Philip Forrester is the Assistant to the Senior Curator and to the Community Projects Director at The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.
By Philip Forrester
Though installation went down to the wire, The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts experienced a resounding success for the opening of In the Still Epiphany.
The blustery, rainy weather broke just in time for the press preview hour with curator Gedi Sibony at 4:00 pm. The walkthrough opened with remarks from Kristina Van Dyke, director of The Pulitzer, who spoke briefly about some of the process behind the installation. Emily Rauh Pulitzer, who graciously donated her precious artwork for this exhibition, waxed eloquently about the more personal and sentimental attributes of the featured works. Gedi, in his humbly quiet tenor, explained the somewhat ethereal process of choosing the placement and scope of the installation. The public opening at 5:00 pm contained many of the same elements, though in a less directed manner. Patrons enjoyed both the remarks by Gedi concerning his vision, and his openness to everyone’s interpretation.
Greeting visitors as they walk through into the Entrance Gallery is the stern gaze of Joseph Pulitzer, though Vuillard’s enigmatic Woman in a Green Hat shares a private joke with the audience immediately to the right. Gedi explained that the visages of figures such as Cezanne’s Jules Peyron, Helleu’s Kate Davis Pulitzer, and Vuillard himself represented the world of people, the finite, the gaze folding back onto the viewer as they rotated around the “crowded” space. The serene gaze of Mme. Line Aman-Jean points the way to Picasso’s Fireplace—what Gedi described as the fulcrum of the space. Walking through the corridor fronting the watercourt is meant to be a transcendent journey from the world of the known to the realm of the unknown; the infinite.
Above: Paul Cézanne, Jules Peyron, c. 1885–87, Oil on canvas, 18 ¼ x 15 in. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., 1961.144
While the Entrance Gallery is meant to convey a sense of permanence, the Main Gallery’s cathedral-like space allows the viewer a breath of contemplative air. Domesticity abounds throughout this gallery. Curtained windows, a fireplace, seed jars, and Bonnard’s table of vibrantly colored fruit and ham present a quiet refrain from the “party” of the entryway.
Patrons who moved along to the Cube Gallery found a darkened space focused on a theatrical display. Visitors described this gallery as both “womb-like” and “tomb-like,” allowing for both perspectives to envelop the “puppet-like figures” fronting the black swath of Fontana’s punctured canvas.
Moving down the broad steps brought patrons past the tenderness of mother and child cast in wax and plaster, continuing the sense of the domestic domain. Guston’s wildly colorful canvas pinned next to an almost austere Peruvian mantle prompted one patron to expound on the “juxtaposition of [Blue Black] from the vertical to the horizontal along the wall.” The lower gallery presents a Malinese power object and Picasso’s Woman in a Red Hat positioned in such a way that they seem to pay homage to Lucia Maholy’s photograph of a woman’s dressing room. Down the long hallway receding from the lower gallery, Benson’s ducks take flight along the wall toward another Vuillard female figure.
From stern gazes to wild, abstract colors, visitors to The Pulitzer for the opening of In the Still Epiphany experienced a vast array of masterful art through disparate mediums, all while journeying quite naturally through a docile, contemplative vision of blissful thought.
In the Still Epiphany
April 5 – October 27