Two for the Show at McMullen This Fall

Exhibitions offer images of American West, "lost" self-portraits of pre-war German artists

By Rosanne Pellegrini
Staff Writer

Opening at the Boston College McMullen Museum of Art this Sunday are two exclusive exhibitions, one featuring self-portraits by prominent German artists of the 1920s and '30s denounced during the Nazi regime, the other showcasing classic and contemporary art of the American West, including many never-before-seen works from the private collection of museum benefactor John J. McMullen.


Samples from "Cowboys, Indians and the Big Picture" (above) and "Reclaiming a Lost Generation," (below) both opening at the McMullen Museum of Art this Sunday.
Both "Cowboys, Indians and the Big Picture" and "Reclaiming a Lost Generation: German Self-Portraits from the Feldberg Collection 1923-1933" will be on display from Oct. 6 through Dec. 8.

The public is invited to an opening reception for "Cowboys, Indians and the Big Picture" from 1-5 p.m. on Sunday, which will include a lecture, "Expanding the Visual Frontier: Art and Artists in the American West 1830-2002," by exhibition organizer Adj. Asst. Prof. Heather Fryer (History) at 2 p.m. in Devlin 008. The event will feature music and food associated with the American West, and those attending are encouraged to wear costumes with a Western theme.

A reception for invited guests on Oct. 9 will mark the opening of "Reclaiming a Lost Generation." Highlighting the event will be remarks by Hans Feldberg, son of the Feldberg Collection's creator, and his daughter, Georgina, German Consul Rolf Schnelle, and exhibition co-curator Dietlinde Hamburger.

Museum Director Nancy Netzer said both exhibitions raise intriguing historical, social and artistic questions. "They allow viewers the opportunity to ponder broader issues of ethnic and individual identity in two very different cultures and political contexts."

"Cowboys, Indians and the Big Picture" brings together images from the genres of Western realism and Western modernism to present a full and complex picture of the American West, which greatly influenced the course of American history, mythology and popular culture, exhibition organizers say. The works displayed offer an alternative to the debate about which images and styles represent the American West as it really was - and is - in the present day.

 

Included are works by such early Western realists as Frederic Remington and Karl Bodner, as well as others who later came to form the Cowboy Artists of America. The first section features paintings and sculptures donated by John McMullen, who has assembled a collection of some of the best known and most accomplished Western realists. The museum is named in honor of McMullen's late parents, Charles S. and Isabella V. McMullen. John McMullen and his family are expected to attend this Sunday's reception.

Other works in the exhibition show the perspectives of Native American, Hispanic and women artists, and depict the changing Western landscape as well as controversies over issues such as Native Americans' historical claims to the land and the effect of development.

"The exhibition is the first to bring together works by artists from different generations, places, perspectives and ethnic backgrounds and to look at the images' messages from a broad interdisciplinary perspective," Netzer said.

The Feldberg Collection offers a rare glimpse of self-portraits that preserve the memory of a generation of German artists, she said, who otherwise would have fallen into oblivion after having been declared degenerate by the Nazis. The Feldbergs managed to take the collection with them when the worsening German political situation forced them to leave Berlin during the 1930s.

"'Reclaiming a Lost Generation' allows us to envision how our picture of German art in the 20th century might have been altered, had many of the accomplished and promising artists included been able to live long and productive lives. Siegbert Feldberg's remarkable assemblage encourages us to contemplate how works of art take on additional meaning both within the context of collections and as a result of the historical circumstances of their acquisition and preservation.

"The exhibition also raises important questions about the relationship between identity imposed by societies and identity created by the individual, as well as the role of collections in shaping our understanding of the past."

Both exhibitions have accompanying catalogues, which will be available in the Boston College Bookstore.

In addition, an assortment of public events during the fall will complement the exhibitions. These include a reading of German expressionist poetry by Assoc. Prof. Rachel Freudenberg (German Studies) on Nov. 1, a screening of the famous German film "The Blue Angel," with Marlene Dietrich, on Oct. 23, a lecture on religious imagery in Navajo textiles by Prof. Rebecca Valette (Romance Languages) on Nov. 7 and a viewing and discussion of the John Ford film "Stagecoach" on Nov. 7.

The McMullen Museum World Wide Web site, www.bc.edu/artmuseum, provides additional information on the exhibitions and the public events.

Museum hours are 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon-5 p.m. on weekends.

 

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