The Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers delves into its permanent collections to explore pivotal developments and trends in art with the exhibitions Women Artists on the Leading Edge: Celebrating Douglass College at 100 and Recent Acquisitions in Photography, which open on September 3. Respectively, works by ten Douglass alumnae, who graduated between 1958 and 1969, reflect various stages of their careers and 26 photographs gifted to the museum represent a diverse range of subjects and techniques since the early 20th century. Both exhibitions are organized by Hannah Shaw, Graduate Curatorial Assistant, and Austin Losada, Mellon Post-Graduate Intern, with guidance from Donna Gustafson, the museum’s Curator of American Art and Mellon Director for Academic Programs.
“These endeavors highlight the Zimmerli’s educational mission and the essential role that academic museums play in providing hands-on opportunities to students and young professionals in the field,” Gustafson said. Shaw worked on the recent Zimmerli exhibitions It’s Just a Job: Bill Owens and Studs Terkel on Working in 1970s America and Tiananmen Square, 1989: Photographs by Khiang H. Hei. She currently is a Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers, completing her dissertation “August Sander and the Photographic Conditions of Nazi-Era Germany.” Shaw also received a graduate research fellowship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in 2017-2018 and a Getty Library Research Grant in 2019. Losada graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history from Rutgers in 2018 and plans to pursue a graduate degree in the field. As an undergraduate curatorial intern at the museum, he assisted with the 2017 exhibition Guerrilla (And Other) Girls: Art/Activism/Attitude.
Women Artists on the Leading Edge honors the achievements of Douglass alumnae and faculty. Founded in 1918 as the New Jersey College for Women, Douglass College provided a crucial educational outlet for women, as Rutgers University did not become completely co-educational until 1972, when the former Rutgers College first admitted women as undergraduates. Inspired by Black Mountain College’s innovative, interdisciplinary curriculum, faculty and students at Douglass created a center for avant-garde art that embraced Fluxus, Pop, performance, and experimentation. Such groundbreaking artists as John Cage, John Goodyear, Geoffrey Hendricks, Roy Lichtenstein, Joan Semmel, and Robert Watts taught at Douglass during this time, bringing their experiences in a radically changing art world into the classroom.
Drawn from the museum’s permanent collection, the exhibition examines these artists’ diverse endeavors and how, not necessarily intentionally, they reflected broader aspects of women’s lives. A pioneering feminist artist, Joan Semmel was the sole tenured woman faculty member of the college’s highly regarded art department when she painted Faculty Frieze in 1982. The group portrait depicts her six male colleagues, revealing the persistence of male authority and power in the workplace, including a progressive art department at a women’s college. Linda Lindroth poses in Family Portrait on My 32nd Birthday (1978), holding separate photographic portraits of her parents. It resulted from the fact that they were estranged, so a traditional family photo was not possible for the special occasion. The silkscreen series Miami Proposal (1990) by Alice Aycock documents a sculpture series that was developed for the Miami Airport, but never built (however, her sculpture The Matriculating Machine in the Garden is installed behind the Mabel Smith Douglass Library). The artist’s notes scrawled on each print indicate the fluidity of the machines and her aspiration to design interactive public art.
Additional artists on view include: Loretta Dunkelman, Kirsten Kraa, Frances Kuehn, Marion Munk, Mimi Smith, Joan Snyder, and Ann Tsubota. The exhibition also celebrates the forthcoming publication Women Artists on the Leading Edge: Visual Arts at Douglass College by Rutgers Distinguished Professor Emerita Joan Marter, who was both a faculty member and a witness to the feminist revolution in the arts. The Zimmerli hosts a free panel discussion and book signing with Marter on October 29.
The selections in Recent Acquisitions in Photography not only represent important trends in post-WWII photographic practice, but also affirm the Zimmerli’s commitment to collecting the medium, making it both visually compelling and highly accessible to visitors. This exhibition provides a distillation of our expansive view of photography in the museum with examples of vernacular, celebrity and fashion, photojournalism, and conceptual, as well as photographs that fall between these definitions, purposes, and subject matters. The exhibition includes works by such professional photographers as Robert Capa, William Castellana, Olivier Rebbot, and Robin Schwartz, as well as seven anonymous vernacular snapshots.
Figurative subjects range from staged compositions to impromptu street photography. The earliest photos chronicle life in the United States: from Weegee’s portrayals of the celebrity lifestyle (the nation’s first movie columnist, Louella Parsons, at the opera, c. 1945) and the sensational (a monkey operating a radio, c. 1950) to Leon Levinstein’s subtle observations of 1970s counterculture. Such themes continue with Irving Penn’s glamorous fashion layouts from the 1980s (Donatella Versace; Kelly LeBrock) and Walter Iooss’s documentation of children playing on the streets in Havana, Cuba, during the late 1990s.
Other images document the conceptual practices of twentieth-century photographers. Kenji Nakahashi’s Living Pencils and Stamps (1980) re-orient our perceptions by bringing the unnoticed beauties of everyday life to the fore. Works by Kristin Capp – Black Horse, All Saints Bay, Itapaica, Brazil (2004) and Wires, Santa Tereza, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2003) – are drawn from her eight-year photobook project Brasil, which portrays that country’s culture, landscape, architecture, and visual character. Donna Ferrato’s Billion $ View, 56 Leonard St. (2008) and Leonard St. Cobblestone Work (2009) freezes the living city for a moment, as gentrification reinvents neighborhoods of the city.
Women Artists on the Leading Edge: Celebrating Douglass College at 100 is on view September 3, 2019 through January 11, 2020. The exhibition and accompanying programs are organized with funding from the Office of the Dean, Douglass Residential College, Rutgers University Press, and the Zimmerli Art Museum’s Mellon Endowment Funds. Recent Acquisitions in Photography is on view from September 3, 2019 through March 3, 2020.
ZIMMERLI ART MUSEUM|RUTGERS
The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum houses more than 60,000 works of art, ranging from ancient to contemporary art. The permanent collection features particularly rich holdings in 19th-century French art; Russian art from icons to the avant-garde; Soviet nonconformist art from the Dodge Collection; and American art with notable holdings of prints. In addition, small groups of antiquities, old master paintings, as well as art inspired by Japan and original illustrations for children’s books, provide representative examples of the museum’s research and teaching message at Rutgers. One of the largest and most distinguished university-based art museums in the nation, the Zimmerli is located on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Established in 1766, Rutgers is America’s eighth oldest institution of higher learning and a premier public research university.
Admission is free to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (at George Street) on the College Avenue Campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. The Zimmerli is a short walk from the NJ Transit train station in New Brunswick, midway between New York City and Philadelphia.
The Zimmerli Art Museum is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., and select first Tuesdays of the month, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and major holidays, as well as the month of August.
PaparazZi Café is open Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a variety of breakfast, lunch, and snack items. The café is closed weekends and major holidays, as well as the month of August.
For more information, visit the museum’s website www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu or call 848.932.7237.