May 6 – August 19, 2016
Helen Christou Gallery
Works from the U of L Art Collection
Curated by David Smith
A selection of historical posters by artists from the U of L Art Collection that offers an unusual glimpse into the world of exhibition archival history. Featuring posters saved from the sands of time and bequeathed by Roloff Beny, Fred Hagen and others.
At first glance, acknowledging that mass-produced posters have a place in a collection of seemingly unique art objects is odd. Most contemporary posters are disposed of immediately after the events they document. Yet on the other hand, one cannot deny the appealing quality of their artistic designs which lead to their survival over the years. Perhaps the irony of this collection of visual records is that they raise more questions than they appear to answer. Why were they created? Who kept them? And for what purpose?
Though most of these posters were created as exhibition advertisements, a few break from that format. The reproductions of El Greco’s View of Toledo, 1598-99 and René Magritte’s The Tempest, 1931, don’t communicate exhibition information. The intention behind these posters was likely to help raise the profile of works within the public collections of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art respectively. The largest Pablo Picasso poster on the end wall was created from a hand carved lino block by Picasso himself to advertise a bull fight in the French town of Vallauris. The print is from the signed edition of 100 published in 1954. This poster print is quite different from the others because it crosses over into the more conventionally accepted art form of printmaking through its signature and a rigidly controlled number of prints created. All of the other posters including the cropped Henry Moore, (see extended label) were created as primarily mass produced exhibition advertisements.
The largest single source of posters in this exhibition came to us from the bequest of Roloff Beny in 1987. Eleven of the twelve posters from Beny in this group were in his personal collection at the time of his death in 1984. It’s hard to know what each of the posters meant to him, though one clue may be found in the handwritten personal dedication to Beny by Henry Moore in 1966. The Norval Morrisseau and Clemence Wescoupe posters were transferred to the collection in 2004 from the Department of Native American Studies; it makes sense that an interest around the discourse of indigenous art from within the department contributed to their stewardship. The Dennis Burton poster was saved by Burton himself and entered the collection in 1985 for yet a different reason; in an archival way it documented an event in his career. The last two posters, Jim Dine gifted by John Roberts and the Klaus Rinke gifted by Ron Bell, have less clear reasons for their survival. Perhaps their visual attractiveness contributed to their endurance, but any number of other suppositions could also explain this.
Though each poster was created for different purposes at different times and preserved for different reasons, the end result is the same. The various pin holes in the corners, discolourations and various other imperfections tell us that these posters were loved. They are only here for our enjoyment today because of the previous lives they lived before they made their way into the collection.
– David Smith, Preparator/Assistant Curator, U of L Art Gallery