“Sixty Years of Collecting,” a two-semester exhibition at the University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) at UMass Amherst, showcases 112 works from the museum’s permanent art collection.
To some visitors, descending the concrete plazas, steps and ramps of 1960s Brutalist architecture leading to the Fine Arts Center’s entrance may recall academic fortresses and student protests. To younger ones, it’s a skateboard park. Although backpacks must stay outside, inside around the corner hangs Ryan McGinness’s silkscreened skateboard, lush with vegetation, and Keith Haring’s low-slung aluminum pyramid shimmers with teal and gold pictographs, beckoning to all ages.
On an early October afternoon, moments of stillness and bursts of color draw me through the museum, past frequent doublings, folding, mirroring and reversals. Alison Saar’s sewn lithograph, a flip-flop image of an African and a white woman seemingly rooted to each other’s breasts, comes back to mind when later viewing a print by her mother, Betye
Saar, of two women face- to-face. The text “forward and back,” superimposed over Annette Lemieux’s folding image of soldiers marching in opposite directions reads as a split mirror image, thus enacting its own simultaneous march forward and back.
A pitch-black screen print by Andy Warhol glitters with diamond-dust, doubly seducing us with its dim outlines of ladies’ high heeled shoes. Dorothea Rockburne’s pure white paper rectangle on the wall opposite has been folded, inked with white paint, and run through a press. It brandishes its scoring, facets and buckles as significant marks inherent in its material.