Thursday, June 13, 2013

Infinite Connections

This spring, twelve Phillips Academy students in Elaine Crivelli’s class "Art 300 Visual Culture: Discovering the Addison's Collection" worked together over a period of six weeks to curate an exhibition of twentieth-century art from the Addison Gallery of American Art’s permanent collection. The end result is a handsome show titled Infinite Connections. The title speaks to the main theme of the show which explores artists’ use of line, color, shape, and form to create their own vision of the world. Viewers are encouraged to make their own personal connections between the artworks in the exhibition just as the artists used the basic foundations of art to explore their own connections with the visual style of abstraction in painting, drawing, and photography. 

Laying out the exhibition
At the beginning of the semester, students met with Addison curators Susan Faxon and Allison Kemmerer, who provided the group with a list of 60 artworks in the collection and shared an overview of the types of abstract styles many of the artists employ in their work. Students were then divided into two groups and charged with the task of identifying potential themes that the works share. After much discussion, and sometimes through lively debates, they whittled the list down to 19 works. They began to see the visual (and ultimately infinite) connections between the artworks, and an order for displaying them began to emerge. To deepen their understanding of the artworks and the artists, each student conducted extensive research on two artists from their final list. They then presented their findings, with the class sharing information about the artists collectively. 

Addison preparators Brian Coleman and Jason Roy spent time with the class arranging the artwork on the walls of the Museum Learning Center. Students also met with Addison education staff Jamie Kaplowitz and Katherine Ziskin to learn more about the museum’s programs for Phillips Academy, and toured storage with David Perry of Addison security to find out about the complex systems that go into operating the building.

Gallery talk
Opening activity
On Tuesday, June 4, the class hosted a reception for Infinite Connections where students presented a gallery talk describing the process of curating the exhibition, and shared their knowledge about the artworks and the artists. Students conducted an activity with the audience using string, which cleverly illustrated the basic premise of the exhibition, that like the artists, viewers of the exhibition can experience the artworks on their own terms by making infinite connections between line, shape, color and form, the basic foundations of abstract art.

Infinite Connections will be on view in the Museum Learning Center through July 31.

-- Rebecca Hayes, Curator of Education