Thursday, August 3, 2017

Exhibition Visit - Yale Center for British Art

We visited the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) in New Haven, Connecticut, where six images from our Natural History portfolio are displayed as part of "A Decade of Gifts and Aquisitions".

"The Yale Center for British Art opened to the public forty years ago, on April 19, 1977. The Center's building, collections, and the endowments on which it operates were Paul Mellon's greatest gift to Yale University, from which he received his bachelor of arts degree in 1929. Throughout his life, Mr. Mellon continued to add to the Center's collections, and after his death, in 1999, hundreds of additional works were bequeathed, along with final monetary donations of substantial proportions. In the forty years of the Center's existence, the collections have grown considerably, not just through Mr. Mellon's immense generosity but through that of many other benefactors. In celebration of the institution's fortieth anniversary, this suite of small exhibitions highlights some of the splendid gifts and acquisitions that have enriched and expanded the Center's collections over just the past decade. It includes a display of the final works from Mr. Mellon's collection, which came to the Center after the death of his wife, Rachel Lambert Mellon, in 2014.

"As part of Mr. Mellon's provisions for the ongoing maintenance of the building and its contents, and the support of its staff and programs, he left an endowment for growth of the collections. Many works purchased with this Paul Mellon Fund are included in the small exhibitions that make up this presentation. It is intended as a celebration of both the legacy of Mr. Mellon's gift fo rthe Center to the university and other donors and supporters who have contributed to the project of presenting the richness and complexity of British art to our multiple audiences."

Images from Natural History on display at the YCBA

"A Decade of Gifts and Aquisitions has been curated by Elisabeth Fairman, Chief Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts; Matthew Hargraves, CHief Curator of Art Collections; Lars Kokkonen, Assistant Curator of Paintings and Sculpture; and Sarah Welcome, Assitant Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts; under the direction of Scott Wilcox, Deputy Director for Collections."

Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman photographed twelve women "in the attitude of Roman portrait busts [to] honor lineage and express the authority and dignity of their subjects." After the application of light-sensitive cyanotype solution, the digital portraits were overlaid with plants and exposed to sunlight, "leaving shadowy blue impressions. The variations of blue veiling on the portraits are a combination of exposure and brush application, making each image unique."

Ciurej and Lochman work from an understanding of early photographic techniques, and are particularly influenced by the work of the nineteenth-century British botanist Anna Atkins, who made cyanotype impressions to document natural specimens. The artists believe that their prints "reveal rich alignments of nature with history...Flowers that we raise now for ornamental beauty were once essential in culinary, medicinal, and magical arts. They were used symbolically in literature, religion, and mythology as connections to the mysteries of birth, death, and regeneration. Overlaying the portraits with flowers reconnects and evokes these histories, providing a context for considering maturity in a culture preoccupied with the preservation of youth."

The portfolio was published in 2014, limited to four copies, each one containing twelve unique prints.

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