Arts

Blockbuster Exhibit Opens at Art Museum

Arthur Watson Sparks, Quai St. Catherine, Martinigue, circa 1910–1919, oil on board, 25 ½ × 28 ¾ inches. Reading Public Museum, Reading, PA, museum purchase.

AshevilleAn incredible exhibition of  American Impressionist paintings has just opened at the Asheville Art Museum downtown, including 70 paintings and works on paper. If you haven’t had a chance to visit the museum in the past few months, this is an opportunity to enjoy the spacious new galleries while seeing a wide array of breathtaking paintings by well-known American and French artists such as Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, and Childe Hassam. A special admission fee— $7 per Museum Member and $10 per non-member— applies to this exhibition in addition to general Museum admission fees.  The number of visitors is limited due to COVID-19, but with such a large museum there is space for many people.  Everyone must wear a face covering and distance from each other; the museum is open regular hours, and one can purchase timed tickets if you prefer.

Across the Atlantic: American Impressionism Through the French Lens—drawn from the collection of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania, an hour from Philadelphia— explores the path to Impressionism through the 19th century in France and into the 20th century in the United States.  This now popular style is characterized by a concern with depicting the visual impression of the moment, especially in terms of the shifting effect of light and color.  It seeks to capture a feeling or experience rather than to achieve an accurate depiction. This exhibition examines the relationship between French Impressionism of the 1870s and 1880s and the American interpretation of the style in the decades that followed. The exhibition will be on view in the Museum’s Appleby Foundation Exhibition Hall on the first floor, January 22 through April 19.

“The first things I notice in this exhibition are the beautiful color palettes found in Impressionist art—rich greens, whimsical purples, and serene blues,” says Whitney Richardson, associate curator. “If you are an enthusiast of French and American Impressionism, this exhibition is a dream come true. Many American artists had traveled to France around the turn of the century to continue their studies in fine art and embraced the Impressionist style with its rapid or loose brushstrokes and emphasis on light and atmospheric conditions. Because of the recent commercial availability of tubed paint, these artists were then able to go outdoors to find their subject en plein air. This had not been possible before, as it was too cumbersome to carry many big buckets of paint outside, and to mix it properly outside of the studio, in order to capture the scene as a painting.

To my (this author’s) knowledge, Asheville hasn’t had such a blockbuster show of well known, highly recognized artists— maybe ever. Thanks to the additional exhibition galleries, the brand new HVAC system, and the heightened security in the new buildings of the Asheville Art Museum, a spectacular traveling exhibition such as this could finally be brought here to Asheville for the public to see. The choice of wall coloring, the lighting, and the placement of paintings all add to the exhilarating experience of seeing these paintings firsthand, and not just in a book or on a classroom screen.

The American photographer Gregory Crewdson portrays a child beckoning a bus driver early in the morning.  This is a chromogenic print mounted on aluminum, 47 5/8” x 59 1/2”. This image is Courtesy of the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The American photographer Gregory Crewdson portrays a child beckoning a bus driver early in the morning. This is a chromogenic print mounted on aluminum, 47 5/8” x 59 1/2”.

There are a series of small Mary Cassatt drypoint etchings on paper, beautifully framed, a stunning John Singer Sargent oil painting of A Man Reading, Edgar Degas’ the Singer, (La Chanteuse), The Laundress Ironing (La Blanchisseuse Répassant), and the Bather, Renoir’s, lithograph The Hat Pin and a drypoint Portrait of Berthe Morisot, and a Camille Pissarro The Plow. There is an impressive array of artists’ works to view.   Many of the painters are already well known by the general public, but other American Impressionists who may be less well known yet have stunningly beautiful works of impressionistic art—such as Robert Lewis Reid, Edward Redfield, Chauncey Ryder,  Arthur Watson Sparks—are also highlighted in this exhibition. Thanks to the renovations, which the Asheville Art Museum completed in November 2019, members and visitors can view paintings from major traveling exhibitions. Across the Atlantic just arrived from the Appleton Museum in Ocala, Florida, Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christie, Texas, and had been touring in other museums in Florida, Iowa, and Louisiana.

Contemporary Photography Exhibition

Another uplifting exhibition currently being shown is the large contemporary photography from the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. It will be open until March 15th. Vantage Points: Contemporary Photography from the Whitney Museum of American Art  features a selection of photographic works from the 1970s to the mid-2000s that highlights how photography has been used to represent individuals, places, and narratives. There are some striking photographs by well-known artists, such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Avedon, Sally Mann, Andy Warhol and controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. This presentation includes approximately 20 artists with a wide variety of styles.

You can see minute details and facial expressions, extraordinary lighting in the photographs, as well as astounding subjects —such as wisps of hair being blown to the side in the breeze, or huge photographs of large trees hung upside down. Some seemingly straightforward representations challenge traditional notions of photography. Technological developments permitted the artists to use many different photographic processes and to print their works in various sizes. These developments allowed the artist to create photographs that have a powerful impact. Some of these photographs will undoubtedly make a lasting impression.

About the Asheville Art Museum 

The Museum’s galleries, the Museum Store, and Perspective Café are open with limited capacity. The Museum welcomes visitors Wednesday through Monday from 11 am to 6 pm, with late-night Thursdays from 11 am to 9 pm. The Museum is closed on Tuesdays. General admission is always free for Museum Members, UNC Asheville students, and children under 6; $15 per adult; $13 per senior (65+); and $10 per student (child 6–17 or degree-seeking college students with valid ID).

Special admission fees apply to view the Across the Atlantic exhibition in addition to general Museum admission fees: $7 per Museum Member and $10 per non-member. No special admission fee is needed to view the photography exhibit,Vantage Points. Admission tickets are available at ashevilleart.org/visit. Visitors may become Members at the welcome desk during their visit or online at ashevilleart.org/membership.