Archive for October 5th, 2010

Crocker 3.0

It’s coming! 10.10.10 or for those of us who are members, 10.09.10.

Some 3 years ago now, when I ventured into the Brutalist Harold Wing for the last time, 10.10.10 seemed ages away. Looking back it seems like the time has almost flown.

Last week I got to tour the expansion for what would be my third time, though this was my first tour with the art close to fully installed. It proved to be far more than one can possibly take in, in a day, let alone an afternoon.

The exuberance for the collection and the space itself is apparent in the installation of the work. Each gallery is teeming with art that is literally hung floor to ceiling in some cases.

As our regular readers know, Midmo has already covered the bones of the expansion. Previous posts and articles have detailed the architecture, and what lead us to this momentous date. With that said the following should serve as a highlights reel of sorts and is in no way a complete representation of what the new Crocker will offer.

A Pioneering Collection: Master Drawings from the Crocker Art Museum is perhaps my favorite of the new galleries currently installed. The low ceilings and low light create an intimate environment for viewing works by masters like Vittore Carpaccio, Fragonard and Ingres, and Anthony van Dyck.

This was one of the few spaces I didn’t attempt a photo as a result of the low lighting designed to preserve these delicate works. In hindsight I wish magnifying glasses were provided similar to the Rembrandt show I attended at The Hammer Museum earlier this year. Many of the works are small and highly detailed, like Carpaccio’s Meeting of the Doge and Pope at Ancona. Finding yourself in this room is like discovering a treasure chest.

Lial Jones, Director of the museum leads us into the Thiebaud gallery.

Next door to the Master Drawing Collection is Wayne Thiebaud: Homecoming. Thiebaud is getting a lot of attention these days – last week he was featured both in the New York Times and in Google’s Masthead. It may seem ridiculous that I would liken the two, however, earning oneself a spot in the Google masthead suggests that one’s work is recognizable enough to warrant such high profile web real estate.

Wayne Thiebaud, "Five Seated Figures," 1965

Much like the subjects Thiebaud often represents, his paintings grant the viewer the immediate intense pleasure that comes as a result of consuming sweets. The compositions are like neurological candy, bright, masterful, and engaging. Similar to sweets Thiebaud’s work is a sure crowd pleaser.

Head upstairs from these two exhibitions and you will find yourself confronted by Tomorrow’s Legacies: Gifts Celebrating the Next 125 Years across from California and American Art, spanning from impressionism to the present day.

On the California and American Art side I was most impressed by the way the impressionist work was hung. The wall colors from room to room created the mood and feeling of a Victorian salon and lent themselves beautifully to the rich works on display.

Arthur Mathews, "Vision of Saint Francis," 1911

Rounding the corner into the exhibit from the contemporary galleries, Vision of Saint Francis, by Arthur Mathews, will stop you in your tracks. The work’s tonal qualities creates a flatness of color and form which causes this piece to feel almost atmospheric.

Salon style hanging is kept to a minimum in the new wing which I must admit I very much enjoy. In the areas where the salon style is employed it works in a way far more conducive to viewing art than was the case in the historic mansion. Though the salon style is more appropriate for the time period it doesn’t lend itself well to the act of viewing art.

Ning Hou, "Salt of the Earth," 1996

Taking a chronological journey up the breezeway will spirit you on to contemporary California cruising past multiple works along the way. The real standout among them is this gorgeous piece by delta painter Ning Hou. Salt of the Earth is distinctly different from all other works I have seen by this artist. The subject matter is arresting, depicted with a clarity and beauty befitting a photograph.

After popping into one of the contemporary galleries I happened upon Charles Simonds, Dwelling, from 1982. Much like viewing the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings themselves, the miniature nature of this installation gives the viewer the same distance one feels in visiting the actual location.

What’s this!?!?!? Is that KVIE’s own Rob Stewart aka Rob on the Road checking out those cliff dwellings?

Gerald Silva, "Steamy Window Series: J Street View," 1990

The other pieces worth checking out in this collection include one of Gerald Silva’s masterful steamy window paintings.

Robert Bechtle, "French Doors II," 1966

French Doors II, by Robert Bechtle follows a similar vein with a distinct bent toward the more voyeuristic.

Daniel Douke, "Widescreen," 2009

This piece was no big deal. Just an empty Mac box displayed in a vitrine… or is it?!

As I continue writing this piece I realize that a brief highlights reel is fast become a full blown article. No surprise really given the breadth and depth of works on display in our new and improved institution. Before I draw this all to a close I want to direct your attention to the next best thing about the new Crocker after the art and architecture.

Patrick and Bobbin Mulvaney will be overseeing the cafe and catering in the new space! This is huge on so many levels. First off for those of us who need several hours to tour a museum, quality sustenance is a like a drink of cool water in the desert. Second the cafe will be open to the public whether or not you plan on visiting the whole museum. Third and last, I am delighted to see such a major contract go to a local operator.

In total the new and improved Crocker is on track to elevate our regional dialogue to new heights. What’s more, the company I found myself traveling in last week from Christopher Knight of the LA Times to Glen Helfand of Art Forum, left me to realize the real impact the new Crocker will have on a national stage.

In short this is perhaps a much bigger deal than any of us could have imagined.