25 Oct Compelling art, interactive experiences in newly reinstalled Western art galleries
Mian Situ (American, born in China, 1953)
The Golden Mountain, Arriving San Francisco, 1865, 2003
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Eiteljorg Museum’s Western Art Society
INDIANAPOLIS – Visitors to the Eiteljorg Museum will discover an enhanced experience of beautiful and thought-provoking artworks starting Nov. 10 when the museum’s renovated Western art galleries open to the public. In the redesigned galleries will be the new exhibition Attitudes: The West in American Art featuring iconic paintings and sculptures from the museum’s renowned collection as well as newly acquired art works and new interactives.
A series of special events — including a “lion dance” performance by the Indiana Association of Chinese Americans — will launch the exhibit; and the opening will kick off a holiday season of activities and programming at the Eiteljorg Museum that will be especially appealing to families.
Over the summer, the two connected Western galleries on the Eiteljorg Museum’s ground floor — the Art of the West Gallery and the Gund Gallery — underwent their first extensive renovations since the building opened in 1989. Now the galleries have been reinstalled as part of a new exhibition, Attitudes: The West in American Art, presenting more vivid, compelling interpretations of the artworks and creating a stronger, more personal visitor experience. By putting the Western paintings and sculptures into their historical and cultural contexts, the exhibit places them within the broader framework of American art. It shows, for example, how Western art is not an isolated offshoot, but instead is deeply rooted within America’s larger artistic traditions and movements.
“With the Eiteljorg Museum approaching its 30th anniversary, it was the right time for us to reimagine the Western art galleries with a new approach to serve our visitors in the future,” Eiteljorg President and CEO John Vanausdall said. “The family-friendly exhibit Attitudes: The West in American Art creates an enriching experience that allows all Eiteljorg visitors to appreciate the significance of the paintings and sculptures, the artists who created them and the importance of Western art itself,” he said.
Stunning works of art shown at the Eiteljorg in years past that are visitor favorites will return in the newly enhanced galleries, including iconic paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe, Frederic Remington, Albert Bierstadt and Charles Russell, and sculptures by Remington, George Carlson and Allan Houser. Through grants, many of the works have been cleaned, conserved and reframed, allowing the museum to show them as the artists intended.
Grafton Tyler Brown (American, 1841–1918)
Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, 1891
Oil on canvas
Museum purchase through the generosity of Harrison Eiteljorg
Also included in the Attitudes exhibit are exciting recent Eiteljorg acquisitions that emphasize the diversity of artists in the West, past and present:
- Castle Geyser, Yellowstone, a dramatic Western landscape by a 19th century African-American painter, Grafton Tyler Brown;
- The Golden Mountain: Arriving San Francisco, 1865, a moving historical scene by contemporary Chinese-American painter Mian Situ depicting Chinese who traveled east across the Pacific to settle in the American West.
- The Twins, a pottery piece by Native American artist Susan Folwell (Santa Clara Pueblo). Folwell’s piece is an engaging contemporary interpretation of a famous early 20th century portrait already in the Eiteljorg: The Twins by E. Martin Hennings. The oil painting and pottery piece are installed near each other so visitors can compare the two.
The exhibition explores the diversity of peoples who shaped the West through a high-tech interactive that interprets the 20th century mural painting Americanization of California by Dean Cornwell. Using a computer touchscreen, visitors can pull up information about each of the dozens of diverse figures depicted in the Cornwell mural and consider the myths portrayed in the painting versus the realities of life in the West. And, intermingled in the galleries alongside works by European-American artists who painted Native Americans are artworks by Native artists themselves, conveying their own perspectives.
Visitors of all ages will find something engaging in Attitudes: The West in American Art and its mix of high- and low-tech interactives. In the galleries’ studio space, visitors can learn about and appreciate the elements of art, such as line, color, form and texture, with touchable displays and art activities suitable for families and children.
The reinstalled galleries include beautiful art works gifted to the museum over the years by Harrison Eiteljorg, George Gund, Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams and other collectors.
Redesign and reinstallation of the Eiteljorg’s Western galleries was several years in the planning and months in execution. Overseeing the project and exhibition are James H. Nottage, who recently retired as the Eiteljorg’s vice president and chief curatorial officer and Gund curator of Western art, and Johanna M. Blume, associate curator of Western art, history and culture.
The Western galleries reopening is such a milestone for the museum that it is being marked with several events: A special reopening celebration and dinner honoring the retiring James Nottage takes place Thursday night, Nov 8. There will be a museum-members-only opening event Friday night, Nov. 9. For reservations to either, contact Mary Whistler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317.275.1316.
Then the galleries and Attitudes exhibit will open to the general public (with regular museum admission) on Saturday, Nov. 10. The opening day will begin with a “lion dance” performance by the Indiana Association of Chinese Americans at 11 a.m. to celebrate the installation of the Mian Situ painting. That will be followed by a gallery tour with curator Johanna M. Blume at 11:30 a.m. The museum’s annual Gund lecture is at 1 p.m., in which James Nottage will discuss art appreciation and the new Western galleries. Then at 2:30 p.m. will be a special Western music performance, I Can’t Stop Looking at the Sky, by Bill Price with Paul Holdman and Grover Parido.
The weekend’s events mark the start of an active holiday season when families with children will find much to see and do at the Eiteljorg Museum. On Nov. 17, the Eiteljorg’s holiday model train display, Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure, returns. Electric trains ramble through scenes depicting the skyline of Indianapolis and the iconic landmarks of the American West in miniature, with the backdrops made of all-natural woodsy materials. New this year: The model trains travel to scenes of Route 66 and the Hilbert Circle Theatre. Jingle Rails is included with regular museum admission (which includes the Attitudes exhibit and other exhibits), and children ages 4 and under are free. The museum will host family-friendly programming – including ornament-making and card-making – during Jingle Rails, which continues through Jan. 21; check www.eiteljorg.org for details.
About the Eiteljorg:
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in White River State Park in downtown Indianapolis seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the Indigenous peoples of North America. Located on the Central Canal at 500 West Washington St., the Eiteljorg Museum recently was named one of the USA Today Readers’ Choice 10 Best Indiana Attractions.
Frederic Remington (American, 1861 – 1909)
A Buck-jumper, about 1893
Oil on canvas
Bequest of Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams
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