flesh contrasts with the rough textured hounds. Each linear, lyrical silhouette is sensual perfection.

  • AMERICAN (BORN RUSSIA), 1892 - 1973
  • Along the Tracks, 1955
  • lithograph, 5/10
  • Museum purchase
  • CMA 1985.89

This print immediately sets up questions of orientation, pleasing the eye with elegant drawing of organic and man-made forms. The piece seems to breathe. Matching line with tone this well is a feat.

Presenting Sponsor:

    Supporting Sponsors:

  • Joyce and Bob Hampton
  • The Hilliard Family Foundation
  • Lunch & Recess
  • Dr. and Mrs. Nicholas K. Moore

    Contributing Sponsors:

  • Abacus Planning Group, Inc.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Ben D. Arnold
  • Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin M. Gimarc
  • Carla and Dibble Manning
  • Susan Thorpe and John Baynes
  • Smith Family Foundation