Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
on the campus of Cornell University
Ithaca, New York
Museum curators will have a tough job on their hands in the future. How will they deal with the influx of all the different styles and points of view that are happening now? How, and Who will make sense of it all? There is no one style that dominates like impressionism or Pop Art... and when you go into galleries there seems to be a free-for-all. Museum people have to make sense and they try to do so in the wall labels and other publications they issue. I go to the museum above to see their shows and to visit with favorite works of art.
When I was a graduate student in Fine Art at Cornell University in the early 1970s, I was watching as the Johnson Museum was being built - not more than a couple of hundred yards away from my studio. The building's bold design by I.M. Pei stands out on the campus today, and it offers wonderful collections and spectacular views of the surroundings in the Finger Lakes.
Lake Cayuga, June 5, 2018
I first find my way to the elevator and travel upstairs to visit a floor for Asian Art and also to see the marvelous view of the lake. Here, at The Johnson Museum there is an active interest in Asian Art and collectors have donated some beautiful artwork to the collection over the years. Recent additions of ceramics and textiles, and paintings and much more are a thrill because we don't see much of this art in upstate New York. A decorated head portrait of Mao caught my eye - what an unusual thing to see an old technique of relief and botanical decoration used for a portrait!
"Fashion and Mao" by Suo Tan, 2007
Ancient Thailand Ceramics ( 300 B.C. )
Some really ancient ceramics from Thailand had a linear pattern on them and we get the added benefit of seeing how the lines may have been made. In this exhibition case there is a little cigar shaped clay object with lines cut out of it, so this piece of fired clay could be used if you applied a little pressure to create a grooved surface on wet clay - a kind of offset printing!
Kalsang Lodoe Oshoe, Tibetan Thangka 2006
There is an interest in Tibetan Buddhism in Ithaca, and it is rumored that the Dalai Lama would like to spend some of his retirement here. I don't know whether this is true, but the Johnson Museum has some striking Tibetan art including this painted textile. The label for the work indicate the artist is working today, and his Thangka illustrates a diety - the bodhisattva of wisdom. The artwork is made with opaque watercolor and gold on cloth - a wonder to behold.
A wide variety of art is on view at The Johnson Museum and I have to keep moving. Downstairs examples are featured from their American collection including this print from Blanche Lazzell ( 1878-1956) - she was a printmaking expert who studied in Paris and she is identified by her use of a white line that surrounds her planes of color as you can see in this flower image> Blanche was one of the early artists to establish a presence on Cape Cod at the far end of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
So, when I was a graduate student I could visit the museum and see artwork like this once the Johnson opened for business. Back then I was studying with Peter Kahn ( Wolf Kahn's brother ).
Peter had a far ranging knowledge of contemporary art and knew Hans Hofmann - also a presence in Provincetown. Hofmann may have had more of an influence on what and how I studied - creating my art because so many of my teachers had studied with him. Right on cue, I found a wonderful painting by Hofmann. There is so much to see here, I could go on and on...
Hans Hofmann at the Johnson Museum, Ithaca, New York