Warhol on Vinyl (It’s Record Store Day Tomorrow!)

We’re big vinyl connoisseurs here at the Art Museum. One of us collects albums with covers featuring mid-century furniture (like this one!). Another spent a weekend scouring every record store in Stockholm for a Swedish pressing of Lee Hazlewood’s Cowboy in Sweden, to no avail. So it’s no surprise that we are pretty pumped for Record Store Day tomorrow, an annual nationwide event–held on the third Saturday of April–for which record stores feature limited edition pressings and exclusive releases from hundreds of musicians, new and old.

Record collecting has experienced a surge in recent years, particularly for my generation. If we want to get diagnostic, it all could be chalked up to a cultural response to the immateriality of music (and more broadly, our lives in general); a longing for the days past when music–in its vinyl manifestation–was tangible, permanent, and thus held more personal value. But there’s also that big, beautiful album cover to consider. It’s just not the same in its 72-pixel form on the screen of a smartphone. How is one to appreciate the true graphic genius of an Alex Steinweiss at that scale?!

Warhol Album Art

This summer, Cranbrook Art Museum will celebrate one artist’s mastery of the album cover with Warhol On Vinyl: The Record Covers, 1949-1987+, opening June 21st. Andy Warhol designed over fifty album covers in the duration of his career, and in the first exhibition of its kind, the world’s preeminent collection of these works–generously donated to the museum by Frank M. Edwards and Ann Williams–will be on display in its entirety. Viewers are invited to examine the interplay between Warhol’s mass-produced graphic designs and the fine artworks that brought him his greatest notoriety–and with the additional display of record covers appropriating the artist’s imagery after his death, we can also examine the impact of the art world’s greatest “borrower” on future generations of creatives. More details about the exhibition are on our museum website.

But this isn’t Cranbrook Art Museum’s first foray into the motley realm of album art. In January of 1979, the museum mounted Record Album Art and the Recording/Artist, a touring exhibition from Syracuse University’s Joe and Emily Lowe Art Gallery, curated by Nancy Alder. The show featured a melange of album covers spanning the twentieth century, and considered the historical progression of the design process, visual trends, and the interplay of fine and commercial art.

Zephyr, Sunset Ride, 1972

The cover illustration for Zephyr’s Sunset Ride (1972) by David Willardson was highlighted for its allusions to the Art Deco travel poster–like this one or this Villemot.

Erich Leinsdorf and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, Wagner: Prelude and Love Death and Strauss: Death and Transfiguration, 1962. Cover art by Ben Shahn. Image via shugarecords.com.

The Social Realist painter Ben Shahn is celebrated for his contributions to graphic design–perhaps the most recognizable being his incredible posters created for the Office of War Administration during World War II, all but two of which went unpublished. He designed many original album covers (one amazing Pinterest user has assembled most of them here), but was also known to simply reuse works from his painting repertory. The above Leinsdorf-conducted recording of Wagner and Strauss, which was also displayed in the exhibition, features Shahn’s The Phoenix on its cover, a gouache and ink work he executed a decade earlier.

Fortuitously, a review of Record Album Art and the Recording/Artist in Art Journal noted, “[A]lthough the show’s emphasis seems to have settled on the historical evolution of record packaging as an art form…the direct hand of “fine” pop artists has also been visible. Some seven years ago I was belatedly introduced to the Rolling Stones via Andy Warhol’s witty album for Sticky Fingers: a screen print of jeans incorporating a real zipper opening to an inner print of hirsute nudity. The time didn’t seem ripe to donate  it to our favorite stuffy museum’s graphics department, but it should surface again in a Warhol retrospective–and the Syracuse show paves the way.”

We look forward to seeing fellow vinylphiles at the Warhol exhibition this summer, and feel free to share your favorite album artwork in the comments. I’m pretty partial to Nick Price’s illustration for Never For Ever myself.

Shelley Selim
2013-2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

References:

“College Museum News: Exhibitions,” Art Journal 37, no. 3 (1978): 256.

Rock of Ages: The Sanilac Petroglyphs

CRANBROOK SIGHTING: CRANBROOK INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
Drawings of the Sanilac Petroglyphs, Sanilac County, Michigan
Darrel J. Richards
Circa 1940
Graphite on paper

Sanilac Petroglyph drawings by Darrel J. Richards. Photograph by R. H. Hensleigh.

In 1881, the “Great Thumb Fire” ravaged the woods of what is now Sanilac Petroglyph Historic State Park and its surrounding areas in eastern Michigan, causing 282 fatalities and burning upwards of one million acres of land. (Sidenote: The region received the inaugural relief efforts from Clara Barton’s American Red Cross, which was founded just months earlier). In the aftermath, a farmer surveying the damage to his land noticed large sections of carvings on a limestone outcrop that had previously been obscured by a thick brush which was now burned away.

Sanilac Petroglyph drawings, detail. Photograph by R. H. Hensleigh.

What he discovered were the Sanilac Petroglyphs, rock carvings almost certainly made by a member of the Anishinaabeg people between 300 and 1,000 years ago. As the only known prehistoric rock carvings in the entire state of Michigan, scholars took an ardent interest, and in 1940 two members of the Aboriginal Research Club of Detroit–Darrel J. Richards and Carl Holmquist–traveled to the site to create drawings and castings of the petroglyphs. Richards’s drawings are now in the collection of the Cranbrook Institute of Science, and were most recently on view in Cranbrook Art Museum’s exhibition, My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process. To learn more about Cranbrook’s relationship with the petroglyphs, check out Cranbrook head archivist Leslie Edwards’s blog post on our sister blog, the Cranbrook Kitchen Sink.

This images of one of the carvings shows a man with bow and arrow, identifiable in Richards's drawing of the petroglyphs above. Photograph via Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

At 7:00pm this Thursday, April 10, Cranbrook Institute of Science Anthropology Coordinator Cameron Wood, along with Stacy Tchorzynski and Dean Anderson, archeologists from the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and the Department of Natural Resources, will examine the Sanilac Petroglyphs in a free lecture at CIS. Immediately following, 30 paid attendees will continue on to the Institute’s collection vault to examine the original Sanilac Petroglyphs drawings and plaster casts from the 1940s. Here is the Facebook event page, but you’ll need to book in advance: Tickets are $30 per person for Cranbrook Members and $35 for the General Public. To reserve your spot, please contact Kim Larsen at 248 645.3319, or by email at KLarsen@cranbrook.edu.

The rock carvings at Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park are officially open for view by the general public on May 28 and throughout the summer (more information here). Whether you’re planning a trip out to the Thumb or not, Thursday’s events offer an exciting opportunity to learn more about one of Michigan’s great historical treasures, and a provide rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse of Cranbrook Institute of Science’s impressive collection!

Pipsan: The Lesser-Known (But No Less Impressive!) Saarinen Sibling

CRANBROOK SIGHTING: INSIDE THE VAULT
Sol-Air Canvas Chaise Lounge, c. 1950
Pipsan Saarinen Swanson and J. Robert F. Swanson for Swanson and Associates
Iron, rope, and canvas
34 x 23 x 24 in. (86.4 x 58.4 x 61 cm)
Transfered from the Cranbrook Academy of Art

If it were up to me, every month would be Women’s History Month, but alas for the foreseeable future it is *officially* delegated to March in the United States, and today is our last chance to celebrate! How auspicious that March 31 also happens to be the birthday of Pipsan (born Eva Lisa) Saarinen Swanson, designer of furniture, interiors, fashion, and textiles, and younger sister of one of the most recognizable names in modern architecture, Eero Saarinen. Pipsan’s father Eliel was of course the architect of the Cranbrook Campus and President of the Cranbrook Academy of Art from 1932-1946, but before being lured to Bloomfield Hills by Cranbrook founder George Gough Booth, he was a visiting professor of architecture at the University of Michigan. One of his star students was Grand Rapids native J. Robert F. Swanson, who upon graduation founded the Swanson and Booth architectural firm at Cranbrook with his University of Michigan classmate Henry Scripps Booth, George’s son. It was here that Swanson was introduced to Pipsan, and immediately Cupid wielded his mighty arrow–they were married in 1926. After Swanson broke away to establish his own firm, Swanson and Associates, Pipsan was enlisted as an interior designer for the company, and the husband and wife team would continue their working and romantic partnership for the rest of their lives.

Pipsan Saarinen Swanson and J. Robert F. Swanson, undated. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

Cranbrook Art Museum holds in its collection a wonderful array of objects designed by the Swansons, as well as many costume, glass, and textile designs executed solely by Pipsan. Shoshana Resnikoff, Collections Fellow for the Center for Collections and Research (and frequent guest blogger on Cranbrook Sightings) has written a beautiful account of one such costume design on our sister blog, Cranbrook Kitchen Sink.

Sol-Air Canvas Chaise Lounge, c. 1950. Swanson and Associates. Photo (c) Cranbrook Art Museum.

In addition to their architectural and interior designs, Swanson and Associates often designed furniture and textiles for regional manufacturers. In 1949, the firm was hired by Cincinatti furniture company Ficks Reed to develop a line of casual pieces for the home that could transition from indoor to outdoor use. The Swansons ultimately created a suite of twelve chairs, tables, and benches, as well as a chaise lounge and a daybed, for a line they titled “Sol-Air”–likely a play on the word “solar,” as other titles considered were “Sunair” and “Solunair.”

Promotional photograph for the Sol-Air furniture series. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

Sol-Air advertisement, June 1950. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

The furniture series was a hit with the design community, ultimately being selected for the 1950 inaugural (and now notorious) “Good Design” exhibition at the Chicago Merchandise Mart, co-sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This October 1950 press release from the MoMA outlines the reception of the exhibited works based on polls from different categories of the public, and Pipsan’s Sol-Air Canvas Chaise Lounge came in second place among buyers–quite a propitious sign for the Ficks Reed wholesalers!

Sol-Air furniture featured in interior design editorial, photographed by Herbert Matter for House and Garden, July 1950. Photograph courtesy Cranbrook Archives, J. Robert F. Swanson and Pipsan Saarinen Swanson Papers.

The weatherproof, bright persimmon chaise lounge radiated casual, youthful relaxation, and throughout the suite’s five years in production was consistently one of its best sellers. With spring finally (FINALLY) upon us, I’ll take reclining in one of these nautically-inspired stunners over curling up in a womb chair any day. Well done, Pipsan!

Shelley Selim
2013-2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

Cranbrook Opens Its Doors to Showcase Graduate Work and Work Spaces

2014 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art and OPEN(STUDIOS) Art Sale + Community Day Return

Bloomfield Hills, Mich., March 27, 2014 – The 2014 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art opens to the public on April 22, and will showcase work from the next generation of architects, artists and designers who are shaping the future of art and design. The exhibition features pieces that are the culmination of two years of studio work from a diverse group of 75 graduates. The exhibition will run from April 22 – May 11, 2014.

Visitors can see installations such as an outdoor chandelier composed entirely of small bags of water, participate in an interactive virtual video work based on their movements in the gallery and experience a self-activated mechanical arm that brings speakers directly to the listener.

The exhibition will fill the entire 15,000 square feet of Cranbrook Art Museum and surrounding grounds. It is the most diverse exhibition offered all year as it showcases work from across all of the Academy’s 10 departments – 2D and 3D Design, Architecture, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Print Media, and Sculpture.

OPEN(STUDIOS) Is Back!

Then on April 27, after you see the work in the exhibition, go inside the Academy’s private studio spaces at our third annual OPEN(STUDIOS) Art Sale + Community Day. This is the only time of the year when the public is invited inside the private studio spaces of today’s emerging artists and designers. Student artists and faculty from each of the Academy’s 10 departments will be on hand to discuss their work and show off their creative environment. Select pieces of student art will be for sale.

Each OPEN(STUDIOS) ticket not only includes admission to the Art Museum, but also to the Institute of Science and a voucher for future admission to Cranbrook Gardens. Participate in hands-on art and science activities for the whole family, have lunch at a mini food truck rally and more!

The 2014 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art and OPEN(STUDIOS) are sponsored by Mercedes-Benz Financial Services USA LLC, as part of their ongoing commitment to supporting emerging artists of all ages.

Hours and Pricing

2014 Graduate Degree Exhibition of Cranbrook Academy of Art
April 22 – May 11, 2014
*ArtMembers Opening Reception on April 19, 2014 from 6-8pm. Memberships can be purchased at the door.

Museum Hours (through May 11, 2014):
Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday: 11am – 5pm
Admission to the Art Museum is $8 for adults; $6 for Senior Citizens; and $4 for full-time students with ID. Admission is free for ArtMembers@Cranbrook and children 12 and under.

Academy student-led tours will be held every Tuesday-Friday at noon and every Saturday and Sunday at 1pm. No tours will be held on April 20 and May 9.

OPEN(STUDIOS)
Art Sale + Community Day
April 27, 1 – 5pm

Tickets are $12 online (by April 26) and $15 at the door. Children 12 and under are free. No strollers in the studios, and children must be accompanied at all times. Admission to Cranbrook Art Museum, Cranbrook Institute of Science and a voucher for an upcoming tour of Cranbrook Gardens is included. To purchase tickets online, and for parking information, visit here. Event will be held, rain or shine. For more information, please contact 248.645.3214 or email artevents@cranbrook.edu.

For high resolution photos of students at work, please email jfracker@cranbrook.edu.

Cranbrook Academy of Art
Cranbrook Academy of Art is the country’s top ranked, graduate-only program in architecture, design and fine art. Each year, just 75 students are invited to study and live on our landmark Saarinen-designed campus, which features private studios, state-of-the art workshops, a renowned Art Museum, and 300 acres of forests, lakes, and streams, all a short drive from the red-hot art, design, and music scene of Detroit. The focus at Cranbrook is on studio practice in one of 10 disciplines: 2D and 3D Design, Architecture, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Print Media, and Sculpture. The program is anchored by celebrated Artists- and Designers-in-Residence, one for each discipline, all of whom live and practice on campus alongside our students. For more information, visit us at www.cranbrookart.edu.

Happy Birthday, May Morris!

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: INSIDE THE VAULT
May Morris
Bed-Hangings (Two Curtains)
1916, or earlier
Embroidered wool on linen
Each panel: 76 ¾ x 27 inches
Gift of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth

May Morris, Bed Hangings, c. 1916. Photo courtesy Cranbrook Art Museum.

On the 152nd anniversary of her birth (editor’s note: plus one day, because this editor is on a research trip and didn’t have time to get to the blog yesterday!), all of us at Cranbrook Art Museum are excited to wish artist and designer May Morris a very happy birthday! Born March 25, 1862 in Bexley Heath, England, May Morris grew up in an artistic community fueled by the beliefs of her father William Morris, a founder of the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Intellectually committed to her father’s movement, she learned needlecraft at the feet of her mother Jane, a Pre-Raphaelite model and muse for Morris and others.

As an adult May Morris advocated both for her father’s artistic movement and for women’s involvement in art through needlework. She traveled the United States for five months between 1909 and 1910, lecturing on the Arts and Crafts movement and women’s role in the arts. Exposed to the women’s rights movement growing in the United States in this period, Morris became a champion for trade unions and women’s arts guilds—a move that earned her the dislike of many Arts and Crafts leaders, including Gustav Stickley.

It was during this lecture tour that George Gough Booth first encountered Morris’s work. Ten years later Booth purchased these bed-hangings—designed by Morris and executed by Morris and fellow needleworker and teacher Mary Newill—from a 1920 Detroit Society of Arts Crafts exhibition featuring Morris’s work and that of other British Arts and Crafts artists. Designed in 1916, the bed-hangings were first exhibited at the Eleventh Arts and Crafts Exhibition in London in the same year and were published in The Studio: Year-Book of Decorative Art in 1917. George and Ellen Booth loved the bed-hangings, which they hung in Cranbrook House until 1955.

Shoshana Resnikoff
2012-2014 Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

References:

Anthea Callen, Women Artists of the Arts and Crafts Movement, 1870-1914 (Pantheon Books: New York) 1979.

Ellen Dodington, “May Morris, Bed-Hangings (Two Curtains),” Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures (Cranbrook Art Museum: Bloomfield Hills, MI) 2004.

Natasha Thoreson, “The Reluctant Reformer: May Morris’ United States Lecture Tour of 1909-1910,” Textiles and Politics: Textile Society of America 13th Biennial Symposium Proceedings (University of Nebraska, Lincoln: Lincoln, NE) 2012.

Music-Mushrooms-Manuscripts: John Cage at Cranbrook

John Cage Listens to John Cage, 1974. Offset lithograph poster designed by Michael McCoy, with photography by Frances Greenberg. Printed at Cranbrook Press. (c) Michael McCoy. Photo courtesy Stephen Milanowski.

In early April of 1974, artist-composer John Cage traveled to Cranbrook to celebrate the opening of Music–Mushrooms–Manuscripts at the Art Museum, an exhibition of his drawings, photographs, books, poems, prints, and sound recordings. Featured works included his 1969 series of Plexigrams, Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, and the Mushroom Book, both printed by Irwin Hollander (1973-1975 head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art Printmaking department). On the evening of April 12, Cage attended a concert of his own music—aptly titled “John Cage Listens to John Cage”—performed by local musicians as well as students from the Cranbrook Upper School and neighboring Andover and Seaholm high schools. The program featured a 35-piece ensemble of brass, string, woodwind, and non-pitched percussion instruments for the performance of Atlas Eclipticalis, executed in unison with the multi-piano composition Winter Music. Other works included Variations IV, 4’33″, 0’00″, and Prelude for Meditation, the latter representing his earlier compositions exploring ambient noise and prepared piano. The entire evening was conducted by a seventeen-year-old Steve Tennent, who had just graduated from high school four months earlier, and a promotional poster was designed by co-head of the Cranbrook Academy of Art Design department, Michael McCoy.

Steve Tennent conducts the orchestra from the back of Cranbrook Upper School's Little Gym. Photo courtesy Steve Tennent.

During his week-long visit to the Academy, Cage also performed a 2 ½ hour long excerpt from Empty Words, a text composition he would not complete until the following year. What one reviewer deemed a “metaphysical ode to extemporania,” the work comprised of drawings as well as phrases, words, and sounds randomly culled from the Journal of Henry David Thoreau.

Empty Words folio. Photos courtesy Stephen Milanowski.

Cage spent much of his time at Cranbrook with Irwin Hollander’s Printmaking students, playing chess and conversing but holding no formal critiques. At some point, the “Cage Bag” project materialized, spearheaded by Printmaking students Chuck Baughman and Doug Huston. A suite of droll and imaginative prints–including a program for the concert performance and limited edition postcards–were tucked into white paper bags silk-screened with Cage’s face.

The Cage Bag and its contents. Photo by Doug Huston.

Students assembling the Cage Bag. Kim Rendleman (MFA Printmaking '74) is sitting at the end of the table on the left, with Doug Huston (MFA Printmaking '75) to her right and Stephen Milanowski (BFA Photography '78) standing behind her. John Cage can be seen at the left edge of the photograph, engrossed in a game of chess with a student (or possibly Irwin Hollander). Photo courtesy Doug Huston.

Twelve limited-edition postcards were created, all featuring CAA student Jim Poole wearing the Cage Bag as a mask in various settings around campus. Photo courtesy Stephen Milanowski.

Back of Cage postcard. Photo courtesy Stephen Milanowski.

"John Cage Listens to John Cage" concert program. Photo courtesy Stephen Milanowski.

"John Cage Listens to John Cage" concert program. Photo courtesy Stephen Milanowski.

The Cage Bags were distributed to the audience on the evening of the “John Cage Listens to John Cage” performance, with the goal to have everyone in attendance wear the bags over their heads, creating a sea of John Cages staring back at the stage. Convincing listeners to participate proved a fruitless venture, but the night was capped off by two streakers masked in Cage Bags running through the gym and improvising a keyboard piece for Variations IV.

Doug Huston chases runaway Cage Bags on Academy Way. Check out those silver shoes! Photo by Stephen Milanowski.

At 4pm on Sunday, March 23, I’ll be lecturing more on John Cage’s visit to Cranbrook, as well as discussing Mushroom Book and Sounds of Venice, two Cage works currently on display in the Cranbrook Art Museum exhibition My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process. Immediately following will be a performance of Sounds of Venice by Detroit musician and composer Joel Peterson (check out his amazing gallery/restaurant/performance space Trinosophes, across from Eastern Market). Special thanks go out to Steve Tennent, Stephen Milanowski and Doug Huston, who provided so many incredible photographs and memories from that week. And if you haven’t yet seen My Brain Is in My Inkstand, be sure to catch it soon–the exhibition closes on March 30!

Shelley Selim
2013-2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

Cranbrook and the American Look

Cranbrook Sighting # 11
Sighter: Shelley Selim
Sighted: Cranbrook Art Museum and Library
Location: the Internet
Date: March 10, 2014

The Internet Archive continues to be a hardy source of endearment for Shoshana and me, and this weekend I found myself traipsing through a favorite district of its offerings–Prelinger’s backlog of mid-century Populuxe videos. The term “Populuxe” was coined by cultural and design historian Thomas Hine for his 1986 book of the same name, which analyzed the hyper-consumerism that swept the United States in the 1950s and ’60s. Product styling–an extension of a collective fervor for material abundance and variety–became a wellspring of national pride during the Cold War, particularly as a means of counter-defining American capitalist prosperity against the Soviet Union’s Communist economy.

Many “Populuxe” promotional films were produced in the mid-century, and American Look, sponsored by General Motors’ Chevrolet Division, is a champion of its genre. It has it all: bright colors (in the ’50s, practically everything was offered in an array of colors, from home appliances to toilet paper), all the trappings of the new cult of domesticity  (housewives, home ownership, picnics, pools, backyard barbeques), and of course plenty of furniture and home goods created by Americans and our allies (particularly the Scandinavians).

See how many designs by Cranbrook graduates and former faculty members you can spot in this film, which is part one in a series of three. Spoiler: There are a bunch, including several chairs by Harry Bertoia, whose 99th birthday just happens to be today!

Posted by Shelley Selim
2013–2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

Happy Birthday Albert Herter!

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: CRANBROOK HOUSE
Albert Herter
The Great Crusade
1920
Cotton, wool, and silk tapestry
Manufactured by the Herter Looms, Inc., New York, New York
156 x 120 inches
Gift of George Gough Booth and Ellen Scripps Booth

A day late but with no less affection, we here at the Cranbrook Art Museum wish a very happy birthday to Albert Herter, born on March 2, 1871. The son of Christian Herter, one half of New York’s famed Herter Brothers design and decorating firm, Albert went on to become a successful artist and decorator in his own right. Over his lengthy career he painted portraits of the Bouviers, executed many private and civic murals in the United States and Europe, opened and decorated an exclusive Montecito hotel for America’s elite, and in 1908 founded the Herter Looms weaving company.

Although Herter Looms manufactured a variety of textiles for home furnishings, it is perhaps best known for its output of revivalist tapestries, often designed by Albert. Below is an essay about Herter’s The Great Crusade tapestry, written by former Cranbrook Academy of Art director Gerhardt Knodel for the 2004 publication Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures. For even more about the tapestry’s design and execution, check out Robbie Terman’s post on our sister blog, Cranbrook Kitchen Sink.

Albert Herter, The Great Crusade, 1920

[Cranbrook founder] George Booth was inspired to mark the end of the World War I in 1918 with a commemorative tapestry designed in the European tradition. His pen and ink sketch was submitted to renowned designer Albert Herter in New York City, who developed Booth’s concept and oversaw the work’s production by the Herter Looms in 1920. The resulting tapestry is beautiful, unique, and dense with political symbolism.

Since the Middle Ages, tapestries functioned as a means to document and glorify the “progress” of civilization. The Great Crusade presents America, whose involvement in the battlefields brought the war to an end, as the savior of European culture. The tapestry depicts the great political and religious leaders of Europe’s cultural past standing on the ground (Henry VIII, Francis I, Joan of Arc, among others) welcoming the triumphant victor, General Pershing on horseback, leading his troops. A Renaissance-style angel of victory is suspended in the sky above the crowd, accompanied by American bi-planes, the first ever used in warfare. The tapestry is a “red-carpet” homage to the victors.

-Gerhardt Knodel
Essay from Cranbrook Art Museum: 100 Treasures, ed. Dora Apel (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2004), 64.

The Seen Examines My Brain Is in My Inkstand

Tony Orrico at Cranbrook Art Museum on November 15, 2013. Photo courtesy of Cranbrook Art Museum.

The Seen, Chicago’s International Online Journal of Contemporary & Modern Art, recently visited the current exhibition My Brain Is in My Inkstand: Drawing as Thinking and Process and said the exhibition asks viewers “to dig deeper into the discipline of drawing – to understand it as evidence of a space where thought and action overlap, and continuously unfold into processes, rather than two distinct stages of completion.”

Read the full review here.

Catherine Murphy’s Nighttime Self-Portrait

CRANBROOK SIGHTINGS: INSIDE THE VAULT
Catherine Murphy
Nighttime Self-Portrait
1985
Oil on canvas
16 ¾ x 16 1/8 inches
Gift of Rose M. Shuey, from the Collection of Dr. John and Rose M. Shuey
Image © Catherine Murphy

From this gusty tundra of unrelenting frigidity (-20 degrees with windchill today!), we here at Cranbrook Art Museum would like to extend our warmest and most heartfelt congratulations to Catherine Murphy, the 2013 winner of the Robert De Niro, Sr., Prize, awarded to one outstanding mid-career artist each year. Since the 1960s, Murphy’s representational paintings have been widely exhibited and prolifically produced, but the artist’s talent for nuanced channels of perception remains at times underappreciated.

Catherine Murphy, Nighttime Self-Portrait, 1985

Cranbrook Art Musum holds Murphy’s Nighttime Self-Portrait (1985) in its permanent collection, acquired as part of a generous gift of contemporary paintings and sculpture from the Collection of Dr. John and Rose M. Shuey in 2001. The Shueys were principally drawn to abstraction during their many decades of collecting, but the somber power of Murphy’s Nighttime so deeply enthralls, it is no wonder they made an exception for this piece. (And, when pressed, Rose Shuey told museum director Gregory Wittkopp that this painting was one of her personal favorites). Confronting the roles of observation and audience, Murphy’s own darkened countenance is captured within a window reflection, conflating the positions of both artist and viewer. Hidden behind a window mullion, a fracture in elevation between the porch and the front of the house subtly reveals the passing of time. Here Murphy challenges the immediacy of the captured image and highlights the minute variables in every mode of awareness.

Personally, I delight in Murphy’s work from the 1980s for its inquisitiveness of perspective and examination of the ordinary. With a quality reminiscent of Vilhelm Hammershøi’s haunting domestic vignettes, her glances up stairwells and through windows and doors are muted in tone and both meticulous and hazy, evoking the dreamy disquiet of a vivid memory. As Linda Nochlin has noted, Murphy’s paintings are “charged with a very contemporary awareness of the ambiguities of the domestic, of the ways, both dramatic and subtle, that the known shades into the mysterious, the personal into the objective, the cozy in to the uncanny.”

Bravo, Ms. Murphy! We are so thrilled for you, and look forward to many more years of enchanting artistic output.

Posted by Shelley Selim
2013–2015 Jeanne and Ralph Graham Collections Fellow
Cranbrook Art Museum

References:
Diane Kirkpatrick, “Catherine Murphy,” in Three Decades of Contemporary Art: The Dr. John & Rose M. Shuey Collection, ed. Dora Apel (Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Art Museum, 2001), 66.