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The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis have joined together to create the Contemporary-Pulitzer blog which, for the first time, combines the perspectives of two separate institutions with differing missions within the same blog.

Offering alternating posts each day from the Pulitzer and Contemporary, the blog provides a candid look at the behind-the-scenes workings of both arts organizations.

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Buddha Study

Well it is that time again; one exhibition comes to a close and I get a moment to convert my knowledge of dream-related information into background on Buddha. Much like taking a new art history class, each semester PFA docents, gallery assistants and I learn new information to aid our guests’ experience in the galleries at the Pulitzer.  None of the gallery assistants or docents will be experts, but we aim to find ways to engage our visitors as they look  and think about the Buddhist works coming to Reflections of the Buddha.

The galleries are currently closed for installation, but the minds of the Pulitzer docents and gallery staffs are being opened.  Sydney Norton, Curatorial Assistant, is leading a four-part series of PowerPoint presentations introduce us to the works in Reflections of the Buddha.  We have come to two sessions so far, and while it seems like an immense amount of information (my note-writing hand feels like it used to when ending a class with my art history professors), we are slowly absorbing the bulk of it.  This exhibition will contain amazing objects. 

For instance, my interest has been piqued by“The Universal Gateway of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara,” Chapter Twenty Five of the Lotus Sūtra (Miaofa lianhua jing Guanshiyin pusa pumenpin), with an Appended Heart Sūtra (Xin jing).  This piece was made through a unique process and really intrigued me for this reason. The piece is a very lengthy scroll that will be opened to different sections throughout the duration of our exhibition.  It is indigo dyed paper and it has been burnished with small particles of gold in order to depict its drawings and stories.  The process of indigo dying can be a particularly time intensive one.  Each time the paper scroll is dipped into the vat it gains a slightly darker shade of blue.  This particular scroll is almost navy from the images I have seen which means  it has been through the dye vat many times.  I can’t wait to look at this piece up close, the piece being displayed under glass should allow this, and get a sense of the artists who created it.

There are a lot of stories and historical perspectives being shared with our gallery staff that I will look forward to sharing with our guests once we open in September.

Tillmans’ Landscape and the Conclusion of Dreamscapes

Dreamscapes closes tonight at 9, so if you haven’t yet had the opportunity to see this exhibition, or if you would like to revisit your favorite works, please stop by. Celebratory closing events are scheduled throughout the day, including a final exhibition tour at 1pm by senior curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra and an evening of Dream Sounds, a specially selected dreamlike soundtrack organized by KDHX DJs Brett Underwood and Josh Weinstein.

In commemoration of Dreamscapes’ departure, I’d like to pay tribute to a captivating work titled Wald (Briol II) or Forest (Briol II), a life-size, photographic image of a solitary man walking down a forest path. Made by Wolfgang Tillmans in 2008, this image hangs snugly on a wall in the lower recesses of the Pulitzer building. To get a closer look, you’ll need to make a concerted effort: Descend the main staircase, take a sharp right, and make your way down the long and narrow underground passageway. The obscure positioning of Wald (Briol II) is noteworthy. The corridor, a common dream symbol that can represent paths to the unconscious, converges with the forest trail featured in the photograph, creating a metaphorical transitional space between wakeful consciousness and dreams.

Wald (Briol II) evokes thematic tropes from nineteenth century romanticism. Writers such as Mary Shelley and the Brothers Grimm embraced the woods as a mysterious, sometimes terrifying place where humans lose their concept of time and are unable to find their way home. Dark and “off the beaten track,” the forest is an ideal setting for sleeping and dreaming—a place where our deepest unconscious desires and fears reveal themselves.

The visual narrative in Tillmans’ photograph clearly resembles that of some romantic landscape paintings. Take a look, for example, at Caspar David Friedrich’s The Chasseur in the Forest. Read the rest of this entry »

Pulitzer Appoints New Director

Van Dyke

Kristina Van Dyke,  Photo by George Hixson | Courtesy of The Menil Collection

August 5, 2011, St. Louis, MO — The Board of Trustees of the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts today announced its unanimous decision to appoint Kristina Van Dyke as Director, following an intensive international search.  Ms. Van Dyke, currently the Curator for Collections and Research at The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, will begin working full-time at the Foundation on November 7.  Joining the Pulitzer as it prepares to celebrate its tenth anniversary, she will work closely with Trustees and staff to oversee the exhibitions program, as well as other scholarly, artistic and community-related programming, including the contemporary chamber music series.  Ms. Van Dyke succeeds Matthias Waschek, who served as Director of the Foundation for more than seven years.
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Robert W. Duffy, associate editor at St. Louis Beacon, introduces Kristina Van Dyke and offers a look at the history of the Pulitzer:  ”Pulitzer Foundation names new director

City Studio STL: Somethingness

Theaster Gates and his students talk about Gate’s summer course through Washington University in St. Louis. During the class, students worked with Gates to rehab a house in Hyde Park and devise ways in which the house can be used as an arts hub for the neighborhood.

Community projects at the Pulitzer have always raised questions of sustainability. In understanding our institution’s ever-evolving role within the community arts of St. Louis, we are a catalyst, incubator, and (at our best moments) innovator. We work to enhance the already-impressive, effective, and inspiring work of our colleagues by bringing both the strengths of a cutting-edge arts institution dedicated to promoting the personal experience with all arts and social work practice. This means, however, that we are at risk of violating one of the founding principles of community practice by parachuting into a community then exiting quickly, without sustaining commitment to the communities with whom we worked. In principle, we are keenly aware of this and have attempted to balance our institutional identity with ethical community practice by forging partnerships with institutions that have the potential to carry the innovation forward. As this department is coming upon its fourth year, we are still in the process of learning what it means to “carry the innovation forward” and just how much continued support and involvement it might take from the “catalyst”.

Take Theaster Gates in Hyde Park for example. Theaster entered this community through our project, which was a collaboration between Holy Trinity Academy and Succeeding with Reading, a program that had existed at Holy Trinity Academy for a few years preceding Urban Expression, the Pulitzer-catalyzed program inspired by our exhibition, Urban Alchemy/Gordon Matta-Clark. He was captured by the community—particularly, the kids—and became committed to arts-infused community development in the neighborhood. While our exhibitions changed (and the programs with it), we were able to stay involved by co-sponsoring the CityStudioSTL (Somethingness: Ways of Seeing and Building) with the Sam Fox School of Visual Art and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. In so doing, we are figuring out our institution’s role in ensuring that Theaster’s commitment to Hyde Park (through Rebuild Foundation) has a better chance at success. It’s a work in progress, but the brilliant work of Theaster, his employees, and the students of this summer class have provided another huge step toward fulfilling the potential of a beautiful, if neglected neighborhood and doing so by forging partnerships between existing community members and those from the outside. We’ll keep you posted as his work evolves.

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St. Louis, MO 63108
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