Off the Wall

Off the Wall showcases pieces from our permanent collection individually so you can learn a little bit more about the pieces in our museum one at a time.

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Horse Sense, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith. Color lithograph on paper, 1994. Museum Purchase with Funds from the Bill Gildner Memorial Fund. 2009.1

Horse Sense was created by artist, curator, political activist and educator, Jaune Quick-to See Smith.

Quick-to-See Smith was born in Montana and descended from French, Cree and Shoshoni ancestors.  Her father was an accomplished horse trainer and trader, but his work meant she moved frequently. When he was not able to care for her, she lived in foster homes and often experienced discrimination in the schools as a Native person.   School however, was the place where she was first introduced to art materials and fell in love with making art.

Throughout her career, Quick-to-See Smith has worked in many media and today is an internationally-known painter and printmaker.  She is sensitive to the effects of text on images and especially skilled at creating and appropriating texts that capture the paradigms of American culture and open up their meanings. She makes complex juxtapositions that recontextualize the way viewers understand not only relationships between Euro-American and Native culture, but how she, as an artist living in both worlds, views those issues.   Her works are thoughtful and thought provoking, raising questions that explode stereotypes and myths about indigenous people.

The layered and nuanced imagery of Horse Sense is packed full of juxtapositions of loaded images and text, inviting us as viewers to explore its messages.

Watch our Art Talk to learn more here: https://youtu.be/sn-T_TSxe0w

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I’ll Be A Monkey’s Uncle, Kara Walker. Lithograph on paper, 1996. John and Mary Pappajohn Endowment Fund Purchase. 2003.1

Kara Walker creates dreamlike narratives of nineteenth-century slavery and African-American history using the cut-paper format popular in the Victorian parlor.  In her work she challenges historical memory rather than recreates history.  She turns the safe and domestic silhouette style on its head to explore racial stereotypes in a lyrical and horrific blend that is part slave narrative, part Harlequin romance, and part fairy-tale illustration.

Walker’s silhouettes have elicited an uncomfortable blend of emotions in viewers since she first began showing them.  She refers to the images in her work as her “inner plantation” and states, “The whole gamut of images of black people, whether by black people or not, are free rein in my mind.  Each of my pieces picks and chooses willy-nilly from images that are fairly benign to fairly charged.  They’re acting out whatever they’re acting out in the same plane; everybody’s reduced to the same thing.  They would fail in all respects of appealing to a die-hard racist.  The audience has to deal with their own prejudices or fears or desires when they look at these images.  So, if anything, my work attempts to take those pickaninny images and put them up there and eradicate them.” 

I’ll be a Monkey’ Uncle from 1996 is one of Walker’s earliest prints. Just a year later, in 1997, she was the youngest artist to receive a prestigious MacArthur Award.

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The Sea, Armin Hansen. Oil on canvas, not dated. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Donald Winston. 1978.3.6

Armin Hansen, native of San Francisco, is prominent American Painter of the En plein air school, best known for his marine canvases. En plein air is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting in the outside environment rather than indoors (such as in a studio).  His father Hermann Hansen was also a famous artist of the American West.

At the Mark Hopkins Institute Armin Hansen studied under Arthur Frank Mathews from 1903 to 1906. Arthur Frank Mathews (1860-1945) was an American Tonalist painter who was one of the founders of the American Arts and Crafts movement.  Moving to Germany, Hansen became the student of Carlos Grethe at the Stuttgart Royal Academy and also studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. He also had exposure to the art centers at Paris, Amsterdam and Brugges. Wishing to see the world through marine eyes, he became a deck hand on a number of commercial vessels, one being a Norwegian steam trawler.

After his studies in Germany, Armin Hansen taught at the University of California, Berkeley and in 1913 moved to paint in Monterey, a budding art colony of the era. In this period he utilized both painting and etching techniques in the style of Impressionism. He was a founder of the Carmel Art Association and became enamored of creating marine scenes, particularly involving man’s relationship with the sea. In 1914 he produced his Self Portrait.

In the 1930s Hansen’s paintings become more intense and use of light more pronounced. One of his masterpieces of this era was Sardine Barge circa 1933, which appropriately is in the permanent collection of the Monterey Museum of Art.  Later in Monterey Hansen led a group of artists in opposing a plan to remove Fisherman’s Wharf as part of a grandiose redevelopment scheme. Fisherman’s Wharf is an historic wharf in Monterey, California. Used as an active wholesale fish market into the 1960s, the wharf eventually became a tourist attraction as commercial fishing tapered off in the area.  The wharf was an important subject of their art, besides the fact that Hansen identified with the simple life of a fisherman. These artists were considered a Bohemian group, living in the St. Peter’s Gate area of Monterey, but amazingly they prevailed against bigger business interests.

Watch our Art Talk to learn more here: https://youtu.be/x7EtPH_Ut98

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Soviet American Array VII, Robert Rauschenberg. Intaglio w/photogravure in color on paper. Museum Purchase. 2005.2

Robert Rauschenberg is regarded as one of the most important figures in the move away from the Abstract Expressionism that dominated American art in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Rauschenberg’s earliest works were minimalist monochromatic paintings, but in the mid-1950s he began to incorporate three-dimensional objects into what he called ‘combine paintings’.  The best-known example of these is Monogram, which features a stuffed goat with a rubber tire around its middle.  Rauschenberg used other castoff objects in his combines including Coca-Cola bottles, fragments of clothing and quilts, electric fans, and radios.

In the 1960s, Rauschenberg returned to working on a flat surface and was particularly active in the medium of silk-screen.  He was interested in combining art with new technological developments, and was active in forming Experiments in Art and Technology, an organization to help artists and engineers work together. The print in the MacNider’s collection is from his project of the 1980s, Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Exchange, and includes his own photographs of New York and Russia.  This undertaking fostered cultural exchange in cities outside the usual contemporary art circuit and reflected his broad interest in social causes.

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The Artist Approaching Middle Age, Mauricio Lasansky. Intaglio on paper, 1968. Acquired in an Exchange with the University of Iowa Museum of Art. 1995.12.5

Mauricio Lasansky was an innovative printmaker equally well-known for a series of drawings depicting the horrors of Nazism.  

Lasansky was born in Argentina of Eastern European Jewish parents.  He came to the United States on a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1943 and spent a year carefully examining more than 100,000 works in the print collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York.  In 1945, Lasansky accepted a teaching position at the University of Iowa where he established a printmaking department that quickly gained international attention. 

As a master of printmaking technology, Lasansky along with his students pushed the limits of the medium.  He was known for the grand scale of his images and the complex layering of multiple techniques in a single work.  His largest prints required as many as 60 different plates to make up the different sections of the image and many trips through the press.  He devised a recipe for paper that could withstand the repeated stress his methods required and had it specially milled in France.

Lasansky remained the head of the Art and Art History Department at the University of Iowa until he retired in the mid-1980s.  His legacy as an educator can be seen in the many strong printmaking departments his students established at other universities.  Lasansky became a citizen of his adopted country and died in 2012 at the age of 97 at his home in Iowa City.

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The Watcher, Marvin Cone. Oil on canvas, 1947. Museum Purchase with funds from the Roy B. Johnson Memorial. 1976.1

Marvin Cone was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where he found a lifelong friendship in the state’s most famous artist, Grant Wood. Cone graduated from Coe College at which he’d later teach for more than 40 years. He furthered his education at the Art Institute of Chicago but his studies there were cut short by his service in WWI.

Following the War, Cone studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in France. École des Beaux-Arts (“School of Fine Arts”) refers to a number of influential Art schools in France. The most famous is the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, now located on the left bank in Paris, across the Seine from the Louvre, in the 6th arrondissement. The school has a history spanning more than 350 years, training many of the great artists in Europe. Beaux Arts style was modeled on classical “antiquities”, preserving these idealized forms and passing the style on to future generations.

Upon his return to Iowa, Cone was active in the Cedar Rapids Art Association and was instrumental, along with Grant Wood, in promoting the short-lived Stone City Art Colony. Cone lived his entire life in Cedar Rapids and is remembered for his regionalist interpretive landscapes, unique vision, and long and influential teaching career.

Watch our Art Talk to learn more: https://youtu.be/nwNyNkLEVlM

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Stephen Greene (1918-1999), Blue Light, Oil on linen, 1994. Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; Hassam, Speicher, Betts, and Symons Funds 1996. (1996.1)

Stephen Greene was born in New York, where he studied at the National Academy of Design from 1935-1936. He continued his studies at the Art Students League, the Richmond Division of the College of William and Mary, and then at the State University of Iowa under Philip Guston. The work of Northern European Renaissance painting and Max Beckmann were also early influences.

Stephen Greene’s 1950s paintings of classic religious themes meld the precision and spirituality of the great Renaissance masters with the moody, stylized symbolism of postwar Existentialism. Of his early figurative work, Greene has stated, “I was essentially involved in a psychological state, a prison-like configuration that mirrored contemporary ideas…In painting the events of Christ’s passion, I, in the twentieth century, was not returning to another period’s aesthetic mode, but dealing with the possible meanings of hallucinations.” Greene universalized his religious themes to speak to a post-war culture of anxiety.

The paintings from Greene’s first three solo shows at Durlacher Brothers (1947, 1949, 1952) are his best-known figurative work. Of the fifteen paintings from the 1952 exhibition, nearly half are in museum collections, including the Tate Gallery, London (The Return); the Whitney Museum of American Art (The Shadow); the Nelson-Atkins Gallery, Kansas City (The Kiss of Judas); and the Art Museum, Princeton University (The Massacre of the Innocents). Greene was selected for the inclusion in the 1955 traveling exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, The New Decade: 35 American Painters and Sculptors.

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Azteca Yellow Persian Set with Black Lip Wraps, Dale Chihuly. Blown glass, 2000. Museum Purchase Funded by Lena Keithahn. 2001.6

Dale Chihuly , a native of Tacoma Washington, is famous for his dazzling artistic glass creations.  Orbs, cylinders, spikes and spirals – Chilhuly’s work appears to defy gravity.  After receiving an undergraduate degree at the University of Washington in Interior Design, he later received a Master’s degree in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin – Madison where he has studied under the famed glass artists Harvey Littleton in 1967.  On a Fulbright scholarship in 1968 he traveled to Venice and received a Masters of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design.  He founded his own glass school in 1971, named Pilchuck (pill chuck) Glass School, located in Standwood, Washington.

Due to a personal injury to his shoulder sustained in a body surfing accident, Chihuly was forced to give up glass blowing himself, relying on assistants to do the physical labor, while he served as artistic director.  He explained his role as “more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor.”  In the 1970’s he began to use a team approach to glass blowing which allowed him to achieve massive glass sculptures that would have been impossible for one artist to accomplish alone.

In recent years, he has made his artwork a household name by his entrepreneurial ventures that include retail stores in high-end areas, documentaries, and artwork prints made for commercial purposes.  His team approach made it possible for him to create large works that now reside with many companies who want large-scale impressive instillations in their building.  In 2012 the Chihuly Garden and Glass center opened in Seattle.

Watch our Art Talk to learn more: https://youtu.be/XJTHaOl1ALQ

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Anna Mary “Grandma” Moses, Going Home From Church, oil on pressed wood, 1948. Museum Purchase Using Funds from the Robert and Lois Bergland Acquisition Fund.

Grandma Moses was an American artist known for her pastoral landscape paintings. Anna Mary Robertson was born in 1860 and grew up on a farm in upstate New York. She worked as a hired girl, helping neighbors and relatives with cleaning, cooking, and sewing. Her father encouraged her to draw on old newsprint, and she used berry and grape juices to brighten her images. She married when she was 27 and moved to a farm in Virginia, where she raised five children.

Grandma Moses did not start painting until she was 78 years old and looking for something to do “to keep busy and out of mischief” after her husband died. Years of representing scenes through the flat patterns of cross-stitching, imbued her canvases with naïve perspectives and decorative color schemes. She painted nostalgic scenes of American life and sold them at country fairs alongside her prize-winning pickles. In 1939 a collector saw her paintings in the window of the local pharmacy and bought them all. Later that year, three of those works were included in the “Contemporary Unknown American Painters” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. This led to a solo exhibition at the Galerie St. Etienne in New York in 1940 and over 100 more shows in the following decades. She died at 101, after painting more than fifteen hundred images.

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Squint, Robert Arneson. Color lithograph on brown paper, 1981. John and Mary Pappajohn Endowment Fund Purchase. 1986.4


Robert Arneson was born in Benicia, CA in 1930.  Between the years of 1949 to 1951 Arneson was going to the College of Marin in Kentfield, CA.  Three years later in 1954 he received his BA from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA.  In 1958, Arneson got his MFA from Mills College in Oakland, CA.

He is well known for his work in Ceramics.  He is known as using the ceramics as a vital medium for contemporary figurative sculpture.  Many of his pieces of work are found at numerous museums and sites in Hawaii, Japan, California, Ohio, Australia, New York City, Illinois, and many other locations.

One thing that stands out about Robert Arneson is at the Palo Alto Art Center in Palo Alto, CA.  He has over 90 ceramic Marquette’s on display.  They date from 1964 to 1992 and are between 2 to 14 inches in height.  It shows his more expressing nature with clay with these Marquette’s.

In 1985, Arneson was given the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI.  Two years later in 1987 from one coast to another in CA he was awarded again the Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at the San Francisco Art Institute.  In 1991, he was awarded the Academy-Institute Award in Art and the next year he joined the Fellowship American Craft Council.  In 1992, Robert Arneson died of cancer in Benicia, CA, but will be remembered for his artwork in the world of Ceramicists.

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