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2012 Members Exhibition Winners, From left: Rebecca Fellows, Diana Roberts-Paschall, Priscilla Palumbo, Juror Robert Burns, Victoria Sivigny, James Brunelle, Jr., Robert Noreika, and Sharon Kocay.

The 43rd Annual Juried Members Exhibition

Oct. 13, 2012–Oct. 28, 2012
Opening Reception
Sunday, Oct. 14, 1-2:30 p.m.

The 43rd Annual Juried Members Exhibition will be held this year from Oct. 13–28. An Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony for the exhibition will be held from 1-2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14. This year's Members Exhibition will be on view in the spacious McKernan Gallery.

The juror for this year’s exhibition is Robert Burns, Executive Director of the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, CT.

Prize winners for 43rd Annual Juried Members Exhibition

First Prize – Diana Roberts-Paschall
Second Prize – Victoria Sivigny
Oil/Acrylic Award – Robert Noreika
Watercolor Award – Sharon Kocay
Photography Award – Steve Adams
Print Award – James Brunelle
Sculpture Award – Rebecca Fellows
Juror’s Award – Priscilla Palumbo

Click here to download Members Exhibtion Program

- Current - Upcoming - Recently off the Wall

Nelson Holbrook White, The Yellow Umbrella, Oil on canvas, 9 x 16 in., Courtesy of the artist.

Nelson H. White: Scenic Spirit
July 12–Oct. 14, 2012
Opening Reception:
5:30-8 p.m., Thursday, July 12, 2012

The White family is best known for their long legacy as one of Connecticut’s most accomplished dynasties of artists. Generation after generation, the White’s have produced breathtaking landscapes in oil, pastel, and watercolor. Nelson Holbrook White, inspired by time spent in Florence, Italy and the legacy of traditional schooling, continues to paint vibrant intersections of sky, earth, and water. His survey exhibition, Nelson H. White: Scenic Spirit, will showcase approximately 35 works, including two by his father, Nelson Cooke White (1900–1989) and grandfather Henry Cooke White (1861–1952).

Nelson H. White’s (b. 1932) passion for natural settings is most closely inspired by the work of Italian artist and teacher Pietro Annigoni (1910–1988), whom he praised as “the greatest realist painter of our time.” White began studying under Annigoni after a visit to Florence in 1954 and has since split his time living and painting in Italy, Connecticut and Shelter Island, New York.

Scenic Spirit exhibits White’s wide range of landscapes and portraiture from 1980–2011. White believes “the essential objective of art is to render beauty.” Ranging from heavy daubs of bold paint to lighter, wispy strokes, his application of paint lead viewers’ eyes across each canvas and animates his scenes of undulating dunes, marshes, streams and shores. He brings his travels to New Britain through unique perspectives and fleeting strokes that place his audience within the beauty and truth of ever-changing nature.

Robert Walter Weir (1803 – 1889) Self Portrait (Head of Man with White Beard), 1860s, Oil on panel, 17 x 14 in., Brigham Young University Museum of Art

The Weir Family, 1820-1920: Expanding the Traditions of American Art
June 30–Sept. 30, 2012
Opening Reception:
5:30-7:30 p.m., Friday, June 29, 2012

The Weir Family, 1820-1920: Expanding the Traditions of American Art explores the impact of studying artistic traditions in Europe on the development of American art forms. On display in the McKernan Gallery, a total of 74 paintings by Robert Walter Weir (1803-1889) and his sons John Ferguson Weir (1841-1926) and Julian Alden Weir (1851-1919) will demonstrate how their transatlantic encounters helped shape American art for nearly a century.

Robert Walter Weir, the patriarch of the talented family, was one of the first Americans to travel to Italy for art study (1824-1827). After his return, he became a leader in the New York art scene and gained a reputation as a history painter. In 1834, he accepted the position of instructor of drawing at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he remained for 42 years. His best known painting is his large Embarkation of the Pilgrims for the Capitol rotunda in Washington, D.C. Among Robert Weir’s more famous pupils were his sons, John and Julian, who like their father became artists and teachers. After establishing his reputation with two large paintings of industrial scenes, John took his first of several European tours before he began his 44-year teaching career at Yale University. There he established the first academic art program at an educational institution in the United States, basing his teaching on the French atelier system. Julian studied under this system at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris for four years (1873-1877). Excelling as an academic painter, he later embraced Impressionism, becoming a leader of the American Impressionists.

Watch this short, informative video produced by CPBN Media Lab about the Weir family and the Weir Farm National Historic Site, featuring Park Ranger Emily Bryant.

This exhibition was organized by the Brigham Young University Museum of Art and supported by generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. The foundation sponsor is the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support has come from Jack and Mary Lois Wheatley and the Milton A. & Gloria G. Barlow Foundation.

Further support from David T. Langrock Foundation, the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, and the Connecticut Humanities Council.

Francis Silva, Evening, 1881, Oil on canvas, 31 ½ x 47 ½ in., Collection of Laura and David Grey.

Poetic Journey Continued: American Art from the Grey Collection
June 2, 2012–September 2, 2012
Opening reception with Collectors’ remarks on Sunday, June 3, 1-2:30 p.m.

A sequel to the 2007 exhibition Poetic Journeys: American Art from the Grey Collection, this exhibition presents 12 newly-acquired works by major American painters of the 19th century on loan to the New Britain Museum of American Art from Laura and David Grey. Laura and David Grey first journeyed into the world of art collecting in 2001 and have since assembled an exquisite collection of Hudson River School, Academic, and Impressionist paintings from 1850-1900. This selection, comprised of a total of 11 paintings by Samuel Colman, Jasper Cropsey, Thomas Dougherty, Robert Spear Dunning, Asher B. Durand, Sanford Gifford, David Johnson, Jarvis McEntee, Charles Sprague Pearce, Francis Silva, and Guy Wiggins as well as a one-of-a-kind tile by Winslow Homer, represents the last five years of the Greys’ collecting efforts. Speckled throughout the galleries, these works of art will complement the Museum’s permanent collection and advance our understanding and appreciation of a glorious period in the history of American art.

Michael Salter
Michael A. Salter, 100% Real, 2012. MDF, vinyl stickers, 22 x 14 x 5 in. Collection of the artist.

Michael SalterMichael A. Salter, Icon-o-lot 1, 2012. MDF, vinyl stickers, 36 x 42 x 4½ in. Collection of the artist.

Michael A. Salter, Guaranteed to Kill, 2012. MDF (medium-density fibreboard), vinyl stickers, Courtesy of the artist.

NEW/NOW: Michael Salter: Visual Plastic
May 18–August 19, 2012
Opening Reception
5:30-8 p.m., Thursday, May 17, 2012

The findings of a self-proclaimed “Obsessive Observer"

Advertisements, logos, product placement, and pop culture as a whole regularly bombard our lives. It is the environment within this continuous cycle of reappearing neon signs and corporate branding that the next NEW/NOW artist, Michael Salter, investigates in order to “sort out the cacophony of visual noise in order to rethink meaning, motive, perception, and narrative.

Drawings from a wide range of sources from toy design and animation to signage and kinetic sculpture, Salter convenes a dense web of imagery into one location, inviting the viewer to slow down his or her fast-paced life and become an “obsessive observer.

All of Salter’s work begins with his fascination for the connection of brand image and public perception: the fact that an attractive advertisement can entice a consumer to purchase an object and that a logo can become associated with its wearers’ identity, for example. As the artist explains, “My work tends to be both a filter through which I try to see clearly through the visual dust storm and a response in the same language to our visual culture.

Make your own Icon-alot

Abraham Lincoln
Oscar Berger, Abraham Lincoln, ink on paper,
New Britain Museum of American Art

Theodore Roosevelt
Oscar Berger, Theodore Roosevelt, ink on paper, New Britain Museum of American Art

Low Illustration Gallery: Oscar Berger’s Presidential Lines
May 8–July 15, 2012

Drawn with a single continuous line, Oscar Berger’s caricatures capture the likeness of 36 U.S. Presidents

The spirit of the election year will transform the Low Illustration Gallery into a parade of presidential caricatures by cartoonist Oscar Berger. Beginning with the first President George Washington, the collection continues through the thirty-seventh President, Richard Nixon. Described by a contemporary as "kindly rather than critical, mildly satirical but never vicious, Berger’s caricatures are playful and light-hearted.

Born in 1901 in Presov, Czechoslovakia, Berger became a cartoonist in Prague and studied art in Paris and Berlin. He eventually secured a position with one of the largest Berlin newspapers and was one of the few journalists admitted to the 1923 Munich trial that followed Hitler’s plot to overthrow the government. Once the Nazis came to power, Berger’s political cartoons angered Hitler, and the artist was forced to leave Germany. After spells in Hungary, France, Switzerland, and England, he settled in New York City after World War II and his work subsequently appeared in The New York Times, Life, and the New York Herald Tribune. During the 1950s, Berger attended many sessions at the United Nations and illustrated virtually every important world leader to be seen there.

While aiming to entertain first and foremost, the secondary objective of Oscar Berger’s presidential caricatures has much in common with that of the American public during election year: to grasp the fundamental essence of the President or President-to-be.

Benny Andrews, George Deem, 1966, Oil on canvas
28¼ x 29¾ in., New Britain Museum of American Art

Mark Mutchnik, George Deem, 1982, Oil on silver print, New Britain Museum of American Art

The Art of Friendship: The Collection of George Deem
April 6–July 8, 2012
Opening Reception
1-2:30 p.m., Sunday, April 15, 2012

A collection that pays tribute to a renowned American artist through the art of his closest friends

The Art of Friendship: The Collection of George Deem will showcase approximately thirty works from the Collection of George Deem, a significant American artist who was best known for his adoration of the Old Masters whose work he re-painted, adding clever alterations. Surrounded by a coterie of other talented individuals, Deem assembled a diverse collection of paintings, drawings, collages, and photographs primarily through gift or trade.

Many of Deem’s friendships trace back to his student days at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met a group of artists whose shared interest and intellectual exchanges led to a lifetime of camaraderie and reciprocal gift giving. The 1966 painting of George Deem by Benny Andrews demonstrates the comradeship between Deem and other artists in his circle. At once a portrait and a landscape, Andrews’ George Deem quotes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring as a deliberate reference to Deem’s practice of using images from famous masterpieces in his own work. Deem, in turn, created a collage to honor Andrews. The exhibition is speckled with many other poignant tributes.

Author and biographer Charles Molesworth has emphasized the importance of the mutual exchange of art among artists, noting that “the gift becomes more than an object, uniting giver and receiver in time and space, creating the pull of reciprocity, and charging the transaction with nearly a magical aura. Featuring the art of Etel Adnan, Benny Andrews, Mary Ellen Andrews, Power Boothe, George Deem, John Evans, George Freedman, Lee Guilliatt, Josef Levi, Mark Mutchnik, Augustmoon Ochiishi, Michael George Ottensmeyer, Gail Rutherford, Erica Ambika Rutherford, Peter Angelo Simon, and James Zver, the exhibition and its accompanying brochure shed light on the ties that connected Deem and his friends through their compelling artworks.

A Related Concurrent Exhibition
George Deem: The Art of Art History
April 11, 2012 Through September 1, 2012
Boston Athenaeum


Martin Kline, Cosmos, 2000, encaustic on panel, 49 x 49 x 2.75 in., Collection of the artist

Martin Kline, Randazzo, Detail, 2000, encaustic on panel, 47.875 x 47.875 x 3 in., Collection of the artist

Martin Kline: Romantic Nature
Mar. 17–June 17, 2012
Opening Reception
1-3 p.m., Saturday, Mar. 24, 2012

Consisting of approximately seventy-five works, the the first major retrospective of artist Martin Kline exhibition charts his independent path which weaves through the history of art—from the ancient world of Greek mythology, to the American symbol of the baseball bat, to Ed Ruscha and Jackson Pollock—with thought-provoking whimsy and irony. His seductive works in encaustic feature built-up surfaces that elicit a haptic response from the viewer—one is compelled to touch them. Serious philosophical questions are raised about mankind’s interaction and interference with nature in works that attract and repel. Kline’s imaginative and emotional appeal connect him to a lineage of 19th century writers, naturalists, and artists who sought to understand man’s vital role in coexisting symbiotically with nature.

Martin Kline’s work is included in the permanent collection of the New Britain Museum of American Art as well as various international and American museums such as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and the Fogg Museum of the Harvard University Art Museums.

The 160-page hard-cover book, Martin Kline: Romantic Nature, accompanies the exhibition and features an essay by Marshall N. Price, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Academy Museum in New York. Following Mr. Price’s essay and catalog of works are selected critical essays from past exhibitions by authors Henry Geldzahler, Barbara Rose, Linda Norden, Carter Ratcliff, Nan Rosenthal, Alison de Lima Greene, and Eleanor Heartney, along with one essay by the artist recalling his residency in Japan. Available in the Museum Shop.

The tragicomic hero of Michael Conti's Hockey Shorts

NEW MEDIA: Michael Conti: Slapstick
Feb. 3–May 20, 2012
Exhibition Reception
5:30-8 p.m., Friday, May 4, 2012

An installation consisting of photographs and a short video which subverts the myth of the “Sports Hero” and the “Wilderness Man.

Michael Conti’s Hockey Shorts is a fifteen minute video that features a modern day Don Quixote as he embarks on a solitary quest in the Alaskan wilderness. Playing the role of this tragicomic hero, the artist ventures out alone, but determined, to face the harsh landscape in his hockey gear. With no goal or teammates in sight, the hockey player chooses nature as his opponent, making his obsessive game appear not only irrational, but also incredibly comedic.

Michael Conti has been experimenting with photography and video to capture the spirit of adventure since he was very young. Driven by an interest in the raw and wild world, Michael moved to Alaska in 1993 to explore the frontier and gain unique experiences he could translate into art. The idea for Slapstick, for example, comes directly from the myths of the “Wilderness Man” and the “Sports Hero,” but both masculine archetypes are ultimately subverted through humor and absurdity.

Sophie Kelly, An accredited judge of the Middlebury Garden Club, made this Pollock-inspired arrangement at last year's Floral Expressions Show

FE2Jackson Pollock, T.P.'s Boat in Menemsha Pond, ca. 1934

11th Biennial Floral Expressions Placement Show
May 11–13, 2012
Opening Reception
5:30-7:30 p.m., Friday, May 11, 2012

Come join us this Mother’s Day weekend for this popular floral expressions tradition. General admission is free for all mothers the Weekend of the floral expressions show.

Twenty floral arrangements inspired by select pieces in the Museum’s permanent collection will be on display, created by members of the Garden Club and National Council accredited judges from The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut.

The New Britain Garden Club has been a member of The Federated Garden Clubs of Connecticut since 1941. The Museum and the Garden Club have had a working relationship for much of that history: many
members of the Garden Club have lent their talents to the Museum as docents and volunteers. One of the Museum’s gardens has been named for The New Britain Garden Club in recognition of their long service and support.

We give special thanks to the members of the Floral Expressions Placement Committee for organizing another beautiful show: Lillian Smith, Barbara Waskowitz, Lydia Dyson, Sylvia Lucas, Sylvia O’Riley, and Terry Stoleson.

Marc Swanson's
Marc Swanson, Untitled (Crystal, Hooking Left), 2011, Mixed media, Collection of the artist

NEW/NOW: Marc Swanson
Feb. 11–May 13, 2012
Opening Reception
2-3:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012

Marc Swanson, automythologist: one who excels at crafting sparkling, enigmatic totems from the messiness of his own history.

Self-identity, development, conflict, and nostalgia are all re-occurring themes found in the works of the NEW/NOW artist Marc Swanson. His unique exhibition features a diverse range of mixed media that incorporates photography, sculpture, drawing, collage, video, and installation. Bill Arning, director of the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, recognizes Marc Swanson as “the archetypal constructivist for today” whose works illustrate the personal journey of the artist’s psyche through simple form and composure.

Born in New Britain, Connecticut, and now residing in Brooklyn, New York, Marc has re-located to several areas across the country. His continual struggle to find a place secure and comfortable enough to call home can be detected in his artwork.

Marc’s pieces are influenced by the challenge of self-diagnosis and the multiple identities that simultaneously occupy one’s mind. With each installation comes a new discovery in the artist’s personal history. Self-exploration is achieved through his creations. The dueling faces of masculinity expressed by Marc’s stag sculptures acknowledge a common conflict between wrestling identities. These sleek and graceful busts are completely adorned in crystals. The disparities between the two mediums call traditional gender roles into question.

The intimate fusion of self-discovery with exquisite installations allows for a deeper understanding of Marc Swanson’s being.

Currier & Ives, American Forest Scene/Maple Sugaring, 1856. Lithograph (after a painting by A.F. Tait), 18 11/16 x 27 in. Collection of Dorrance Kelly

Currier & Ives, A Midnight Race on the Mississippi, 1860. Lithograph (F.F. Palmer on stone from a sketch by H.D. Manning), 18 7/16 x 28 1/8 in. Collection of Dorrance Kelly

Currier & Ives: Impressions of America
Nov. 12, 2011–Apr. 29, 2012
Opening Reception
1-2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012

Currier & Ives: Impressions of America will contain approximately twenty of Currier & Ives’ most iconic and highly-prized prints from the private collection of Dr. Dorrance Kelly and will be featured in the Museum’s Sanford B.D. Low Illustration Gallery from November 12, 2011–April 8, 2012. Kelly, a Danbury oral surgeon, lives in West Redding, Connecticut.

Frequently referred to as the “Printers for the People,” Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives took advantage of what was then the newly-invented process of lithography to make ownership of full-color images possible for the general public. Imported to the United State in the 1820s from Bavaria, lithography allowed for a quick and relatively cheap production of prints using limestone as the printing surface. With over 7,500 different images in existence, Currier & Ives lithographs accounted for three-quarters of the American print market. Capturing a wide array of themes—from daily news to homely genre scenes—they became some of the most popular and recognizable representations of life and times in America.

Included in the exhibition is the print “Awful Conflagration of the Steam Boat Lexington on Long Island Sound on Monday Evening January 13th, 1840,” the first commercial success of Nathaniel Ives after he opened the printing shop, N. Currier, in 1835. The depiction of the 1840 disaster secured N. Currier’s place in the newspaper industry. Recognizing the public’s thirst to have images widely available for consumption, the firm (renamed in 1857 when James M. Ives was made partner) quickly expanded its repertoire from strictly documentary works to artistic portraits, captures of daily life, landscapes, and scenes conveying the spirit of sports culture, technological progress, urbanization, and westward expansion.

A reception is planned for Sunday, January 8, 2012 from 1-2:30 p.m. with remarks at 1:30 p.m. by Robert K. Newman, Director of The Old Print Shop in New York, one of America’ oldest galleries.

Ernest Lawson, Aspens, 1928, Oil on canvas, Collection of Barbara Belgrade Spargo

The Barbara Belgrade Spargo Collection:
Facets of Modernity (1900–1950)
Jan 13–Apr. 1, 2012
Opening Reception
2-3:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012

Barbara Belgrade Spargo purchased her first piece of art in 1976. Since this defining moment in her life, she has continued to build her personal art collection, expanding into over 300 different pieces. Earning her undergraduate degree at Connecticut College and her Masters in Liberal Studies at Wesleyan, Barbara is a well-respected scholar who has donated a colossal amount of time and energy to art museums and organizations throughout Connecticut.

Once found hard at work in the corporate world, Barbara has shifted her focus from business to art. Her fantastic taste for art can be seen at the Florence Griswold Museum, The Old Saybrook Adult Education Program, and now at the New Britain Museum of American Art.

Her refined collection: Facets of Modernity (1900–1950), consists of approximately 35 pieces created in the early 20th-century. Several pieces originate from artists John French Sloan, William Glackens, Robert, Henri, and Everett Shinn: all influential founders of the Ashcan School movement, iconic for using realist techniques.

Facets of Modernity accurately portrays the various influential styles and techniques of art present in the first half of the 19th-century. From the abstract expressionist paintings of Anne Ryan to the intricate etchings of Martin Lewis, the growing evolution of art is beautifully outlined through Barbara Belgrade Spargo’s compelling collection.

Alfred Jacob Miller, Caravan En Route, n.d., Oil on canvas, 21 ½ x 48 in., Bank of America Collection

Edward Sheriff Curtis, A Zuni Woman, Plate No. 614, from North American Indian portfolio 17, n.d., Photogravure, 22 x 18 in., Bank of America Collection

Searching the Horizon: The Real American West 1830-1920, Art from the Bank of America Collection
Nov. 26, 2011–Mar. 4, 2012
Opening Reception
2-3:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011

Searching the Horizon: The Real American West 1830-1920 explores the vastness and variety of the West through the numerous ways artists chose to depict it, whether to chronicle current events, or to capture the culture and traditions of the region’s native inhabitants, the American Indians. The people of the 18th and 19th century American West, their work, their lifestyles, and cultures, hold a prominent place in the American imagination. People across the globe are familiar with the western cowboy, the Plains Indian, and the cavalry officer without ever having met one. This global awareness of the peoples of the West is due, in large part, to Western art.

Divided into four thematic sections; Settlement, Landscape, Native Americans and Urbanization and Industry, Searching the Horizon features more than 100 works of art and objects that reflect the development of the nation from the 1830s through the early twentieth century. Through paintings, works on paper, photography and rare objects and artifacts, the exhibition reveals aspects of the West that both reinforce and refute the familiar mythology, offering the contemporary museum visitor the opportunity to explore a range of interpretations of the American West.

Sponsored by the Bank of America Art in Our Communities program.

Marc Swanson's
This series is made possible by the generous support of Marzena and Greg Silpe.

Carson Fox: Bi-Polar
Nov. 5, 2011 - Feb. 5, 2012

Carson Fox. Bi-Polar is an installation that transports the viewer into a surround of related yet opposing elements. In the words of David Revere McFadden, Chief Curator at the Museum of Arts & Design, “Fox invites the viewer into a world that teeters precariously between the real and the unreal, the beautiful and the unsettling.”

Bi-Polar is divided into two rooms. In one, 112 life-like icicles are suspended from the ceiling and hundreds of snowflakes, each individually crafted from cast resin,
seemingly float across the walls without the possibility of melting. Carson’s “ice room” is a place where the ephemeral becomes eternal, and the fragile is made indestructible. In the adjacent, smaller space, representations of fire create the suggestion of heat and light—the room is covered with hand-painted flames and anchored by a set of large logs emitting a warm, steady glow.

Woven into the installation are threads of the artist’s personal biography and, as the title suggests, a family history of mental illness. Yet, Bi-Polar also insists upon a broader reading, as it addresses the universal human desire to resist against the forces of natural order, push the boundaries of what is within or beyond our control,
and ultimately, arrest time. As the artist herself puts it, “In the fantasy of artificiality, the fleeting moment is held in stasis and death is denied.”

Bradbury's Blue Boar is an interactive piece that takes viewer's heads and projects them on a blue boar.

New Media: Victoria Bradbury: Blue Boar
Oct. 15, 2011–Jan. 29, 2012

Victoria Bradbury’s installation Blue Boar will be on view in the New Media alcove in the Batchelor Gallery beginning October 15. It is an interactive, mixed media video installation that brings the viewer into the fold of a witch trial.

Bradbury’s 10th great-grandmother, Mary Bradbury, was convicted of witchcraft in Salem, MA, in 1692. The installation draws inspiration from the documented “blue boar incident,” in which 75-year-old Mary was accused of transforming herself into a blue boar. Using projection and face-recognition software, the viewer becomes a participant in the historic story of Mary’s trial, as his or her face becomes superimposed onto the head of a sculpted boar.

Bradbury’s installation triggers a multi-sensory experience that invites the viewer to weigh a multiplicity of perspectives from which to consider the so-called “blue boar incident” and the writing of history in general. Central to the work is the bond, a mental and visual relationship, which Bradbury creates between her ancestor and the viewer: a shared fate. In Bradbury’s own words, it becomes a mutual “detachment. . . displacement. . . beheading.”

Robert Charles Hudson, Monkey Wrench, 2011, Mixed media, 78 x 37 in., Collection of the artist

Robert Charles Hudson: Above the Underground
Dec. 2, 2011 - Jan. 8, 2012
Opening Reception
5:30-8 p.m., First Friday, Dec. 2, 2011

Above the Underground is a recent body of work completed by Robert Charles Hudson, on view in the Davis Gallery from Dec. 2, 2011 to Jan. 8, 2012. Ten mixed-media works will be presented, all of them inspired by Hudson’s family traditions as well as the broader African American heritage. The title of the series, of course, refers to the Underground Railroad, the term that collectively describes the effort of the enslaved to free themselves from bondage in antebellum South. The nucleus of each of the artworks is a small quilt, hand-sewn following instructions Hudson inherited from his mother, who herself belonged to a lineage of quilters. The quilts are incorporated into exceptionally vividly-rendered canvases to create richly symbolic paintings. All of the quilts, as well as their painted extensions, represent specific coded images that were once used to guide escaping slaves during their journey to freedom, such as “Log Cabin,” a pattern that indicated the location of a “safe house.” Just as the symbols of the Underground Railroad that inspired them, Hudson’s paintings are able to convey a wealth of information using seemingly simple, abstract forms. Lovingly crafted, these paintings carry a rich history “above the underground.”


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