Rarely exhibited drawings from the Hudson River School collection of Dia Art Foundation will be on exhibition at Vassar's Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center Prints and Drawings Galleries from Saturday, April 12, through Sunday, June 15, 2003.
Collected in the late 1970s and early 1980s by noted American artist Dan Flavin for Dia Art Foundation, these drawings present a wide range of Hudson River School subjects, from Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains in northern New York and the valleys of the Catskill Mountains in southern New York to mountainous, picturesque sites abroad. The Hudson River School painters John Frederick Kensett and Aaron Draper Shattuck are especially well represented.
"These drawings engage us not only with their elegant images, but also, ironically, with their direct link to one of the most prominent American artists of recent decades, Dan Flavin. Flavin's sculptures of fluorescent lights in white and various colors turn gallery spaces into glowing abstract art environments. He assembled these earlier works, and it is this attraction to the qualities and nuances of light that makes his interests in the Hudson River School so intriguing. The effects of light upon a landscape were a central preoccupation for these nineteenth-century artists," said Patricia Phagan, the Philip and Lynn Straus Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, who organized the exhibition and prepared an accompanying illustrated checklist.
Flavin acquired the Hudson River School drawings for Dia when it was organizing a one-person museum for him, the Dan Flavin Art Institute, near his residence at the time in Garrison, a town along the Hudson just south of Beacon. The museum did not evolve as envisioned, however, and the artist's attention shifted more to Bridgehampton on Long Island where Flavin and Dia had created another exhibition space, also called Dan Flavin Art Institute, which opened in 1983 and which Dia continues to maintain for public viewing.
The exhibition of approximately 40 works comprises pencil and crayon sketches and a few oil studies on extended loan to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center from Dia Art Foundation, which opens Dia:Beacon, a new museum for contemporary art, in nearby Beacon in May 2003. Dia is recognized internationally for its contemporary art collection and programs and for its support of large-scale art installations. The museum will house Dia's permanent collection which concentrates on works by Flavin, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Joseph Beuys, and a dozen other major American and European artists collected by Dia founders, German art dealer Heiner Friedrich, and others.
Vassar College's partnership with Dia Art Foundation recognizes the generosity of Dia in sharing its collection with a sister institution; at the same time, the collection and exhibition complement the substantial holdings of Hudson River School paintings, drawings, and prints housed at the Lehman Loeb Art Center.
Complementing the Dia collection will be an exhibition of Frederic Church's "Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica" (1867), through June 15. One of the most impressive and splendid works by this key American artist of the Hudson River School, the painting is on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, Connecticut.
For Vassar to host the presence of this major painting by Frederic Church is particularly fitting since it situates this key painting with its exotic theme against the regional Hudson River Valley context from which so much of Church's art originated, according to James Mundy, the Anne Bass Director of the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. This focus exhibition also includes several works from the collection at Olana (Church's home on the Hudson), the Lehman Loeb Art Center, and private collections, which document Church's stay in the Caribbean.
"The exhibition of Church's Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica and Hudson River School Drawings from Dia Art Foundation are very apt complements, the first show charting the artist's progress toward a single great work and the second show surveying, quite literally, a generation of artists and their love of the land around them," said Mundy.
"The participation of Olana, our neighbor to the north, and Dia:Beacon, our new neighbor to the south, is a fortunate moment for Vassar in linking the historic schools of art with a museum for the avant-garde."
Hudson River School Drawings from Dia Art Foundation and Frederic Church's Vale of St. Thomas, Jamaica are supported through the generosity of the Smart Family Foundation, Inc.
Admission to the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center is free. It is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Docent-guided tours are offered on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The Lehman Loeb Art Center is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call (845) 437-5632 or visit fllac.vassar.edu.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.