Exhibitions: Davis Museum at Wellesley College and the Danforth Museum of Art

Today was a day full of long overdue museum visits. I went to the Davis Museum at Wellesley College to see “Grand Scale: Monumental Prints in the Age of Durer and Titian”. The exhibition highlights a little known era of prints executed in unusually large scale, many of which served roles similar to that of a tapestry, a map, sculpture, or a book album. The scale alone transforms your interaction with the prints; I think that prints are inherently seen as more intimate and small in scale as opposed to paintings and sculpture which typically move into the monumental without hesitation. The exhibition was filled with prints that demonstrated incredible skill and ability to push the boundaries and expectations of the print. Many of the prints in the show were woodcuts, and nearly every print was printed from multiple blocks. The largest piece and most impressive work in the show was “The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian I”, an 11 foot tall woodcut by Durer, printed from 192 blocks. It boggled my mind to even think about the conception of this print as well as the astonishing skill and labor it must have required.

“The Triumphal Arch of Maximilian I” by Durer

A small Durer woodcut was humorous, playful, and amazing for it’s detail and range. I loved the mini-narratives between the tiny figures that seemed to play across this landscape. At one point I located two figures jousting in the middle of the field. Entitled “Siege of a Fortress” it depicts a hypothetical siege with numerous soldiers spread throughout like tiny ants.

“Siege of a Fortress” by Durer

This morning I went to the Danforth Museum of Art and saw Ana Maria Pacheco’s exhibition “Dark Night of the Soul“. Pacheco is a Brazilian artist who currently lives and works in England. The exhibition included one large sculpture installation, some large scale charcoal drawings and some small scale etchings. The etchings reminded me a lot of Paula Rego’s work and of Goya’s narrative prints. The sculpture installation was the undeniable highlight of the exhibition; when you enter the museum you have to enter through a doorway covered by a curtain to see the sculpture. The moment I stepped behind the curtain into the installation, I felt a chill in my blood and instantly felt myself holding my breath in. The installation is comprised of 19 life size, polychromed wood figures surrounding a kneeling figure of a hooded man who has been shot multiple times with arrows. The entire room is completely dark except for a few lights to highlight parts of the installation. I continued to hold my breath the whole time I was in the gallery. I can’t remember the last time I saw sculpture that affected me in a physical way like that. To put it simply, the work was terrifying, powerful, and moving. You can see more of Pacheco’s work at her website.

Dark Night of the Soul” by Ana Maria Pacheco

Lastly at the Danforth, there was an exhibition of photographic transparencies by Katherine Gulla entitled “Cast Shadows”. Lighting and shadows have always been important elements in my work, and it was exciting to see someone taking on cast shadows in a such a specific light. The works were atmospheric, painterly, subtle, and full of depth, traits that I think are not inherent in photographic mediums and therefore much more challenging to achieve convincingly. I particularly liked the way the images are placed at a tilt against the wall, creating a whole new set of cast shadows on the gallery wall itself.

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