Art Work(s) of the Week: Aleah’s Top 11

The time has come in my personal arts journey to move on to a new place, now that I have completed my Master’s degree. However, I could not leave without first sharing one more (brief, when considering all that the IU Art Museum has done for me,) blog post on what makes the IU Art Museum special.

I have collected my top 11 artworks here at the IU Art Museum for you (outside of Caillebotte’s Yerres, Effect of Rain and the Maori Hei Tiki pendant, which already have blog posts in their honor). These works are ones that stood out to me or affected me in some way.

Emmi Whitehorse (American, born 1957)
“Rushing Water,” 2001
Oil, chalk, and paper on canvas
Gift of Thomas Robertello in honor of the Jacobs School of Music flute class 2010, 2010.95

Emmi Whitehorse’s Rushing Water
This painting took me by storm. The third in a set of three contemporary Native American paintings currently on view in the first floor Gallery of the Art of the Western World, this depiction of a river in the American southwest is a powerful rush when you first see it. I have always been attracted to warm colors, and this paradoxical treatment of water as if it were fire is breathtaking. Ms. Whitehorse creates an expansive desertscape on a limited canvas, peppered with lines and circles that convey movement. Thank you, Mr. Robertello, for your generous gift.

Franz Marc (German, 1880–1916)
Four Foxes, 1913
Watercolor and chalk on paper
Jane and Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, IU Art Museum 75.21

Franz Marc’s Four Foxes (Right)
Nestled in our extensive Works on Paper collection, this lovely watercolor and chalk sketch by Franz Marc left me completely smittened. I had seen some of Marc’s work before and enjoyed the bold, saturated colors and geometric animals. But happening upon this piece in a print viewing compelled me to learn more about Marc, his art, and the German Expressionist movement. Simple and sweet, I love that you can see the strokes of Marc’s brush/hand, and the soft peach and sienna of the foxes are complemented by the setting’s blue-greens.

I was never a fan of modern/contemporary art before I came here. I was content in my Renaissance/Baroque-only world. Works like this, and The Old Man below, really opened my eyes. It is fascinating to me how your tastes and preferences stretch and evolve as you get older, and how you realize how much you can learn if you keep an open mind. German Expressionism is now, by far one of my favorite movements.

Teotihuacan culture, Mexico
“Seated Figure”
Classic period, 200–650
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 76.8

Teotihuacan Figure
This Teotihuacan figure is simple and clean, but simultaneously very dignified. Standing (sitting?) at 10 inches, this guy stands out amidst the fascinating Pre-Colombian and Native American collection in the third floor gallery. Aragonite is a common crystaline mineral (relative of Calcite); the Teotihuacan figure’s subtle brown swirls in the aragonite are likely from absorbed sand.

FUN FACT: Mollusks and other similar invertebrates may secrete organic aragonite, which is responsible for the iridescence of pearls.

Alexei von Jawlensky (Russian, active Germany and Switzerland, 1864–1941)
The Old Man (Yellow Beard), 1912
Oil on canvas
Jane and Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 75.14

Alexei von Jawlensky, The Old Man
When I first “met” Yellow Beard…I did not like him. I remember turning to my parents, who were touring the gallery with me, and saying “I don’t like him. He’s so angry looking.” (What an involved analysis, Aleah) But the more I interacted with him, the more I grew to love him. The vibrant hues typical of German Expressionism truly capture his loveable surliness…He’s like the grandpa that yells and mutters at all the kids, but you love him anyway. The bright red of his face and angular nose, his heavy skeptical brow, and forehead crinkles communicate his palpable personality. He has one of the most iconic faces in our collection, and cannot be missed.

Kunisada I/Toyokuni III (国貞) (Japanese, 1786–1865)
Okaru of Ichiriki (一力のおかる)
1852, Kaei 5, ninth month, year of the rat
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper

Kunisada I/Toyokuni III
Okaru of Ichiriki (一力のおかる)
This Japanese woodblock print is currently on display with 4 other prints relating legends of kabuki theater. The Japanese have absolutely fascinating legends and stories (most of which come with a moral lesson), and I have been treated to quite a few during my time here. The story of this print revolves around samurai seeking revenge for the death of their beloved Lord. The woman in the print, Okaru, is the lady-in-waiting for the lord’s widow and offers to become a geisha in order to gather more funds to enact the revenge vendetta. A spy almost discovers the plot, one of the loyal samurai almost kills Okaru…Drama. But you have to come see the prints themselves to find out what happens.

Claudio Bravo (Chilean, 1936–2011)
Squash, 1985
Pastel on paper

Claudio Bravo, Squash
Listed as one of Fine Art Connoisseur’s Great Contemporary Pastels in American Museums for May-June 2012, this piece is a PASTEL. I repeat: This image of Squash by Chilean artist Claudio Bravo is a PASTEL. I still cannot quite wrap my head around it. The piece is so realistic, so detailed, I thought it was a photograph at first. But no, my friends. This is done in pastel. The complementary use of red and green really makes this relatively ordinary still life pop. The red wall, the geometric patterned, textured carpet, and use of squash (a typical ingredient for a tanjine dish) tell of Morocco, where Bravo lived from 1972 until his death.

Lower Sepik River area, Papua New Guinea
“Commemorative Figure”
Before 1908
Wood, pigment, fiber
Raymond and Laura Wielgus Collection, 2010.11

Commemorative Figure
BIG RED! That is our affectionate name for this exceptional wooden carving from Papua New Guinea. And big he is—80 inches or 6 feet, 8 inches. I, in comparison, am 5 feet, 6 inches. This photograph does not accurately communicate how tall he stands. Visiting him in the third floor Raymond and Laura Wielgus Arts of Africa, the South Pacific, and the Americas gallery is a worthwhile experience! Given that he’s made of wood and fiber, I can never help but be awed by how well preserved he (and the rest of the third floor collection, for that matter) is. According to the Masterworks, this piece was made to honor an ancestor, possibly an ancestral hero or leader. He was likely kept in a men’s house and could be shown on occasions such as boys’ initiations. The powder that makes him “Red” is a associated with virility and male power, and red is a color of ritual.

The Rycroft Painter, Greek, Attic
Black-Figure Hydria
Ca. 520–510 BC
Clay, glaze, added red and white
Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 77.33

The Rycroft Painter
Black-Figure Hydria
If I had a secondary concentration throughout my Masters degree, it would have been Ancient Greek art. I took two classes: a Greek Art & Archaeology survey and an art and archaeology of Pompeii lecture. Both were illuminating, my particular interest (outside of Hellenistic sculpture) lying with the painted ceramics. This black-figure hydria (water vessel) is an exquistite example of black-figure technique. Black-figure technique results in silhouetted black figures, their details incised or painted on in red or white after the firing process. This particular hydria depicts the half god, half mortal Herakles (Hercules) wrestling the fishtailed monster Triton. This story is exclusive to Athenian art in the second half of the 6th century BC. The shoulder of the vase has a Dionysian (of Dionysus, the god of wine) scene, complete with satyrs, and a pair of decorative eyes usually found on drinking cups.

Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière (French, 1831–1900)
“Diana,” 1882
Arthur R. Metz Collection; Gift of the Arthur R. Metz Foundation, 94.73

Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière’s Diana
I have always liked mythology, Greek in particular. The moon goddess, Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology), sister of the sun god Apollo, always reminded me of my best friend since childhood. Every day when I get off of the elevator to come to work, this lovely nude statue of the goddess Diana, complete with her archer’s bow and crescent coronet, was always there to greet me. She resides next to the elevator on the third floor of the museum. One could say she seems a little lonely, but honestly, the moon huntress would have probably prefered things that way! This bronze sculpture was the largest in a series of four different sizes that Falguière made of Diana. Falguière worked in neoclassicism and academic realism that frequently produced allegorical or mythological figures.

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
“Number 11,” 1949
Duco and aluminum on canvas
Jane & Roger Wolcott Memorial, Gift of Thomas T. Solley, 75.87
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artist Rights Society, NY

Jackson Pollock’s Number 11
Once again, I never was a “Modern Art Person.” I look at Duchamp and go “Huh?” (which is ironic because the IU Art Museum has one of two surviving sets of 1964 edition of Readymades…). But Pollock, thanks to this painting, I like. The color choice seems very unusual…muted sea foam green, deep maroon, mustard yellow, and then the strong contrast of black and white. Something about it though just works. The thickness of the drips and flicks and oozing gushes across the canvas make this so dynamic to see in person. The cake-layered quality of all of these quick, gestural splashes give this non-subjective painting a story. Recently returned from a sojourn in Japan where it was on display for the first Pollock retrospective in the country, this exceptional piece will hopefully be up on display again soon. I’m pretty convinced it’ll make you like Pollock, even if you think you don’t like Pollock.

Rob Shakespeare (American, born England, 1950)
Light Totem: Tower, Wall, Line, Sky, 2007
Site-specific installation
Photo courtesy of Matt James


Rob Shakespeare’s Light Totem
We’ve talked about Light Totem a little bit before. It is our popular after-hours outdoor attraction that delights the entire community. I have spent made wonderful memories lying out in the front courtyard of the museum, feet up on the wall, watching the color shows dance with my boyfriend, my family, and my friends. And I am not the only one. Light Totem is an incredibly special installation that has something to offer everyone that visits the IU Art Museum and Indiana University campus. There’s a magical quality to the choreographed changing of the lights that visitors will never forget. This harmonious structure of art, light, and design brings our community together, and that is one of the greatest gifts that art can give.

I have had an exceptional Indiana University Art Museum adventure. Even though I’ve supplied you with a lot of words, words will never do the experience justice. I invite you to come visit the museum yourself: make memorable moments and find those pieces that are just waiting to inspire you. You will be so glad that you did.

Aleah Holland
Editorial Graduate Assistant 2011-2012