Dead Blogging ‘Learning to Look: The Addison at 90’

Well the Missus and I trundled up to Andover the other day to wander around the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy (free, but reservations required) and say, it was swell to be back at that gem of a museum.

On the ground floor is the Addison’s 90th anniversary celebration (through December 31), complete with festive cupcakes and a complimentary copy of Treasures of the Addison Gallery of American Art, a hardcover compilation of 240 works from the museum’s collection.

Learning to Look: The Addison at 90 is similarly expansive.

Founded through the largesse of Phillips Academy alumnus Thomas Cochran (PA 1890), the Addison Gallery of American Art opened its doors in May of 1931 with a permanent collection of some 400 works. One of the first museums devoted solely to the art of the United States, the Addison was forged with a dynamic and unrelentingly adventurous spirit that has, through the support of generous donors, allowed the museum to assemble one of the world’s most significant and forward-looking collections of American art across media. The collection, which has since grown to include more than 23,000 works, allows visitors to trace the cultural, political, and social forces that have shaped and defined the American experience from the 18th century to the present day.

Filling the Addison’s first floor galleries, Learning to Look: The Addison at 90 features celebrated favorites, lesser-known gems, and new acquisitions that bring to life the Addison’s storied history and ongoing commitment to groundbreaking artists. With an installation that allows objects to speak across time and media, this exhibition includes masterworks by artists such as Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jackson Pollock, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, McArthur Binion, Carrie Mae Weems, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.

Among the works in the wide-ranging exhibit:

Thomas Eakins, Salutat, 1898

Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Lines, 1919

Berenice Abbott, Canyon: 46th Street and Lexington Avenue Looking West, 1936

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Drive-Thru, 2002

McArthur Binion, DNA: Work, 2019

The exhibit features a Who’s Who of American artists, ranging from James McNeill Whistler to Jacob Lawrence to Arthur Dove to Jasper Johns to Franz Kline to Cindy Sherman and beyond. Totally engaging.

The Addison’s second floor houses the monumental Mel Kendrick: Seeing Things in Things (through October 3).

Presenting approximately 60 sculptures as well as a selection of table-top sculptural “sketches,” prints, and photographs spanning this adventurous artist’s decades-long career, this major traveling exhibition will explore how Kendrick exploits the essential properties of his selected medium, whether wood, rubber, or, more recently, concrete, to create sculpture that inherently lays bare the process by which it was made. By leaving visible traces of his trial-and-error process—marks, cuts, paint, oil stains—Kendrick endows his materials with a remarkable sense of immediacy and animation. Moreover, his meditations on the relationships between inside and outside, positive and negative, organic and geometric, nature and culture, sculpture and base, sculpture and sculpture, sculpture and print have led to infinite experimentation.

The dimensions – in both senses of the word – of Kendrick’s sculptures are what’s most striking. His 1983 work Nemo spiders across an entire gallery at the Addison.

Kendrick’s 1995 sculpture Black Trunk was described by the David Nolan Gallery in a 2011 exhibit as “a formidable, hollowed out tree trunk [that] has been cut apart horizontally and reassembled.”

Kendrick also “inked the cylindrical surface of ‘Black Trunk’ to create a ‘woodblock’ of the surface entitled ‘Trunk Drawing.'”

Seeing the two side-by-side is thoroughly immersive.

As are both current exhibits. The Addison, as always, is well worth a trundle.

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