Recent news articles featuring the Mead Art Museum:
When the avant-garde met E=mc2: the story behind Dimensionism The Art Newspaper | Nov. 7, 2018
Cubism. Futurism. Constructivism. Dadaism. Surrealism. Amid the maelstrom of artistic “isms” that swirled in the first decades of the 20th century, an obscure Hungarian poet saw a clear and unstoppable logic. Charles Sirató had begun composing “planar” poems in the 1920s that freed words from their lines and gave them pictorial form. As an émigré in Paris, he felt the shock of Modern art: paintings with depth, and sculptures with inner voids and moving, even motorised, elements. In 1936, he wrote a manifesto declaring that all these avant-garde tendencies were offshoots of the same movement: Dimensionism.
Their emergence after 1905, the year that Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity, was no accident. “At the origin of Dimensionism are the European spirit’s new conceptions of space-time (promulgated most particularly by Einstein’s theories) and the recent technical givens of our age,” Sirató wrote. He used the formula “N + 1” to express how literature, painting and sculpture had each “absorbed a new dimension” on top of those they already had. So, painting would go from two to three dimensions, while sculpture would now have four. The movement’s endpoint would be “cosmic art”, which would not be passively viewed but experienced with all five senses.
Groundbreaking exhibition examines the role of science in mid-century art ArtDaily | November 7, 2018
This fall, the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive presents the premiere of a nationally touring exhibition that explores the influence of scientific discovery on some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated artists. Organized by the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein is the first exhibition to highlight the untold story of the “Dimensionist Manifesto”—a proclamation authored by Hungarian poet Charles Sirató in 1936 and endorsed by such artistic luminaries as Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, László Moholy-Nagy, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and others—which called for an artistic response to the era’s groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Featuring nearly seventy artworks by the Manifesto’s signatories and their contemporaries, the exhibition illuminates remarkable connections between the scientific and artistic revolutions that shaped the twentieth century.
Dimensionism features new scholarship on the influence of science on European and American artists of the 1930s, who were active at a time when mass media was exposing the general public to radical new developments in scientific theory. Inspired by new conceptions of time and space engendered by physics, mathematics, astronomy, and microbiology, an emerging avant-garde movement sought to expand the “dimensionality” of modern art. These artists engaged with scientific concepts to advance bold new forms of creative expression, from the fourth dimension of space-time embodied by Calder’s free-moving mobiles to new perceptions of the cosmos evoked by Noguchi’s lunar landscapes.
The exhibition illuminates creative currents that connected the Dimensionists to their artistic contemporaries in the pre- and postwar eras, many of whom were inspired by the same scientific themes that were championed by the Dimensionist movement. Some of the group’s earliest ventures included direct engagement with scientists, such as the artist László Moholy-Nagy’s correspondence with Albert Einstein. Similarly, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, and Henry Moore knew the x-ray crystallographer J.D. Bernal and were influenced by his new scientific images, which share striking similarities with works such as Moore’s Stringed Figure (1938), a highlight of the exhibition. Even the critical reception of artwork of cubist painters like Pablo Picasso, was informed in part by the new physics of quantum theory.
The scientific theories of modern physics and astronomy in particular played an important role in the development of Dimensionism, inspiring the drive for a new type of kinetic art (like Alexander Calder’s mobiles) that embodied the new vision of a dynamic universe in which nothing was static. Just as importantly, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity posited a new type of curved space, confirmed by the total eclipse of 1919, which showed the “bending” of light around the sun. The image of the eclipse became symbolic of this historic moment that altered our perception of space and time and found itself represented in many artworks of this era, including on one of Duchamp’s kinetic “Rotoreliefs,” and artwork by Joseph Cornell.
Curated by Vanja Malloy, the Mead’s curator of American art, Dimensionism brings together paintings, sculptures, prints, and photographs from private and museum collections, along with poetry and other ephemera associated with the Dimensionist movement. More than 36 artists are represented in the exhibition, including many of the Manifesto’s original signatories as well as other prominent artists—Helen Lundeberg, Barbara Hepworth, Man Ray, Isamu Noguchi, Wolfgang Paalen, Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy, and many others—who drew inspiration from science.
“This unprecedented exhibition invites visitors to reconsider work by some of the most important artists of the twentieth century in a fresh historical framework that emphasizes their engagement with the world of science—a powerful influence on the trajectory of modern art that has been largely overlooked until now,” said Malloy. “By illuminating this forgotten history, Dimensionism reveals that major swaths of avant-garde art can never fully be understood unless contextualized within the social and scientific upheavals that shaped them.”
An illustrated 328-page exhibition catalog, edited by Malloy, provides the first in-depth scholarship on the Dimensionist Manifesto and the relationship between modern art and science more generally. The catalog includes new essays by Malloy; Oliver A. I. Botar from the University of Manitoba; Linda Dalrymple Henderson from the University of Texas at Austin; and Gavin Parkinson from the Courtauld Institute of Art. Published and distributed by the MIT Press, the catalog is available to purchase at the Mead Art Museum and BAMPFA, and online at https://mitpress.mit.edu/bo oks/dimensionism.
“We are delighted to partner with our friends at the Mead in premiering their exceptional exhibition here in Berkeley, where our visitors will have the opportunity to rediscover an important passage of modern art history with a truly outstanding selection of artwork—including multiple works from our own collection,” said BAMPFA Director and Chief Curator Lawrence Rinder, who is overseeing the BAMPFA presentation of Dimensionism. “As the visual arts center for one of America’s leading research universities, BAMPFA is an ideal venue to launch an exhibition that celebrates the spirit of scholarly and creative exchange between the worlds of art and science.”
Mead Art Museum Acquires Installation by Yinka Shonibare Artforum | June 30, 2018
The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts has acquired a large-scale installation by the Britain-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare. Titled the American Library Collection (Activists), the work comprises 234 books wrapped in Dutch wax print fabric. Inscribed in gold foil on the spines of each book are the names of first or second generation American activists and writers from across the political spectrum, such as Grace Lee Boggs, Cesar Chavez, and Sonia Sotomayor.
“Yinka Shonibare’s library highlights the vital, complex, and important contributions of American immigrants, and the descendants of immigrants, who brought forward ideas that represent a spectrum of social and political thought,” said David E. Little, director and chief curator of the museum. “Touching on current debates on immigration, the artist invites viewers to consider the varied people and cultural sources that inform our sense of history and culture, and shape our perceptions of our own place within it.”
The work will also serve as a starting point for a number of programs that will be hosted by the museum, including a debate among Amherst College faculty on the subject of the global migration of people, commodities and ideas. The debate will take place as part of the public opening for the Shonibare installation on October 30.
Mead Art Museum Appoints Emily Potter-Ndiaye Head of Education, Curator of Academic Programs ARTnews | June 26, 2018
The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College announced that Emily Potter-Ndiaye has been named its new head of education and curator of academic programs, effective August 20. Potter-Ndiaye will be responsible for helping the college’s faculty and students engage with the museum’s nineteen-thousand-work collection.
Potter-Ndiaye comes to the Mead from the Brooklyn Historical Society, where she has been director of education since August 2013. During her tenure, Potter-Ndiaye has grown the organization’s programs across all three of its sites—its flagship building at 128 Pierrepont Street and its satellite spaces in DUMBO and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard—so that it could serve more than fifteen thousand students and teachers annually through free school programs, teacher workshops, and other initiatives.
“We are so happy to have Emily Potter-Ndiaye join the talented staff at the Mead,” said David E. Little, director and chief curator of the museum. “Emily is passionate about connecting students of all backgrounds with art. She brings to the position natural leadership skills and a new vision of education that emphasizes collaboration, scholarly rigor, and experiential learning through working with artists.”
Collectors Sue and John Wieland Give $3 M. to Amherst College’s Mead Art Museum ARTnews | January 11, 2018
The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College in Massachusetts has received a $3 million gift from the collectors Sue and John Wieland. (John is an Amherst College alumnus, having graduated from there in 1958.) Their gift will endow the director and chief curator position, which is currently held by David E. Little, and support the acquisition of artworks.
In conjunction with the gift, the Mead will host “HOUSE: Selections from the Collection of John and Sue Wieland,” an exhibition that features 60 pieces from the Wielands’ 400-work collection. Included in that show will be works by Cindy Sherman, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Louise Bourgeois, and Ai Weiwei, with a specific focus on the way that homes structure people’s lives. The exhibition will open on February 8 and run through July 1.
“We are so grateful to John and Sue for their contribution to the Mead, and for sharing key works from their collection with the Amherst community,” Little said in a statement, adding, “That the Wielands have come forward with endowment support for the Museum, too, reflects their generosity and commitment to us and, ultimately, to the Amherst students of the future.”