Art NotesArts & Culture

Firearms, Operas and Crafts at the Georgia Museum

Four new exhibitions at the Georgia Museum of Art focus on everything from historic Georgia gunsmithing and the origin of craft programs at UGA to a multi-talented New York abstractionist and French opera posters. The temporary shows will be celebrated during 90 Carlton: Winter, a reception featuring refreshments, gallery activities, door prizes and “Ask the Experts” on Thursday, Feb. 1 from 5:30–9:30 p.m. 

ARTFUL INSTRUMENTS: Attempting to identify and promote an art form that much of regional history has overlooked, “Artful Instruments: Georgia Gunsmiths and Their Craft” showcases a variety of firearms and related accessories from the 19th Century. Gunsmithing incorporates a handful of skills—metalsmithing,  woodworking, forging, casting, engraving—and therefore exemplifies the pinnacle of craftsmanship from this time and place. Dangerous as they may be, the weapons also appear delicate in their adornment, like the silver bursts decorating Wiley Higgins’ maple pistol or the brass gamecocks flying across his long rifle. Miscellaneous objects pertaining to the life of a gunsmith include a hanging storefront sign for W.T. Fluker, as well as a miniature iron and wood cannon he made. 

On view through Feb. 25, “Artful Instruments” was co-curated by Dale Couch, the museum’s curator of decorative arts, and Sam Thomas, curator at the T.R.R. Cobb House. The exhibition will be highlighted during the ninth annual Henry D. Green Symposium of the Decorative Arts, which will explore “Belonging: Georgia and Region in the National Fabric” at the Classic Center Feb. 1–3.

CLINTON HILL: Prolifically working at the helm of the abstraction movement, Clinton Hill flirted with various other -isms—cubism, futurism, minimalism, constructivism—over the course of his lifetime. After serving as a commanding officer in the US Navy during World War II, Hill began studying art at the University of Oregon on the GI Bill and eventually moved to New York’s SoHo, which was well on its way to becoming an art capital of the world. On view through Mar. 18, his self-titled exhibition demonstrates an exemplary fluency in a wide span of media that qualify him not only as a printmaker, but as a painter, sculptor, pulp-paper pioneer and all-around indefinable multi-media artist. 

Curated by museum director William U. Eiland, the exhibition’s physical installation is designed to hint at themes within Hill’s body of work. Some pieces are staggered at atypical heights that suggest musical notes on a staff, while others are presented in close proximity to emphasize reoccurring visual elements. Lyrical wall-bound constructions demonstrate his spatial awareness and sensitivity to depth, while large light boxes on the floor illuminate the layered nature of translucent works on paper. Some pieces combine colored handmade papers that emphasize surface texture, while others have pieces removed to draw attention to the absence of material. 

Often, the common denominator between his pieces is an interest in the marriage of plane and solid geometry. Whether rendered in paint, wood, paper, vinyl or fiberglass, his artwork explores the possible relationships between shapes through an emphasis on color harmonies. 

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La Chauve Souris (1904) in “Opera in Print”

OPERA IN PRINT: “Opera in Print: Fin-de-siècle Posters from the Blum Collection” offers a glimpse into French culture during La Belle Époque, the “beautiful era” at the end of the 19th century characterized by peace, prosperity, innovation and flourishing arts. Intended to catch eyes and lure potential audience members into opera houses, the posters echo the grandeur, charisma and lavish details of the performances they promote. Opera can be viewed as the ultimate fusion of art forms, weaving together live music, drama, dancing, architecture, fashion and storytelling. Advertising the likes of La Tzigane, Grisélidis, La Reve and Le Tsarewitch, these posters are illustrated with entertaining depictions of dancing, romance and fantasy. 

A gift to the museum from Murray and Nancy Ann Blum, the collection features a dozen or so lithographs on paper, each standing around 3 feet tall. Curator and Pierre Daura Center Graduate Intern Abigail Kosberg will lead a Tour at Two on Feb. 21 at 2 p.m. Inspired by the exhibition, the UGA Opera Theatre will perform a variety of arias, duets and ensembles from operas by Bizet, Offenbach, Debussy and others on Mar. 8 at 5:30 p.m. “Opera in Print” will remain on view through Apr. 22. 

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Robert Ebendorf (1970) in “Crafting History”

CRAFTING HISTORY: Long before the Lamar Dodd School of Art was founded, courses in crafts such as pottery, dyeing, weaving and metalwork were offered through UGA’s College of Agriculture. In the early 1930s, this budding art department moved to the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and just a few years later, Lamar Dodd entered the picture. On view Feb. 1–Apr. 29, “Crafting History: Textiles, Metals and Ceramics at the University of Georgia” is the first exhibition to provide an in-depth history of how the school’s craft programs originated and developed into what they are now. Filling six galleries with pieces that date from the 1920s to the present, the collection focuses on all of the faculty members who led these programs, as well as many stand-out artists who passed through, like Robert Ebendorf, Glen Kaufman,Earl McCutchen, Gary Noffke, Wiley Sanderson and Frances Stewart Higgins.

“Crafting History” was developed by three curators: Ashley Callahan, former curator of decorative arts at the museum; Annelies Mondi, the museum’s deputy director; and Mary Hallam Pearse, associate professor and area chair of jewelry and metalwork at Lamar Dodd. The exhibition is accompanied by a 372-page book published by the museum, which thoroughly documents the curators’ research which was gathered from the Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, interviews with surviving faulty, and crowdsourcing from the general public. 

Correlating programming includes Toddler Tuesday on Feb. 6 at 10 a.m.; “Craft in America: Memory” on Feb. 15 at 7 p.m.; Teen Studio on Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m.; a Tour at Two highlighting women artists on Mar. 7 at 2 p.m.; Family Day on Mar. 10 at 10 a.m.; a lecture by American crafts curator Namita Wiggers on Mar. 21 at 12 p.m.; and a panel discussion on “Crafting History: Beyond the Object” on Mar. 22 at 5:30 pm.