INSIDE, OUTSIDE, UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS: THE ADDISON ANEW
Addison Gallery of American Art
180 Main Street
Opening September 7
A VISIT TO THE “NEW” ADDISON IS CERTAINLY MY PICK FOR THE
MOST EXCITING EXHIBITION IN EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS THIS
FALL. WITH SO MANY DEVELOPMENTS TO THE MUSEUM OVER THE
PAST TWO YEARS, IT’S DIFFICULT TO DECIDE WHERE TO START.
The classical revival structure is in itself a wonderful work of art. The Paul Manship fountain, “Venus Anadyomene,” was commissioned by the architect Charles Platt to enhance the design of the entrance. Recently restored by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center, it works properly for the first time since the original installation in 1931.
Platt designed the Addison “with the young audience at Phillips Academy in
mind,” said museum director Brian Allen, noting young people want the freedom to wander freely. The building was not designed to lead the viewer through a predetermined path — therefore the students were free to roam. The interior of the original building has been improved in many, although not immediately evident, ways. Climate control, security and lighting systems have been carefully installed without changing the integrity of the architecture.
Sol LeWitt once painted the interior of Addison Gallery. All that remains now is “Wall Drawing #713,” a collection of abstract images around the vaulted ceiling of the second floor gallery space specifically designed for the Addison in 1993. The new sprinkler system was carefully installed without disturbing LeWitt’s work.
The photographs of John Dugdale have a transient quality that invites
the viewer into the soul of the artist. Dugdale’s images are reflective
and at times heartbreaking, but imbued with a sense of hope. By
contrast, wonderment and whimsy inform Thomas Barbey’s complex
visual concoctions that blend reality with the absurd (and owe much
to surrealist photo master Jerry Uelsmann). In “Judgment Call,” the
deceased ascend as apparitions to the doors of St. Peter’s Basilica, while
others tumble downward, presumably cast to hell; Barbey’s hell appears
here to be a Caribbean island. In another image that challenges our
assumptions, Greg Gorman’s “Patrick and Johan” is a modern day pietà
that speaks to both racial harmony and compassion.
The expansion of the museum has added new features. It was decided the
addition’s design would not be a continuation of the classical revival style
but would stand back from the existing facade behind a special stainless steel
screen. A state of the art storage facility and a large elevator make it easier to
manage the collection. The library space combines volumes that were previously
located in offices. The 2000 square-foot learning center holds at least 100
people for lectures and overlooks the new rooftop sculpture garden. This green
roof is bedded with sedum, a perfect complement to the commissioned rooftop
sculpture, “Black Niijima Floats,” a new installation by glass artist Dale Chihuly, who was inspired by floats used on the nets of fishermen of Niijima, Japan.
“Inside, Outside, Upstairs, Downstairs: The Addison Anew” highlights the permanent collection, no easy task due to the huge number of objects in the collection. Over 300 works are spotlighted. Featured treasures and favorites are: “Phosphorescence” by Jackson Pollock (gifted to the Addison by Peggy Guggenheim), “Wave, Night,” an unusual nocturne by Georgia O’Keeffe, and “Moonlight, Wolf” by Frederic Remington, the great illustrator of the American West. Washington Allston’s “Italian Landscape” is the first “great American Landscape” Allen said. Masters of the Hudson River School are featured on the second floor, including Asher Brown Durand, Frederic E. Church and Thomas Worthington Whittredge. Photography has long been one of the Addison’s passions — it’s the only institution that owns the entire collection of “The Americans” by Robert Frank, a portion of which is on display for this exhibition.
A work I found most intriguing is Thomas Eakins’ “Professor Henry A. Rowland.” In the painting, Eakins highlights the head and hands of physicist and Phillips Academy alum Rowland, a technique he used to focus on the intellect and practical skills of