Blanton Museum of Art

Photo Credit: Rachel Zein | Daily Texan Staff

The Blanton Museum of Art announced Thursday the creation of its National Leadership Board, which will replace the role of its Museum Council in providing feedback to the on-campus museum.

Kathleen Stimpert, Blanton director of public relations and marketing, said, while members of the Blanton’s Museum Council were primarily from Texas, supporters of the National Leadership Board range from places such as California, New York and the Midwest. In expanding the board, Stimpert said it will now be comprised of noted collectors, philanthropists and business leaders from around the country. 

“The group will serve as ambassadors for the Blanton,” Stimpert said. “[They will help] us expand our reach and national profile and will provide feedback to museum leadership to support various initiatives and priorities.”

Development director Karen Sumner said the board is rounded out with alumni and friends of the University. Along with expanding the museum’s national recognition, Sumner said she hopes to see a rise in the museum’s international profile. 

According to Stimpert, Sumner and museum director Simone Wicha began the process of the expansion, and as they moved along in the process, they gained support from board chair Michael Klein and President William Powers Jr.

Klein said he believes the expanded board will help the Blanton gain national recognition. 

“By moving out of an advisory council and moving to a national board, we [aim] to be taken more seriously,” Klein said. “The Blanton is primed and ready to be one of the most significant university art museums in the country. At this point, it will take the right board to advance this goal.”

Sumner said the members will go through the museum with curators and educators during the board’s inaugural weekend Nov. 6-9. The Blanton will also hold a free public lecture Nov. 7 by renowned international artist Doris Salcedo.

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version. 

Christopher Prosser and Brandon Clinton, music composition graduate students of the Butler School of Music, recently composed pieces that were inspired by pieces of art in the Blanton Museum of Art. 

Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

In the atrium of the Blanton Museum of Art, students from the Butler School of Music gathered to find something inspiring. Each of the students then composed a personal composition in response to the piece of art that stood out to them the most. The result is the Midday Music Series.

On Tuesday, students from the Butler School of Music will showcase the products of their interpretations to the public as part of the Blanton’s Midday Music Series. The compositions are all based on artworks currently on display in the museum.

“We’re lucky enough that they’ve written new pieces about works in our collection,” said Adam Bennett, manager of public programs at the Blanton. “We did a project like this last year, [and] there was so much interest that it couldn’t be contained within just one program. It’s sort of an extension and a sequel to that program.”

The creative process for the event began at the end of the last spring semester with an open tour of the Blanton for composition students who were interested in the concept. The students were told to choose an art piece that stood out to them. 

Brandon Clinton, music composition graduate student, chose the Shirazeh Houshiary painting titled “Night of Light.”

“The title, ‘Night of Light,’ is pretty evocative,” Clinton said. “Basically, I just thought, first of all, it was really striking. What could it be, this little light in the distance?” 

Stephen Sachse and Christopher Prosser, both music composition graduate students, chose to interpret Morris Louis’ painting “Water-Shot” but in very different ways. Sachse’s piece uses an electric guitar and a computer, while Prosser’s uses clarinet, flute, viola and cello.

“The idea, it’s so stripped down in a way,” Sachse said. “It’s just drops of paint that fall down. I really liked the idea of doing a piece that’s based on a descending kind
of theme.” 

Prosser also found something inspiring in the minimalist techniques used by the artist.

“The piece is kind of quirky,” Prosser said. “It has melodies that come back [and] can represent different colors of the painting — greens, yellows [and] reds.”

Bennett hopes the Midday Music Series and other similar events that the museum hosts can get people to think of the museum as not only a place that houses art but as an active and creative space.

“The museum isn’t just a warehouse where we store creative things that happened 100 years ago but where creativity happens live in the moment, and I think the music and art connections is a great way to demonstrate that,” Bennett said.

The performances are included with admission prices and are free for museum members, UT students, faculty and staff. Clinton hopes his composition will change the way the audience looks at the artwork he is interpreting.

“That they view the painting differently, that there might be a story behind it and that it might be different from the one they’ve seen,” Clinton said. “That it inspires
somebody else.”

Ray Williams, the Blanton Museum of Art’s director of education and academic affairs, leads a tour group through the museum’s newest exhibit, “In the Company of Cats and Dogs,” on Thursday.

Photo Credit: Michael Baez | Daily Texan Staff

A tour at the Blanton Museum of Art’s newest exhibit, “In the Company of Cats and Dogs,” highlighted the character of cats and dogs throughout art
history Thursday.

The tour, led by Ray Williams, the museum’s director of education and academic affairs, displayed more than 150 works by such artists as Pablo Picasso, William Blake and others. The exhibit was curated by Francesca Consagra, senior curator of prints and drawings, and European paintings. 

“I am speaking from the perspective of both an educator and an animal lover,” Williams said. “Art offers us a cultural affinity. Today, we will see cats and dogs — not just from today but from worlds and years apart.”

Williams said, while viewing art in general is a stress reliever, cats and dogs offer an added benefit. 

“Cats and dogs teach us about relationships, love and bonding,” Williams said. “When we view them in art, it resonates [with us].” 

According to Williams, cats and dogs have a way of connecting people and breaking down barriers.

“What I hope people gain from the exhibit is that cats and dogs have a lot to teach us about both life and art,” Williams said.

Annie Oldham, an intern at Dell Children’s Medical Center, stopped by to remind herself of how soothing both art and animals can be.

“I hope to work with children who are in need of psychiatric care,” Oldham said. “The combination of art and animals are both so soothing for children with mental illness.”

Undeclared freshman Mitchell Roberts said he was unsure of what to expect from the exhibit. 

“I came today for my ‘Print in a Digital Age’ class,” Roberts said. “I haven’t been to an art exhibit in Austin yet, and this one seemed interesting because I have pets at home. Now that I know I’ve enjoyed the exhibit, I plan to bring my family here as well.” 

Martha Morgan, an Austin native who recently lost her daughter, said she finds a specific kind of respite through the exhibit. 

“I came today because my daughter loved cats and had a special relationship with animals,” Morgan said. “I have always wondered what it is about cats that makes people love them so dearly. I am beginning to understand.”

Correction: Williams was mistakenly listed as the curator of the exhibit.

Wild Art | 09.08.14

Freshman biology student Chris McLeod looks at artwork at the Blanton Museum of Art on Friday afternoon.
Claire Schaper | Daily Texan Staff

With a gift from UT alumni Judy and Charles Tate of Houston, The Blanton Museum of Art exceeded its “Campaign for Texas” fundraising goal, an eight-year, $3-billion fundraising effort. The donation included 120 modern and contemporary Latin American artworks and an endowment contribution valued at a total of $10 million.

Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

The Blanton Museum of Art received a gift of 120 modern and contemporary Latin American artworks and an endowment contribution valued at a total of $10 million from UT alumni Judy and Charles Tate of Houston, museum officials announced Thursday. 

“With this gift, Charles and Judy have once again made a hugely valuable contribution to the life of UT-Austin,” President William Powers Jr. said in a statement Thursday. “This gift will continue to put us at the forefront as one of the country’s best museums for Latin American art and will provide many new opportunities for students, faculty and art historians.”

The gift enabled the museum to exceed its fundraising goal in “Campaign for Texas,” an eight-year, $3-billion University-wide fundraising effort ending Aug. 31. The Tates’ donation of $1 million will create an endowment for a curator of Latin American art.

Works by Frida Kahlo and her partner Diego Rivera, best known for murals and paintings in Mexico and the U.S., and Joaquín Torres-García, founder of the School of the South that brought geometric abstraction to artists in South America, are among the works donated to the Blanton.

Blanton spokeswoman Kathleen Stimpert said the museum is already a major institution in the field of Latin American art whose legacy of exhibitions and scholarship in the field goes back to 1988, when it became the first museum in the U.S. to establish a Latin American art curator position. 

“We were one of the first institutions in the United States to begin collecting in any serious way Latin American art and presenting it as an important part of the art historical canon,” Stimpert said. 

The museum’s holdings in the field of Latin American art have grown to 2,200 pieces, after starting with a donation of 54 paintings by Texas collectors John and Barbara Duncan in 1971. 

Beverly Adams, the inaugural Charles and Judy Tate curator of Latin American art, started working at the museum in January. Among her first endeavors has been the planning of “La Línea Continua,” an exhibition starting Sept. 20 that will include a selection of approximately 70 works from the Tates’ collection. 

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Amber Rowland, behavioral program manager for the Austin Animal Center, guided visitors Thursday through the art exhibition “In the Company of Cats and Dogs,” on display at the Blanton Museum of Art through September 21.

Many of the photos and paintings showed the harmonious relationship between humans and their pets, and Rowland said many studies prove that animals have calming effects on people. Some of the early works highlighted the utilitarian relationships, such as hunting dogs and cats who caught house mice. Cats are portrayed less often and more negatively than dogs are, Rowland said.

“The exhibition explores human relationships with cats and dogs through the lens of not only art history, but psychology, sociology, history and other disciplines to provide a rich experience for visitors,” Blanton Museum marketing manager Stacey Ingram Kaleh said.

The exhibition includes works by Pablo Picasso, Francisco Goya and Edward Hopper, among others. It was put together by Francesca Consagra, a senior curator at the Blanton, and spans ancient Egypt to the present day, exploring themes of religion, mythology, aggression and domesticity.

“Artists are superb observers of life, and they have been depicting our relationships with cats and dogs for millennia,” Consagra said in a Q&A for UT “Know.”

Rowland, who has 18 years of experience working with animals, said some of the issues displayed in the exhibition, including animal hoarding, aggression, euthanasia and breed restrictions, she sees at the shelter every day.

“[The shelter] is ground zero,” Rowland said before the gallery talk.

Rowland has worked with the Austin Animal Center since 1991 and said the center sees up to 20,000 animal intakes every year — sometimes more than 100 a day. About 90 percent of the animals at the center are made available for adoption. They encourage volunteers, accept donations and invite people to come walk a dog anytime.

“If you’re a student who can’t have a dog right now, come get your doggy fix or your kitty fix,” Rowland said.

Rowland said she hopes the exhibition will attract people to the center and get them talking and thinking about pets.

“We were delighted when the Blanton came to us to collaborate on this project,” Rowland said. “They did a great job at putting together a really thought-provoking exhibit.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a variety of programs and activities, including a “Pooch Parade” through the UT campus on July 19, followed by film screenings and August appearances by noted psychologist Hal Herzog and “Canine Soldiers” documentary filmmaker Nancy Schiesari.

Adam Bennett, manager of Public Programs at the Blanton, said experts and professionals lead “Perspectives” gallery talks at the museum on select Thursdays. They are free to students and open to the public.

Correction: This article incorrectly stated the "Perspectives" talks take place every Thursday. They in fact take place only on select Thursdays.

Photo Credit: Cody Bubenik | Daily Texan Staff

Most classical music concerts are fairly similar: Audience members go to a large music hall and listen to a full orchestra perform. But the Austin Cultural Campus Concert Crawl is making the experience more intimate. 

For the third year, Austin Cultural Campus is working with UT’s Butler School of Music to feature small ensembles of student musicians at museums on and around campus. 

A piano trio will be stationed this Sunday at the Blanton Museum of Art, a trombone quartet at Landmarks’ “Clock Knot,” a string quartet at the Harry Ransom Center and a wind ensemble at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. Guests will be able to walk from concert to concert free of charge. 

Austin Cultural Campus was formed in 2009 as a way to connect the museums surrounding campus, creating a museum district in Austin. The Butler School of Music began collaborating with the organization as a way to showcase student musicians to new audiences and allow the musicians to perform in venues other than concert halls. 

“One thing we really like is the collaboration of different art organizations on campus,” said Dan Seriff, community outreach coordinator for the music school. “We work pretty closely with the other academic units in the College of Fine Arts to put on a show or two a year of collaborative work, and to get the opportunity to do that with some of the more professional, rather than education or cultural organizations, on campus — we really enjoy that.”  

The musicians who will be featured are pulled from various chamber groups in the Butler School. Each semester, members of the small ensembles are required to do a community outreach project, which can be fulfilled by the campus crawl. 

Each ensemble is able to pick its music for the event. Seriff and the students tried to match each piece of music to an exhibition at the given venue, but it posed a challenge. 

“We tried as best as we could, based on what the students were playing, to put them in appropriate venues,” Seriff said. “Unfortunately there was only one group this year that the music really lined up well with what was going on at that particular venue.”

The most successfully matched group in the event is the piano trio set to perform at the Blanton Museum of Art. To relate to Blanton’s Latin American exhibit, the ensemble will perform “Primavera Portena” from Four Seasons, an Argentinian tango by Astor Piazzolla.

“We typically don’t get to play different styles of music as music majors,” said Diana Burgess, cellist for the Blanton’s piano trio and music performance senior. “It’s usually Western classical music, so like Beethoven, Mozart, that kind of typical classical music. We just wanted something alternative. It’s a very different style of music to play, so that makes it interesting for us.”

The piece has more of a swinging rhythm and requires the trio to play with a different character than it normally would.     

“Our teacher actually wanted us to play it like old, Argentinean men because that’s usually who you’d see the music played by,” Burgess said. “These old guys, who have been playing it forever, and just come to life when they play tango music.”

The tour will give students an experience that’s usually hard to come by: viewing examples of art and music simultaneously on campus. 

“It offers visitors an opportunity to see all that we offer at each of the respective institutions in terms of their exhibitions and programing,” said Kathleen Stimpert, co-founder of Austin Cultural Campus and director of public relations and marketing at the Blanton Museum. “But it also offers an opportunity to hear some of the finest musicians from the Butler school within these unique settings.”

As part of its weekend tour schedule, the Blanton Museum of Art hosted a public tour of its permanent collection Sunday afternoon, titled “Persuasion: Messages and Meanings in Art.”

The tour, led by docent Connie Shortes, explored the symbolism behind a variety of artistic works, ranging from 14th century religious paintings to more modern, abstract compositions by artists such as Ben Shahn and Adolph Gottlieb. 

Shortes said art often serves a purpose other than just aesthetics.

“Art has always been used to propagate ideas and to persuade,” Shortes said. “There’s this whole story unfolding in the paintings; there’s message, there’s meaning.”

The museum hosts themed tours each weekend at 3 p.m., designed to explore different aspects of the Blanton’s collection. The “Persuasion” tour especially focused on how historical events and trends impacted artists’ styles.

“Many artists, like Ben Shahn, were influenced by socialism and communism and were sympathetic to [those] ideas,” Shortes said. “You can see the emotion coming out in their paintings. [That] period in American history [was] just so interesting, when America was so powerful in the world. The art is big. It’s bold. It’s brash. It’s different.”

Ray Williams, director of education and academic affairs for the museum, said one feature of the tour isits ability to allow people to confront abstract ideas through art. 

“It’s about putting issues of the day in front of viewers for their contemplation and things that are maybe a little uncomfortable,” Williams said.

English sophomore Deborah Seow said learning about the hidden meanings behind the paintings helped her understand them better. 

“It made me appreciate [the paintings] more, knowing their backgrounds,” Seow said. 

Psychology sophomore Paula Horstman agreed.

“I thought [the tour] was very informative and eye-opening,” Horstman said. “It brought out a bunch of different perspectives on the same paintings. I never really thought about it much before, but it’s very cool, the fact that you can extract meaning from all the different symbols in art.”

Jeff Dell examines a print at the Blanton Museum on Thursday night. The exhibit is part of PrintAustin 2014, a month-long festival in Austin that celebrates the art of printmaking.

Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

The Blanton Museum of Art held an open-house exhibit showcasing its printmaking collection Thursday night as part of a month-long print festival in Austin. 

The exhibit, under the direction of print-room specialist Kristin Holder, features a collection of 23 pieces on paper ranging from the 15th century to the present. Holder said the universal subject-matter within print work might be the reason for a resurgence of interest.

“The underlying theme of printmaking is that it has the ability to be mass-produced and reach a large audience,” Holder said. “What is happening now is that recent developments like social media and the internet have exploded along those same lines. It has the ability to reach a large audience.”

The pieces drew attention from students, such as sociology junior Brooke Brockman, who heard about the exhibit through email.

“I get the event emails from UT every day, and I usually just scan through them, but this time I saw the names of Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso, so I was intrigued and thought I would check it out,” Brockman said. “I’m definitely an art enthusiast. [Printmaking is] an activity my boyfriend and I like doing ourselves, so we enjoy exhibits. You get to come in and see some works that you may have never known existed.”

The exhibition was an early event as part of PrintAustin, a celebration of the art of printmaking within the Austin community. Co-chairs Elvia Perrin and Cathy Savage have been preparing the events since last summer.

“We started in July and have been working for the last six months,” Perrin said. “We have tons of support from volunteers, from the printmakers, all the galleries and UT. The Blanton and the Harry Ransom Center are all contributing their time and their resources to promote prints for the month.”

Savage said that although printmaking hasn’t enjoyed much attention in recent years, she and Perrin hope the event will encourage a greater appreciation for the art form.

“Austin has been a print town for a long time, except no one besides printmakers [have] known that,” Savage said. “This was our opportunity to tell Austin what a rich printmaking community is here.”

Perrin said she hopes the festival will foster a supportive community among Austin artists.

“We really just wanted to promote what we love and create an environment where local artists can make prints and sell prints in Austin, Texas,” Perrin said.

Maurizio Cattelan's work "Untitled" features small elevators and is part of the exhibit "Lifelike" at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Marian Goodman Gallery | Daily Texan Staff

Ding! goes a set of tiny elevators carved into a wall. The doors open.

A curious little girl asks, “Do they really work?”

“They don’t go anywhere," replies her father. "They just look realistic.”

The set of tiny elevators is one of 75 works of contemporary art that the Blanton Museum of Art is showcasing in its new exhibit, “Lifelike,” from June 23 to Sept. 22, organized by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

The wide range of media, coming from a diverse group of multigenerational and international artists, in the exhibit includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and videos from the 1960s to present time. The exhibit is split up into five themes: Common Objects, The Uncanny, Realism into Abstraction, Handmade Sleight of Hand and Special Effects: The Real as Spectacle.

Under the Common Objects theme, artists from the 1960s and 1970s take ordinary objects and details from everyday life and accentuate them for viewers by using methods taken from pop art. For example, Latvian-American visual artist Vija Celmins created what appears at first sight to be a gigantic pink eraser. Erasers go unnoticed in everyday life but Celmins forces viewers to look closer and think about common objects.

The Uncanny theme centers on artwork from the 1980s and 1990s that resonate as familiar yet strange with a psychologically unsettling vibe.

English filmmaker, photographer and visual artist Sam Taylor-Wood created a time-lapsed video of a bowl of fruit that rots over time. Seeing the fruit rot in action is both familiar and strange because it, in a way, symbolizes death.

The Realism into Abstraction theme is actually what the title implies — realistic artwork that resembles abstract artwork.
 
Japanese-American artist Kaz Oshiro created a set of speakers that resemble Sony speakers. According to the Blanton's curator of modern and contemporary art Veronica Roberts this artwork “riffs on Donald Judd stacked cubes and Sony speakers but which are in fact meticulously handcrafted.” Standing from a decent distance, the set of speakers look like abstract stripes on a painting.

Concerning the Handmade Sleight of Hand theme, Roberts points out that the artists’ pieces “refer to something being crafted meticulously by hand and at the same time conjuring something made in a factory.”

Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei created a jar of 1,000 sunflower seeds. Each seed is sculpted from porcelain and painted by hand. While they look like real sunflower seeds, they actually mimic real seeds.

When visitor Fran Brochstein browsed through the exhibit, she found the “Rain/Regen” video by Thomas Demand very fascinating. The 4-minute video shot in 35 millimeter film belongs under Special Effects: The Real as Spectacle theme, and Demand creates a fictional world with an animation of candy wrappers to the audio of eggs frying on a pan. At first sight, it looks and sounds like rain.

“The artist shot the video with candy wrappers to the beat of the rain," Brochstein said. "I’m mesmerized at how the artists [of this exhibit] take everyday items and look at them as pieces of art.” 

Among the themes of “Lifelike,” Roberts jokes of an underlying theme that resonates.

“There’s a funny sub-theme — cigarettes," Roberts said. "The most we’ll ever see at the Blanton.”

Samantha Youngblood, Manager of Public Relations and Marketing at the Blanton, explains that the Blanton is the last museum to showcase the “Lifelike” exhibit.

“This is the last chance for people to see a playful, whimsical exhibit," Youngblood said. "It’s something different — we try to showcase art that is thought-provoking and unexpected and that people may not often see in Austin.”

Some visitors, like Tristan Fitch, appreciate the exhibit because it opens up their eyes and minds to the artwork itself and other art.

“What’s really impressed me is not the art itself but looking at materials used to create them," Fitch said. "The artists created an original yet strange view of art, and it gives you new perspective on art you already know.”

Roberts praises “Lifelike” in that it creates a reaction from its viewers.
 
“I have observed that the exhibition has a wonderful way of inspiring wonder and curiosity in people,” Roberts said. “I especially like seeing people enter the Blanton and register that there are a dozen pencils marooned above the information desk. Some pass by it without noticing but I catch other people looking up, baffled and amused.”

The exhibit will run at the Blanton Museum of Art through Sept. 22.

This article has been updated to reflect accuracy.