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Exhibit to spotlight recent art acquisitions
STANFORD -- On one wall an immense, brilliantly colored Warhol screenprint of an electric chair shimmers intensely.
By comparison, a tiny black and white print that is barely visible across the gallery seems almost inconsequential -- until a visitor steps close for a look at the details of small grasses, animal strength and massive Tuscan columns that are etched by Albrecht Dürer's hand in The Large Horse.
The Warhol print and Dürer etching, along with 98 other art works that recently have been acquired by the Stanford University Museum of Art, can be seen for the first time this week in "Collecting for Stanford: Selected Acquisitions, 1990-1995," an exhibition that will continue at the Art Gallery through Sept. 3.
Although only 6 percent of the museum's newest acquisitions will be on display this summer, the exhibition is a preview of shows to come when the renovated and greatly expanded museum re-opens in 1997. The show also offers a glimpse of what's been happening behind the scenes since the Loma Prieta earthquake caused extensive structural damage to the museum in 1989.
"It's a way to show what we've been doing since the doors closed to the public," says chief curator Bernard Barryte. "We wanted to impress upon everyone the fact that we are still a vital, active, living museum, and one of the things that proves that is acquisitions."
In fact, more than 1,500 works of art have been acquired by the museum in the past five years. There have been a number of important purchases, like the Dürer etching that increases Stanford's collection of Dürer prints to 17 and adds significantly to the value of the old master print collection.
There also have been an increasing number of exchanges with other museums, represented in the exhibition by a pair of beaded, high-button moccasins from the Athabaskan tribe of Native American Indians and a creation of "found" metal and propane-pump parts -- titled Urchin -- by sculptor Richard Stankiewicz.
"Trades often are the best way for museums to acquire new works, and they're happening more and more these days," says Barryte. "That way, the art works are still in the public domain, you serve your collection well, and you hope you serve the intention and wishes of your donors as well."
Donors continue to occupy thrones of honor as most museums are experiencing financial cutbacks. "We have a very small budget for acquisitions," says Barryte, "so we're dependent on the generosity of friends, patrons, alums and supporters of any sort."
In preparing for the new exhibition, Barryte asked the museum's curators to dig through their respective collections and select the best and most representative objects. What they came up with includes works of art from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas that are formed of materials as varied as fern-tree bark and bronze, and that range from the fifth century B.C. to the 1990s.
Ruth K. Franklin, curator of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, included among her favorites a bold 20th-century hyena mask crafted by the Bamana people of Mali, a volcanic stone skull-basher from Costa Rica and beaded marriage aprons from the Ndebele people of South Africa.
From curator Patrick Maveety's Asian art collection came a stone figure of the Hindu god Vishnu carved in deep relief, along with scrolls of Chinese calligraphy, Japanese woodblock prints and Indo- Portuguese ivories.
The Sacrifice of Jeroboam, a dramatic history painting by 17th-century Dutch artist Claes Moeyaert, and Edward Lamson Henry's The Morning Ride, an idealized oil painting that is representative of the Colonial Revival movement, are featured acquisitions in the European and American collections that are overseen by Diana Strazdes.
Hilarie Faberman had a wide range of works to choose from in the modern and contemporary collection, and her selections include Survivor, a color woodcut by Richard Bosman; Alex, a color lithograph and exaggerated self-portrait by Alex Katz; and Abstract Arrangement of Anatomy, a collage that was donated by photographer Frederick Sommer.
Sommer's own gelatin-silver print portrait of the surrealist painter Max Ernst was among the works selected by curator of photography Joel Leivick. Black Planes #2, a huge, energetic photographic composition by Susan Rankaitis, dominates the photographic wall of the gallery, and an albumen print of sculptor Auguste Rodin leaning against his marble classic, The Kiss, lends a casual touch.
Curator of prints and drawings Betsy Fryberger included the Dürer etching; Dragonflies and a Bumble Bee, a study of insects by the Bohemian printmaker Wenceslaus Hollar; and a lithograph portrait of composer Richard Wagner by a young Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
"Wagner sat for Renoir when the artist was very young, maybe 20 or 22," says curator Barryte. "Wagner would only give him 20 minutes or so, and several years later Renoir turned the drawing into a lithograph."
As the curators have reviewed their collections during the past five years and deaccessioned duplicate works and pieces that had deteriorated in quality, Barryte says, their overriding goal has been to strengthen the museum's holdings for teaching purposes.
"The Stanfords' real impetus in founding the museum, it seems to me, was to create an institution that would serve the university, that would be an adjunct and would parallel the academic programs," he says. "We don't always go for the most important names, but look instead for works of high quality that we can use to teach style and technique.
"We try very hard to be a good teaching museum."
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