Corrections or additions?
This review by Pat Summers was prepared for the
April 4, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Zimmerli’s Exhibit Duo
MoMA, BAM, and all you others, meet ZAM! If the name
suggests "sha-ZAM," that probably won’t hurt anyone’s
although the acronym belongs to Zimmerli Art Museum — the
Zimmerli, that is. And, since today’s museum renovations often include
creating a catchiness that starts with the proof-of-admission
it’s ZAM, thank you very much.
A feeling of multi-tiered spaciousness and an awareness of pale
wood floors and are among the first impressions inside the new ZAM.
Re-opened late last year, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum (U.S.
1, November 22, 2000), easily accessible from the Princeton area via
Route 27 to New Brunswick, now features two large exhibitions:
Impressionism: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum"
and "The Exotic Flower: Constructions of Femininity in Late
French Art." Both shows run through Sunday, May 20.
Known as the vanilla ice cream of painting — what’s not to like?
— the 51 American Impressionist works on view include some
some pleasures, and some surprising pleasures. Among the former are
the textures and hues, as well as the very subject, of Ernest Lawson’s
"Gold Mining, Cripple Creek" (1929); altogether, not your
usual impressionist view of the world. Emil Carlsen’s "The South
Strand" (c. 1909) offers a large, peaceful scene, more sky and
clouds than sea, and all in mild and mellow shades. A beached dory
figures in the foreground, while more working boats head out to sea.
Two snow scenes are welcome reminders of the Impressionists-in-winter
exhibition held not long ago in Brooklyn — an atypical season
for plein-air painting, often with uncommon results. Here is Birge
Harrison’s "Winter Sunrise" (1890), with a pink-streaked sky
over graying snow and sky shades reflected in the water. Twenty-one
years later, Guy Wiggins’s "Columbus Circle, Winter" captures
blizzard conditions in the city: the whitened monument at the center
of industrial smoke and blowing snow, horse-drawn wagons, a single
stooped pedestrian, and a few motorized vehicles are to be seen.
Childe Hassam is represented by several pictures that include "The
South Ledges, Appledore" (1913), in which an invisible diagonal
line divides a woman sitting on the rocks from the sea she watches.
A tiny sailboat is visible at the horizon, and the total scene takes
on ever-greater realism when viewed from a distance. "Marechal
Niel Roses" (1919) is about shadows and reflections and a woman
with peculiarly interesting, lustrous hair, dress, and ring. Hassam’s
"Ponte Santa Trinita" (1897) shows one of the seven bridges
crossing Florence’s Arno River, where watery shades of green, blue,
and aqua, and a pale building all bespeak the effects of light that
is closely observed, convincingly rendered.
Altogether, the American Impressionism exhibition is a fine part of
ZAM to stroll through and think good thoughts about the world, and
color, and beauty. As part of a Smithsonian program to match
paintings with appropriate historical frames, some of the images boast
elaborately gilded surrounds.
The second new show, "The Exotic Flower", comprises 151 works
of art. The title is also that of a poem by Armand Renaud and a
illustration for that poem by Edouard Manet. Its subject is a woman
dressed in a black, Spanish gown with a lace inset at the bodice;
she wears a mantilla, and holds a fan in one hand, a flower in the
other. This is not the girl next door.
Manet’s image of soft, rounded, while yet mysterious woman epitomizes
the other depictions "of femininity" in this exhibition by
guest curator Lucy Oakley. Most of them were made by men, for men’s
delectation. And by and large they are meant to show, from men’s
what women did and how they looked in late 19th century France.
this is a frightening, if not also repellent, overview — one that
feminists of the late 20th century would readily recognize and
Expressions like objectify, sex object, women’s sphere, socialization,
anatomy is destiny, and woman as "Other" come to mind. In
this exhibition, all these concepts are vividly realized in works
of art grouped into eight sections and accompanied by a wall text
that eliminates any ambiguity.
Since, semantically speaking, neither the word nor the image is itself
the thing, these works of art reflect the needs and interests of their
makers. Technically well executed and often quite beautiful, they
can be seen as the period pieces they are, from a time that is gone
— but not forgotten. In that context, they might even be enjoyed.
The work of Mary Cassatt, included in both shows discussed here,
turns up in the first category, "From Childhood to
Her "Mother and Child (Baby’s Back)", in drypoint, tenderly
perpetuates the golden-motherhood propaganda of the time, when women
were (or were desired to be) proper domestic creatures, devoid of
assertiveness or creativity, and content to keep the home fires
Clementine-Helene Dufau’s "Mother and Child" portrays with
watercolor and graphite a mother who looks so grim she seems to have
read the accompanying wall text about the socialization of women.
"The Elegant Parisienne" section introduces Antonio De La
Gandara’s lithograph, "Portrait of a Woman." The coat of his
huddled subject is drawn up around her face, and she looks mysterious,
even furtive. In contrast, his glamorous vertical image, "Woman
in a Black Dress," looks to be a fan-holding foremother of
"Madame X." And "Woman Reading," an embossed
by Alexandre-Louis-Marie Charpentier, shows the profile of a reader
covering her ears with her hands as if to foster concentration and
close out society’s intrusive, and influential, noise. (Shades of
Edna St. Vincent Millay’s sonnet xxxi: "What a big book for such
a little head!")
Georges Rouault’s ceramic earth mother-fertility figure,
is pendulous and hippy; all sex organs — the dream of the
man? Richard Ranft’s etching with aquatint, "After the Ball,"
shows a festive couple: the woman, nude except for long black gloves,
with a red cape over her shoulders; the man, fully clothed. These
are just two of the works in the exhibition’s third section, "The
Nude as Allegory and Reality."
A display case shows issues of the magazine "Le Nu
explaining that Jean-Leon Gerome, the famous academic painter,
initiated this first-of-its-kind photo-illustrated journal as an aid
for those who could not afford live models. For about five years,
and for an ever-expanding audience, the publication provided images
of nude models in a variety of poses. Gerome’s altruistic gesture
— for which he deserves a posthumous "he’s all heart"
award — is now regarded as the beginning of soft pornography,
which led inexorably to today’s "skin magazines," such as
Playboy — or is that magazine also intended to help struggling
Written by curator Oakley, the show’s wall text explains
that "most nudes originated in the studio, in encounters between
active, creative, clothed male artists and passive, for-hire, naked
female models, a situation that echoed and relayed the general
of power between the sexes." The fact that, like it or not, this
is how it was then might lessen a viewer’s retroactive rage. Besides,
the first in a series of inexplicable redheads appears in this
Charles Maurin’s image in color crayon on tissue of "Young Woman
Combing Her Hair."
Part four, "Objects of Desire/Objects of Fear," dealing with
love, sex, death, and the prostitutes of Paris, might be epitomized
by Leon Dax’s watercolor of a quietly sinister scene: "Encounter
in the Bois de Boulogne." A heavy-lidded, debauched-looking man
in coat and top hat faces a fashionably dressed woman (and the
If this is "the male gaze that operates not only as a vector of
desire but also as a tool of surveillance and control," it is
frightening. Even if the woman is a stylish courtesan and this is
a business meeting, it is still chilling.
Charles Lapierre’s watercolor portrait of a "Woman in Soldier’s
Uniform" displays unlikely garb: open bolero jacket with puffy
sleeves and bare breasts — facing front, of course. Graphically
dramatic, "Death Wearing Furs," Eugene Delatre’s aquatint
with etching positions a death’s head wearing a blue, fur-trimmed
coat and feathered bonnet in the midst of a snowstorm — a perfect
image for animal rights activists. And Eugene-Samuel Grasset’s
image of a "Morphine Addict" places a grimacing, shift-clad
woman with wild, long, dark hair in front of a bitter-lemon background
to plunge a needle into her leg. By this point in the exhibition,
that classic pedestal, so confining and undesirable for some women,
can begin to sound like heaven.
But in part five, "Performing Women," things start to pick
up, at least superficially, as images of women in the circus, theater,
cafe, concert, and dance hall take over. And, with six redheads
this section also marks the serious start of another "Red-Headed
League," to borrow from Conan Doyle. Is it redheads, then, who
really have more fun? The viewer has to wonder, given their frequency
here. An art-history question for some enterprising student: how
when, and why, do redheads figure in artists’ representations of
"Black Stockings," Henry-Gabriel Ibels’ pastel on gray paper,
vividly contrasts a yellow dress with black gloves and stockings,
and nearby is Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s more familiar lithograph,
"Le Divan Japonais." Betty Boop comes to mind with the two
lithographs and multiple red mouths by Hermann Rene Georges Paul
as "Hermann-Paul") — "La Belle Otero" and "The
The show’s last three sections — "From Country to City: Women
at Work," "Women and Illustration," "The Rise of
and the Golden Age of French Posters" — are its least numerous
and, given their subjects, the most limited in range. Perhaps because
they evoke more visceral reactions from today’s viewer, the earlier
parts are much more interesting, if also horrifying, in what they
show and say. Suffice it to say that as long ago as 1896, with
"Typewriters," the pattern of man as instructor, woman as
student was well under way. All six of these women are redheads,
so maybe there’s hope for them.
In two mediums, two artists’ images of the American experimental
Loie Fuller are worth comparing. Theodore van Rysselberghe’s etching
of "Lois Fuller" shows a gracefully curtseying woman in a
multi-pleated dress in brown ink on pale tan paper. And Francois
Carabin’s glazed ceramic "Loie Fuller" also shows a furling
garment, the dancer’s famous illuminated skirts, swirling around her
nude figure. A dozen or so bronzes of dancing women are on view in
Later this year the art-agitated viewer will be able
to repair to ZAM’s new coffee shop for a reality testing caffeine
jolt. In the meantime, the museum already offers an enlarged shop.
Count on finding the usual booklet series on "famous artists for
kids" — how do you make Goya’s nightmarish visions
— and chunky-bead necklaces, and T-shirts, not to mention
sketchbooks advising the buyer to fill this with your own works of
art, then send it to some la-di-da museum and see what they say. Hmmm.
And be forewarned: those lovely bare floors are not soundproofed
those who clomp around in heavy shoes.
The mostly-bilingual catalogue (Japanese/English) for "The Exotic
Flower", drawn primarily from the collections of the Zimmerli,
which is also its sole U.S. venue, was published to mark "France
Year in Japan," where the show has already toured for two years.
The museum is also known for its Center for Japonisme, featuring
art influenced by Japanese esthetics. Would that catalogue listings
for each of its 147 plates had also been printed in English, to
the need to flip back and forth.
Inside, with "Exotic Flower," ZAM is filled with numerous
images of women in circumscribed circumstances: women’s sphere in
the 19th century. Outside the museum are numerous student-women of
the 21st century. And the juxtaposition is striking. Every campus
woman should see this show and read the wall text. Then, blessedly
free-to-be "whatever," she will float from the Zimmerli with
new determination to make the most of her college experience, the
most of her life.
— Pat Summers
New Brunswick, 732-932-8201. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday,
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. $3 adults;
under 18 free; museum is open free to the public on the first Sunday
of every month.
Dining room exhibition of watercolors by Charles E. Person, and
and pastels by Patrice Sprovieri. Part of the proceeds benefit the
Medical Center. On view daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. To May 16.
A student-curated show featuring prints and graphic arts by Miriam
Schaer, a New York City artist and teacher specializing in new
techniques for one-of-a-kind and limited-edition books. All profits
from sale of works go directly to PHS art programs. Gallery hours
are Monday to Friday, 3 to 5 p.m.; and by appointment. Through April
An exhibition of tennis and baseball images by Ed Tseng, a USPTA
pro and self-taught photographer. His love for the two games has taken
him to tennis courts and baseball diamonds all over the world. To
609-252-6275. "Gold Medal Impressions," a photographic
by photographer Richard A. Druckman. In the exhibit of 100
Druckman explores athletes and the Olympic experience from the 1984
Los Angeles games to the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. Gallery
hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and weekends and
1 to 5 p.m. To April 8.
732-524-3698. Works in oil by New Jersey artist Rosalie Hettenbach,
working in a style she identifies as Dynakinetic Impressionist Art.
"I want each viewer to feel as if they are enveloped in my
says Hettenbach, "as if my artwork is jumping out at them
She studied at the New Jersey Center for Visual Arts in Summit under
S. Allyn Schaeffer. To April 27. Free by appointment only.
Also "The Healing Garden Quilt Show," an exhibit of 27
quilts depicting plants that are being used or tested for the
of cancer, created by the Northern Virginia Quilters Group; to May
609-895-7307. "Latent Images," an exhibition of photographs
by William Vandever curated by Gary Snyder Fine Art. Vandever works
in black and white, color, hand-colored, and digital photography.
Gallery hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To May 25.
Corbusier at Princeton: 14 to 16 November 1935," an exhibition
of sketches and works related to the French architect’s Princeton
residency; to June 17. Also, "A Tapestry by Karel van Mander,"
to June 10. "Seeing Double: Copies and Copying in the Arts of
China," an exhibition of Chinese art, to July 1. The museum is
open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday 1 to 5 p.m.
Free tours of the collection are every Saturday at 2 p.m.
Library, 609-258-5049. "Art Deco Paris: 1900-1925," a portrait
of the spirited, affluent Parisian society of the early 20th century
in 100 color prints, including a folio by Matisse. Open Monday through
Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday,
noon to 5 p.m. To April 8.
732-906-2566. "Trees," an exhibit by Sheila Eichenblatt,
paintings inspired by the Middlesex County area. Eichenblatt earned
her BS and MA degrees from New York University and studied at the
Pratt Institute and the Brooklyn Museum School. Gallery hours are
Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. To April 20.
609-896-5168. An exhibition of ink and watercolor paintings by Heng-Yi
Aixinjueluo, grandniece of China’s last emperor, who has won
and praise in international calligraphy and painting circles. Gallery
hours are Monday to Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m.; Friday to Sunday, 2 to
5 p.m. To April 15.
One of China’s preeminent contemporary painters, Heng-Yi has developed
a unique style with Chinese ink and watercolor washes. "Her works
are elegant and graceful, pure and fresh and vibrantly provocative.
Her landscapes and floral still-lifes are detailed and richly
says curator Harry Naar, who hopes to heighten awareness of China’s
ancient ink wash art.
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