The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art (NEHMA) at Utah State University is presenting Part II of Collecting on the Edge, a ground-breaking exhibition on view Jan. 17-May 4, showcasing its exceptional collection that focuses on the history of art west of the Mississippi River since 1920. Featuring work by 114 artists, Part II of Collecting on the Edge and the publication that accompanies it provide a compelling look at NEHMA’s collection and the curatorial rigor and connoisseurship evident in its development. Part I of the exhibition was on view Sept. 15–Dec. 15, 2018.
Collecting on the Edge offers a dynamic, multi-media overview of a range of important movements including abstract expressionism, abstract classicism, Beat art, pop, conceptual art, experimental photography, and contemporary studio ceramics. The exhibition also features lesser-known genres such as Funk assemblage, post Surrealism, Dynaton, Santa Fe transcendentalism, and conceptualism in San Francisco and southern California.
“We are so pleased to be able to unveil Part II of this exhibition to further demonstrate that the history of art in the American West has been and continues to be a vital part the story of American art,” said NEHMA Executive Director and Chief Curator Katie Lee-Koven. “Having recently re-opened after a nearly two-year $5 million-dollar expansion and renovation project lead by Sparano + Mooney Architecture, we are deeply grateful to our community and supporters for helping us to enhance the founder’s vision for the exhibition, study and enjoyment of art of the West for students and the public alike.”
Rarely seen installations such as Howard Fried’s seminal The Seven States of Openness (1969-2004), Ann Preston’s Expulsion (1990), Mitchell Syrop’s Mary A (1990), and Trimpin’s Klompen (1987) offer a unique chance to explore these pieces in-depth. A special major installation by Los Angeles artist George Stone titled Double Cross: 1 (picture) > 1,000 (words), 1990, will be installed as part of Part II in April, 2019.
With some exceptions the exhibition is chronological with particular attention paid to grouping artists who work(ed) together or in related styles. For example, vibrant landscape paintings by Maurice Logan (1925) and Birger Sandzen (1930) are positioned near Clayton Price’s progressive painting Plowing, c. 1926. Post-Surrealist studies by Ben Berlin and Helen Lundenberg are shown near work by the Santa Fe Transcendental Painting group members Emil Bisttram, Lawren Harris and Agnes Pelton, creating an unexpected dialogue. Works by Dynaton Gordon Onslow Ford, Lee Mullican and Wolfgang Paalen lead to artists such as Bruce Conner’s homage to the artist Marcel Duchamp, an abstractionist mixed-media work by Jay DeFeo and a sculpture of found objects by George Herms.
Among the other highlights of Collecting on the Edge are Kyo Koike’s Glacier Inferno (1931), bromide print; Lee Mullican’s The Ninnekah (1951), oil on linen; Ruth Asawa’s largest sculptural work, Untitled (1967), naturally oxidized copper and brass wire; David Ireland’s Ego (1992), painted wood and glass; Adeline Kent’s Gambler (1948), magnesite (oxychloride cement); Robert Boardman Howard’s Night Watch (1949-50), fiberglass, resin and polychrome; and Robert Cumming’s Art/Life (1976), painted wood table with paper and wire.
Collecting on the Edge guest curator Bolton T. Colburn invited 81 art critics, curators, artists and authors to provide authoritative views of the importance of each work and incorporated this material in the publication and exhibition. The result significantly broadens the narrative of American art history by recognizing the contributions of regional artists and collections west of the Mississippi.
“Modern and contemporary art created in the American West, manifesting an independent spirit and embodying unique ideas, has been largely written out of the mainstream narrative of art history or placed in unhelpful contexts," said guest curator Bolton T. Colburn, who also served as editor of the eponymous publication.
“Collecting on the Edge and it’s accompanying catalogue aims to correct that situation by providing illuminating insights into the works and their creators.”The 288-page catalogue was published by the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in conjunction with Utah State University Press and features 200 color images. The publication includes an interview with collector/donor George Wanlass by Colburn, foreword by NEHMA Executive Director and Chief Curator Katie Lee-Koven and introduction by independent curator Michael Duncan. It is available at: https://upcolorado.com/university-press-of-colorado/item/3290-collecting-on-the-edge.
NEHMA’s collection started with a gift in 1982 from Nora Eccles Harrison and her husband Richard Harrison of four hundred ceramics, highlighting studio ceramics of the 20th century in the American West. It quickly expanded to all media and has consistently sought out art practices and artists on the fringes of mainstream art history. NEHMA’s unique collecting criteria reflects the viewpoint that the significance of a work of art is not tied to its monetary value but rather to its inherent quality as well as the context in which it was created. George Wanlass, the great-nephew of NEHMA’s founder Nora Eccles Harrison, has helped guide the museum’s acquisitions program during the last three decades.
“Nearly one fifth of the over 5,000 artworks at NEHMA are a result of George’s efforts through the support of his family’s foundations, an extraordinary and rare accomplishment,” said Lee-Koven.
The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art is dedicated to collecting and exhibiting modern and contemporary visual art to promote dialogue about ideas fundamental to contemporary society. NEHMA provides meaningful engagement with art from the 20th and 21st centuries to support the educational mission of Utah State University, in Logan, Utah. NEHMA offers complementary public programs such as lectures, panels, tours, concerts and symposia to serve the University and regional community. Admission is free and open to the public. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays until 7 p.m. and by appointment.
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
Executive Director and Chief Curator
Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art
Comments and questions regarding this article may be directed to the contact person listed on this page.