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Rick Lowe

Social and Community Engaged Art: The Genuine and the Artificial

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David Puxley smartguide feature

3100.2008_01b_p01W_PortraitThe Museum recently added a new stop to its smartguide in conjunction with the opening of David Puxley: Wedgwood’s First Studio Potter. The David Puxley smartguide feature, available for FREE here, complements any visit to the exhibition.

The David Puxley smartguide feature includes:

  • An essay about Wedgwood, David Puxley’s tenure there as studio-potter-and-residence, and the Museum’s Buten Wedgwood Collection by Dr. Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, the Museum’s Senior Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts
  • Audio commentary from ceramics artist David Puxley about his influences, studio work at Wedgwood, the Wedgwood artist/designer program, his working method, and more
  • High-resolution images for selected works in the exhibition
  • A narrated slideshow feature all 150 works by David Puxley in the Museum’s collection
  • Related works in the Museum

The David Puxley smartguide feature, accessed for FREE here, is optimized for tablets, smartphones, and other web-enabled devices. Visitors without their own devices may check out an iPad for FREE from the Museum; FREE WiFi is also available throughout the Museum. Headphones are also available in the Museum Store for visitors who would like to access audio content in the exhibition.

Using your web-enabled smart device, click here to get started.

Mystery Object

Spring-Fall 2015: Eye Wash

Mystery Object 4These small ceramic objects, called eye baths, were used as early as the 16th century as personal-cleansing aids and are still used today. In these cups, people mixed saline or boric acid with water, placed the cup with solution over the eye, and blinked several times to wash out road dust or other irritants. Eye baths came in a variety of materials in addition to ceramic, such as wood, gold, silver, and occasionally ivory.

These eye baths are some of the rarer objects in the Museum’s Wedgwood collection. Josiah Wedgwood began producing eye baths in the 1770s, probably influenced by his friend and personal physician, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, whose writings on human relationships placed great importance on the role of eyes. Two of these mid-19th century eye baths feature transfer-printed decoration of birds and cabbage roses, while the other two are of unadorned creamware.


New Exhibition Dedicated To Baseball

Black Diamond, Radcliffe Bailey, 2007

Black Diamond, Radcliffe Bailey, 2007

In celebration of the start of the Birmingham Baron’s season, the Museum opens a small exhibition of works dedicated to the sport of baseball. Out with the Crowd features 14 photographs by David Levinthal, and one large-scale, mixed-media piece by Radcliffe Bailey.

The photographs are selections from Levinthal’s series, Baseball. These images depict legendary moments in baseball history, recreated using antique and recently manufactured figurines of celebrated baseball players including Willie Mays, Yogi Berra, Babe Ruth, and Hank Aaron.

Bailey’s work, Black Diamond, represents the role baseball played in the Civil Rights Movement. The hanging sculpture was made using military blankets, wool, and wood; and fills an entire gallery wall. The work is a recent gift to the Museum’s collection by the Aardt Foundation in honor of the Mayor of the City of Birmingham, William A. Bell, Sr.

On the subject of his work, Bailey once remarked, “When I think of baseball, I see that people play it for the love of the game, for their family, their communities, to transform their world. So baseball for me, is a metaphor that stands for all these things.”

Out with the Crowd is free admission and will be open through May 17. Play Ball!


UAB Students Curate Exhibition


Birney Imes, Prairie Chapel Baptism, 1980

On April 2, the Museum will open an exhibition of photographs made in and about the South, curated entirely by students from the University of Alabama Birmingham.

The exhibition, Inherited Scars: A Meditation on the Southern Gothic, is the result of a semester-long collaboration between the Museum’s Contemporary Art Department and UAB’s Department of Art History, in which photography students experienced first-hand the processes of exhibition research and curation.

Conceived by BMA’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Wassan AL-Khudhairi and UAB’s Visual and Media Outreach Coodinator and Adjuct Professor of Photography, Jared Ragland, the project began as a way to help students enrolled in a course titled Special Topics: Photography in the South better connect with their subject matter.

“We invited the students to come out of the classroom and into the Museum to participate in the curatorial process from start to finish,” Al-Khudhairi says. “We gave them full access to our resources –from the 35,000 books that comprise our art research library to the database of our permanent collection representing more that 27,000 works of art—and walked them through the process of creating an exhibition narrative and selecting works.”

Provided with support from BMA librarian, Lindsey Reynolds, the students were responsible for the research and selection of the photographs, and the creation of supplemental label copy.

“Inspired by assigned literary work, foundational texts, and contemporary films about regional identity and Southern history, the class focused their curatorial project on notions of the Southern Gothic,” says Ragland.

The exhibition comprises 11 works, including photographs by well-known Southern artists such as William Christenberry and Sally Mann and images by documentary photographers Bruce Davidson and Melissa Springer.

The exhibition was created by UAB students: Jourdan Cunningham, Catherine Duncan, Tyler Harris, Timothy Harstvedt, Devin Lunsford, Stacie Reese, Christianna Traynor, Britney Truitt, and Katie Walden.

Inherited Scars officially opens to the public at the Museum’s event First Thursday: After Hours at the BMA on April 2 and will remain on display through August 9.

Spotlight on the Collection

April 2015: Bands of Color in Various Directions

Bands of Color in Various Directions. Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), 2001. Vinyl on aluminum. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by Dr. and Mrs. John Poynor and the Bluff Park Art Association in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary, AFI2.1999.1. © 2013 The LeWitt Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Bands of Color in Various Directions. Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), 2001. Vinyl on aluminum. Collection of the Art Fund, Inc. at the Birmingham Museum of Art; Purchase with funds provided by Dr. and Mrs. John Poynor and the Bluff Park Art Association in honor of the Museum’s 50th Anniversary, AFI2.1999.1. © 2013 The LeWitt Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Bands of Color in Various Directions, Sol LeWitt, 2001

Bands of Color in Various Directions, from Sol LeWitt’s series Wall Drawings, is one of the largest artworks in the Museum’s collection. Installed in the Charles Ireland Sculpture Garden, it measures over 13 feet high and over 83 feet long. Its six panels, each framed within a black border, contain different configurations of bright bands of color – from vertical and horizontal straight lines to arcs, waves, and angles.

LeWitt, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, was a pioneer of Conceptual Art. This movement emphasizes an artist’s ideas over the physical making of an artwork. In many cases, others construct the actual artwork from a set of instructions provided by the artist. LeWitt wrote: “When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art… No matter what form it may finally have it must begin with an idea. It is the process of conception and realization with which the artist is concerned… The idea itself, even if not made visual, is as much a work of art as any finished product… Conceptual art is good only when the idea is good.”

Indeed, the Museum constructed Bands of Color in Various Directions using a diagram and a scaled, painted maquette (mockup) provided by LeWitt. The artist oversaw all aspects of the work’s creation, including the selection of materials and choice of colors. Local contractor R. B. Atkins & Associates, Inc. fabricated the final product using laser-cut vinyl on aluminum – new materials for the artist, but which could withstand exposure to outdoor weather conditions – according to a blueprint.

Join the conversation!

Some types of Conceptual Art, like LeWitt’s, emphasize the artist’s ideas over the actual production of an artwork. How does Conceptual Art question the nature of art itself? How closely do you think an artist should be involved in the physical creation of his or her own artwork? Check out the slideshow and resources, and join the conversation below!

How did they do it?

See how the BMA made Bands of Color in Various Directions in 1999.

Read more!

“Paragraphs on Conceptual Art,” Sol LeWitt, 1967

Visit the Museum’s Clarence Hanson Library to explore these resources and more:

Alberro, Alexander and Blake Stimson, eds. Conceptual Art: A Critical Anthology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999.

Garrels, Gary. Sol LeWitt: A Retrospective. San Francisco, CA, and New Haven, CT: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yale University Press, 2000.