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American Wonder: Folk Art from the Collection (October 1–December 21, 2014)
BAM/PFA’S LAST MAJOR EXHIBITION IN ITS CURRENT BUILDING SPOTLIGHTS AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF AMERICAN FOLK ART FROM THE LATE EIGHTEENTH AND EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURIES
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Berkeley, CA, September 24, 2014 — The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents American Wonder: Folk Art from the Collection, on view October 1 through December 21, 2014. Featuring approximately fifty portraits, landscapes, weather vanes, decorative sculptures, and other works dating from the wake of the Declaration of Independence War to the end of the Civil War, this exhibition captures glimpses of young America during a period of boundless optimism, massive growth, and eventual upheaval. This distinguished collection at BAM/PFA—one of the most impressive American folk art collections from this period anywhere—results from the generosity of two collectors and patrons, Bliss Carnochan and Nancy Edebo. American Wonder is the last major art exhibition to open in BAM/PFA’s current museum building at 2626 Bancroft Way before the institution moves to a new location, currently under construction, in downtown Berkeley in early 2016.
American Wonder starts in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century New England, where the country’s newly independent citizens were beginning to help define and assume a national identity—one aligned with the goals of liberty, self-improvement, and advancement. Itinerant artists and skilled craftsman created art that captures this formative moment in American history. In the immediate years following independence, painted portraits were in high demand, to identify individuals, establish family legacy, and to boast personal and/or civic achievement. Artists from this period often traveled from one town to another, following signals of new prosperity and growth. Enterprising artists placed ads in local newspapers, emphasizing their skills in creating true likenesses of their sitters.
One such artist was the deaf painter John Brewster, Jr. who travelled and worked in coastal centers and rural towns from Maine to New York. Brewster is known to have painted a number of portraits in and around Salem, Massachusetts, an important shipping, commercial, and artistic center. Brewster’s Boy in Green (c. 1805–1810) is thought to be a portrait of Samuel Field McIntire, who grew up to become a furniture maker and architectural carver in Salem. His father, Samuel McIntire, referred to as “the architect of Salem,” designed some of the most important Federal style buildings in the region. In Boy in Green young McIntire is dressed in a smartly styled green suit. With book in hand, he stands stiffly on a rose-and-gold, geometrically patterned floor (the vibrant floor covering attesting to the fashionable taste and means of the McIntires). Brewster’s greatest attention is to the boy’s facial features, characteristics that would identify him to his contemporaries as Samuel Field McIntire, poised to move into adulthood and professional life.
American Wonder also includes a number of landscapes, ranging from pastoral scenes to views of industrial progress. Like McIntire’s Salem, Providence, Rhode Island, grew out of early maritime trade. View of Providence, Rhode Island, created in the 1820s by an unidentified artist, functions as a portrait of the harbor city, on the brink of transition from a fishing village to a bustling center of commerce. Narrated by means of architecture rather than people and activities, this compact panorama of structures along South Water Street unfolds from old to new as Providence shifted from sea trade to manufacturing industries.
With remarkable beauty and formal simplicity, the works of art in American Wonder vividly captures a burgeoning nation during a time of enormous change.
A handful of public programs will provide useful context to American Wonder. Richard W. Lyman Professor of Humanities, Emeritus at Stanford University, Bliss Carnochan, who collected all of the works on view in this exhibition, will discuss specific works and his interest in collecting folk art on October 5. On November 23 art historian Margaretta Lovell and social historian David Henkin will provide insights about pre-Civil War American society and culture. Guided tours will be offered on Thursdays and Sunday afternoons (excluding November 16 and December 21). Patricia Lessard will lead an American Sign Language tour of the exhibition on November 15. Cell phone audio tours are also available.
Gallery Talk: Bliss Carnochan
October 5, 2014; 3 p.m.
Bliss Carnochan, who collected the works on view in American Wonder with Nancy Edebo between 1966 and 1975, shares his passion for and knowledge of American folk art in this informal gallery talk. Carnochan, Richard W. Lyman Professor of Humanities, Emeritus at Stanford University, will discuss selected portraits, landscapes, sculptures, and commemorative mourning pictures, and address the complex status of folk art per se and as a field for collecting.
Included with gallery admission.
American Sign Language Guided Tour
Saturday, November 15, 2014; 1:30 p.m.
Join the engaging and expert American Sign Language interpreter Patricia Lessard for a student-led guided tour of American Wonder.
Included with gallery admission.
Imagining Everyday Life in the Young US: Margaretta Lovell and David Henkin in Conversation
Sunday, November 23, 2014; 3 p.m.
Art historian Margaretta Lovell and social historian David Henkin, both professors at UC Berkeley, offer a rich context for the artwork on view in American Wonder. They will discuss pre-Civil War American society and culture, touching on such issues as individual and community identity, rituals of mourning, schoolgirl skills, professional penmanship, and the role of domestic animals.
Included with gallery admission.
Thursdays at 12:15 & Sundays at 2
Meet in the Bancroft lobby for guided tours of American Wonder led by UC Berkeley graduate students in art history and history. No reservations required. No tours November 16 or December 21: see the online calendar for the schedule at bampfa.berkeley.edu/events/education. Included with gallery admission.
American Wonder: Folk Art from the Collection is organized by Chief Curator and Director of Programs and Collections Lucinda Barnes.
Founded in 1963, the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) is UC Berkeley’s primary visual arts venue and among the largest university art museums in terms of size and audience in the United States. Internationally recognized for its art and film programming, BAM/PFA is a platform for cultural experiences that transform individuals, engage communities, and advance the local, national, and global discourse on art and ideas. BAM/PFA’s mission is “to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through art and film.”
BAM/PFA presents approximately twenty art exhibitions and 380 film programs each year. The museum’s collection of over 19,000 works of art includes important holdings of Neolithic Chinese ceramics, Ming and Qing Dynasty Chinese painting, Old Master works on paper, Italian Baroque painting, early American painting, Abstract Expressionist painting, contemporary photography, and video art. Its film archive contains over 16,000 films and videos, including the largest collection of Japanese cinema outside of Japan, Hollywood classics, and silent film, as well hundreds of thousands of articles, reviews, posters, and other ephemera related to the history of film, many of which are digitally scanned and accessible online.
Location: 2626 Bancroft Way, just below College Avenue across from the UC Berkeley campus.
Gallery and Museum Store Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Open L@TE Fridays until 9 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Information: 24-hour recorded message (510) 642-0808; fax (510) 642-4889; TDD (510) 642-8734.