In celebration of an impressive 100-year anniversary, “Our Town and Beyond: Works by Early Members of the Athens Art Association” features an array of still-life paintings, portraits, landscapes and photographs by the organization’s earliest artists, primarily selected from the Georgia Museum of Art’s collection. Founded in 1919 by local artist and educator Laura Blackshear alongside 20 or so charter members, the AAA was formed to promote the physical production and visibility of art in Athens.
Several artists will likely be recognized by anyone familiar with the UGA campus, such as Lamar Dodd, for whom UGA’s art school is named. Martha Odum, who married Eugene Odum, founder of what is now called the Odum School of Ecology, is represented by multiple watercolor landscapes, as well as a pair of metalworks inspired by nature. The show also offers an opportunity to see a piece by the museum’s founder and first director, Alfred Heber Holbrook.
“Our Town and Beyond” is one of several exhibitions included in a citywide effort to recognize the achievements and longevity of the AAA. Other participating venues include the Lyndon House Arts Center from June 6–Aug. 15, the Athens-Clarke County Library from Aug. 10–Oct. 5, and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia in November and December.
Following the museum’s acquisition of two pieces of 16th Century maiolica—a type of tin-glazed earthenware popular throughout medieval Italy—staff felt inspired to organize “Storytelling in Renaissance Maiolica,” a full exhibition showcasing colorfully decorated narrative pieces from Urbino and Venice, Italy. Maiolica was initially made on a commercial scale for everyday use like tiles, vases and tableware, and was often decorated in floral patterns or simple designs. In the early-to-mid-1500s, the “isotoriato” (storytelling or historiated) style of decoration emerged, introducing complex compositions or three-dimensional forms. On view through Jan. 5, each of these special plates has an elaborately painted narrative scene pulled from classical mythology, ancient history or the Bible, demonstrating Greek and Roman influences on the period’s material culture.
Tucked away in the Alonzo and Vallye Dudley Gallery through July 28, “Sculptural Adornment: The Jewelry of David Hayes” is a small, unusual show that displays a collection of approximately 40 brooches and pendants created by the modernist jeweler. Displayed under glass in the darkly lit room, the brass pieces are irregular in shape and texture, and appear at first as if they may be fragments of ancient relics. Organized in an arrangement of rows and branches, similarly shaped pieces are placed in proximity to create a sense of movement or progression. The artist, who spent his 60-year career experimenting with abstract sculptural forms, materials and processes, viewed personal adornment as an opportunity for each of these small sculptures to interact with their site, wearer and viewer.
The museum has several more exhibitions slated to open this summer. Three shows will be solely dedicated to illustrating how President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs established government patronage of the visual arts, employing thousands of artists during the Great Depression. “Larger Than Life: Mural Studies” (opening June 8) and “Celebrating Heroes: American Mural Studies of the 1930s and 1940s from the Steven and Susan Hirsch Collection” (July 6) both reveal the preliminary plans of artists who were paid to paint murals across the country, while “Women of the WPA” (June 8) focuses on women artists commissioned by the Works Progress Administration. “Color, Form and Light” (June 22) consists of minimalistic works from the permanent collection, and “Before the War: Photographs of Syria by Peter Aaron” (Aug. 31) shares images of city streets and monuments taken in 2009, two years before civil war destroyed many of the subjects.
In addition to various gallery tours and children’s activities, summer exhibitions will be celebrated during Museum Mix on Thursday, June 27 from 8–11 p.m. The thrice-annual party will feature late-night access to the galleries and a special DJ set by musicians John and Kiran Fernandes.
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