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Walker Art Center curator heads to Andy Warhol Museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 14, 2015 - 3:12 PM

Bartholomew Ryan (left) with artist Goshka Macuga and Walker curator Peter Eleey. Star Tribune file photo by Joel Koyama.

Walker Art Center curator Bartholomew Ryan is leaving Minneapolis for a senior curatorial post at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, PA starting May 18. He will be the Milton Fine Curator of Art at the Warhol institution.

Most recently, Ryan co-curated with Darsie Alexander the ambitious "International Pop" show which opened April 11 at the Walker. Five years in the making, "International Pop" brought to Minneapolis more than 175 artworks by 100 artists from 20 countries. A stellar example of in-depth scholarship combined with splendid showmanship, the show is a brilliant and wide-ranging reappraisal of a pivotal moment in American art.

Running through August 29, "International Pop" focuses on 1958 - 1972 when Pop art was being adopted as a stylistic and conceptual approach by artists around the world, many of whom looked askance at American consumer culture but nevertheless realized that the bold, colorful techniques of advertising and popular publications could be used effectively to critique and even lampoon the heavy-handed politics of dictatorial governments elsewhere.

Minneapolis pals and museum colleagues from around the country stopped to high-five and congratulate Ryan, 38, at the crowded IP opening party Saturday night. Sipping a beer, he ruminated a bit about his six year tenure at the Walker.

With all its resources of staff, money, reputation, and travel opportunities, the Walker gave him a privileged perspective on the art world, he said. Curators at many of the places he and Alexander visited in preparing the IP show simply couldn't afford to put together an exhibition of that scale. Still, thinking of the new Warhol post, he said he was looking forward to rethinking how Andy Warhol is understood in art history and finding new ways to interpret his work.

"Walker really changed my perspective on art," Ryan said. "It's been great here, but it's time," for a change.

The Warhol museum apparently agrees. Announcing Ryan's new position, the Warhol museum said his work on "International Pop" prepared him to "further contextualize Andy Warhol and his place in global art history."

Ryan joined the Walker as a curatorial fellow and stayed on as an assistant curator. Shows he organized for the Walker often brought together international artists not previously seen in the Midwest. His  2013 group exhibition "9 Artists" actually featured the work of eight artists:  Yael Bartana, Liam Gillick, Renzo Martens, Bjarne Melgaard, Nastio Mosquito, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Hito Steyerl, and Danh Vo. That year he also co-curated "Painter Painter," an examination of contemporary approaches to abstraction. He oversaw the Walker's presentation of the 2012 traveling show "This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s," and the previous year co-curated residency projects by Goshka Macuga and Pedro Reyes.

Ryan has a MA from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and a B.A in drama and theater studies from Trinity College, Dublin.

"International Pop" is hot at Walker Art Center

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 9, 2015 - 5:10 PM

"International Pop" curators Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan with Italian artist Sergio Lombardo's silhouette painting of President John F. Kennedy. Star Tribune photo by Jim Gehrz

Walker Art Center's new "International Pop" show, running April 10 - August 29, is a sizzling, delectable feast that puts real meat on the bones of pop culture. The cheesy food metaphor is irresistible in an exhibition that opens with a gallery of wall-sized paintings of garish food and sculpture about eats and eating. But there's much more to this $1.5 million extravaganza than just a reprise of what Americans already think they know about Pop Art.

Curators Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan spent much of the past five years delving deep into the history and archives of Pop before assembing a carefully edited and provocative interpretation of that zesty cultural moment. Focused on the formative dates 1958 - 1972, the show is a dense, fast-paced melange of 175 paintings, sculpture, videos and installations by more than 100 artists from 20 countries, most of which haven't been seen here before and many of which stretch  common notions of what Pop Art is.

Looking abroad, they discovered that American products, politics and personalities were everywhere, but that artists from Iceland to Argentina, Germany to Japan looked askance at the dominance of the American-way-of-life even as they embraced it. And so artists elsewhere gave Pop the flavor of their own cultures, slyly using Pop imagery and idioms to critique capitalism, war-mongering, dictatorships, and even to mock the hypersexualized cult of big-boobed blondes that pervaded movies and magazines of the day.

In 1964 Icelandic painter Erro, for example, produced a vast 6 ft. by 9 ft. "Foodscape" cluttered with American fast food and brands (look for the Jolly Green Giant, Heinz ketchup, etc.) while the French-born Venezuelan sculptor Marisol served painted tv dinners to the self-portrait figures in her 1963 "Dinner Date." By 1970, however, Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles was using Coca-Cola bottles as a distribution system for criticisms of his homeland's military dictatorship. Had the authorities noticed the messages he printed on his altered Coca-Cola bottles he'd have been jailed, but the popular pop sailed under the censor's radar. And now several of Meireles bottles are on view at the Walker, footnoted too, of course.

Every item in this color-saturated, complex show is rich with art, history and socio-political commentary. You can look at the art and videos, read the labels and footnotes, and groove on the memories. Or you can just stroll through and enjoy the moment. In either case, it's a fabulous exhibit.

Walker Art Center retitles and hires new staff

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 8, 2015 - 4:20 PM

   Fionn Meade. Image provided by Walker Art Center.

Walker Art Center has retitled Fionn Meade and hired a new staff member to head its education and public programs department effective immediately.

Meade was hired in February 2014 to be the Walker's Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, a new title then intended to "cut across artistic disciplines" in a contemporary art center that presents films, theatrical and dance performances, and exhibitions featuring diverse media. His title has now been streamlined to Artistic Director. The job remains the same.

His new title also replaces that of Chief Curator which is a more common designation for whoever leads a museum's programming departments. His predecessor as Chief Curator was Darsie Alexander who left in January 2014, after five years at the Walker, to become director of the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York. Alexander had a more traditional background in art history with an emphasis on contemporary photography. Meade was a curator, writer and faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Columbia University in New York prior to joining the Walker staff.

  Nisa Mackie, image from Walker Art Center

The Center also named Nisa Mackie as Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs. A native of New South Wales, Australia, she most recently managed public programs at the Biennale of Sydney.

U of Mn's Weisman Art Museum gets dubious third place award

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 9, 2015 - 12:24 PM

Fans of the U of Mn's Weisman Art Museum rejoiced at the news that the jazzy museum overlooking the Mississippi has been ranked No. 3 in a list of "The 50 Most Amazing College Museums."

As the news ricocheted through the emails of Twin Cities art mavens Wednesday, congratulations poured in to the offices of Weisman director Lyndel King who has led the museum for more than 30 years and masterminded the move into its distinctive Frank Gehry-designed building.

"WOW!  Fantastic!  Yippee!  We are thrilled," gushed two long-time supporters. 

King responded with typical aplomb, telling supporters, "As my mom said, it's an amazing journey from three rooms in the attic of old Northrop [Auditorium] to being ranked #3 university museum in the nation--and #1 art museum, as the first two are both natural history."

True enough, and the Weisman definitely deserves plaudits for its audacious building and contributions to the U and the Twin Cities. In fact, it deserves a real rating, not the dubious honor bestowed by CollegeRank.net, an online rating system based in Columbus, Ohio, whose website provides no hint of what criteria or research methods were used to arrive at its conclusions.

The 50 museums in its ranking are a hodge podge of natural history, anthropology, art and miscellaneous subjects. Harvard's Museum of Natural History is No. 1, followed by Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural Science at No. 2. Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, ranked  No. 5, is a public non-profit with no college or university affiliation. And the U.S. Naval War College Museum, No. 9, merely "displays the legacy of naval warfare in various interesting exhibits."

The Harvard Art Museums complex, which encompasses the legendary Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Arthur M. Sackler museums, isn't even listed. That omission is ridiculous considering that the three institutions together have more than 250,000 top notch works of art spanning world history and culture from archaic Chinese jades and bronzes to Chinese and Korean ceramics, Greek vases, Islamic works on paper, European paintings from the Italian Renaissance to the Impressionists and beyond (Titian, Poussin, Canaletto, Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Picasso, Van Gogh, etc.) To say nothing about one of the country's most significant collections of German Expressionism and Bauhaus material.

The dubious CollegeRank.net site abounds with lists of everything from "50 Best College Campus Hospitals" to "25 Must Follow Pinterest Accounts for College Students." Among those Pinterest accounts don't miss No. 20: "Casey the College Celiac," a blog of "personal stories about surviving college with celiac disease and trying to maintain a gluten-free life." No future college student should be without it.

Minnesota Museum of American Art names new development director

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: April 7, 2015 - 12:22 PM

Theresa Sweetland, Director of Development and External Relations, Minnesota Museum of American Art

The  Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) in St. Paul has hired Theresa Sweetland as its new Director of Development and External Relations starting April 27. Sweetland has headed the Minneapolis neighborhood organization Intermedia Arts for the past six years, serving there in the dual role of Executive/Artistic Director.

In a valedictory announcement, Intermedia board chair Andrea Jenkins credited Sweetland with having "successfully revived [Intermedia]  from near death in 2009 to our current position of strength and impact." Intermedia immediately named Julie Bates MacGillis to be the organization's acting executive director for the next six months while the board searches for a new director. A writer and spoken-word poet, Bates MacGillis is presently the Associate Director of Intermedia. She also recently received a Joyce Grant from the Arts Professional Development Fund for Emerging Leaders of Color.

At the MMAA Sweetland is expected to strengthen ties to the institution's current funders, solicit new revenue, increase the museum's membership, and broaden its visibility through marketing and communications.

The MMAA now presents temporary exhibitions of new work by Minnesota-based artists in a "Project Space" that's open three days a week (Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays) in the historic Pioneer Endicott Building near Lowertown. The site is adjacent to the Green Line of the light rail system connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Most of the museum's 4000 piece collection is presently in storage or on loan to exhibitions that travel the region. It organized the show "Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison" which is on view at the Minnesota History Center through April 26.

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