Monday, July 13, 2009

Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence, A Must See Exhibition

If you find yourself in the verdant hills of the Berkshires or along the sinuous Mohawk Trail in western Massachusetts this summer, chances are the many cultural delights on offer will lead you to Williamstown.
Williamstown is an idyllic New England village of manicured lawns and crisp white architecture dominated by the lovely campus of Williams College, founded in 1793.
The Clark Institute, a short drive from the center of town, has mounted an important exhibition called Circles of Influence that features the visual conversation of two kindred spirits, Arthur Dove and Georgia O’Keefe. These rarely seen works will be on view from June 7th – September 7th, 2009.
In the early 1910’s Dove and O’Keefe began simultaneously experimenting in capturing emotional, and musical vibration in charcoal and watercolor on paper, as well as the visual vibration created by light and form. In essence they were exploring a new way of seeing and ultimately became the progenitors of Modern Art in America.
O’Keefe first learned of Dove’s work in 1914 when she was a young art student.
She was introduced to him four years later by his lifetime friend and mentor and her future husband, Alfred Stieglitz. The creative empathy exchanged between these two artists was instantaneous and lifelong. To learn more about this visit
For me the strongest and most groundbreaking images were the small works on paper from 1915-1919. Dove’s "#4 Creek", (1919) which he drew mid-stream as the water rushed toward the dark forest ahead, is a masterpiece and shares true affinity with O’Keefe’s "No. 15 Special" (1916/17) a charcoal drawing of a dry canyon in Texas, that uses similar forms to describe an arid landscape. Their polarity and affinity clearly in evidence here.
As the art viewing public became more aware of Freud’s ideas around sexuality and sexual expression, Dove and O’Keefe found their imagery cast in roles of gender and blatantly sexualized. Neither artist agreed or felt comfortable with this speculation.Personal perceptions of Nature and natural forms were the impetus for their designs, and rendering them in new and abstract ways was the shared goal.
If you are unaware of the incredible shift these two created in art visualization look for their earliest work. Too bad more of O’Keefe’s “Specials” were not included. These remarkable charcoal drawings are published in Georgia O’Keefe, Some Memories of Drawings, University of New Mexico Press, 1974. They are worth seeking out, as too often only the bones, flowers and mesas are brought to mind when her name is mentioned.
While at the Clark take the time to follow the nature trails on the expansive grounds.Two of them lead up to the elegant new Stone Hill Center with galleries of exceptional contemporary Asian ceramics and traditional Japanese art called, Through the Seasons (through Oct.18th) and stunning vistas of the Taconic Range and the Green Mountains.
Wishing you happy trails wherever the summer takes you….