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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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Becoming One with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s ‘Sea of Buddha’

Raheem Thorpe, a Staging actor, talks about Sugimoto’s Sea of Buddha and how he feels about being back at the Pulitzer since being part of Staging Old Masters.

by Amy Broadway, Interim PR Coordinator

One of the main goals of Staging workshops is that the actors personally connect with the artworks in Reflections of the Buddha. The company will craft and perform scenes in the spring based on musings about the stars of the exhibition, such as Prince Shotoku, the giant sculpture of a left hand, or perhaps Oscar Munoz’s La Línea del Destino (Line of Destiny). The works haven’t been officially chosen yet, and it will be interesting to see what gets picked.

Several Fridays ago, Agnes Wilcox, the artistic director of Prison Performing Arts and the workshop leader, asked the actors to pair off, peruse the exhibition, and speculate about the images they saw. Afterwards, the exhibition’s curator, Francesca Herndon-Consagra, led Staging through the galleries, sharing her knowledge of the artistry, cultural history, and meaning behind the works.

In the video above, Raheem Thorpe, a graduate of the Staging Old Masters program, talks about how he and his peers first interpreted Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Sea of Buddha and what they learned from Francesca. The last time I saw Raheem, he was working with teaching artist Jenny Murphy in Urban Renewal, part of the Urban Alchemy series of programs Transformation. You can see him interviewed in 2010 here. He’s great on camera, and I look forward to seeing him on stage (Staging will perform in the galleries alongside the art).

As a side note, many of you may recall that this is not the first time the Pulitzer has been graced with Sugimoto creations. As we celebrate our tenth year–which officially began in October– we’re looking back at past exhibitions and web catalogues. Click here for another blast from the past, a look at our 2006 exhibition Hiroshi Sugimoto: Photographs of Joe.

A Poem and Personal Recap of Sound Waves

Philip Matthews is a 2011 graduate of the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis and is this year’s Jr. Writer-in-Residence in the English department. He teaches poetry and creative non-fiction. He is also a gallery assistant at the Pulitzer.

by Philip Matthews, Gallery Assistant

Last Thursday, October 6, I had the pleasure of experiencing the first of a series of Sound Waves events, which will all respond to the current exhibition, Reflections of the Buddha. For this installment, DJ Tim Rakel pumped a variety of Indian and Indian-influenced music throughout the exhibition through a sound system installed in the grates in the floor. The effect was encompassing, and as a gallery assistant stationed in the main gallery over the course of three hours, I found myself considering the Buddhist concepts of impermanence and attachment.

According to Buddhist thought, everything is in a constant state of change. The Pulitzer building exemplifies this principle, as natural light shifts throughout the day throughout the galleries: in one moment, a shimmering reflection of the Watercourt on the ceiling; in one moment, a rod of light through the Buddha on a phyllite plate; in one moment, nightfall reveals the standing Buddha reflected in a window, alongside my own reflection. And Rakel’s musical selections enhanced this principle beautifully: moving from a recording of monks chanting a cappella in unison, to a shimmering of sitars and a woman’s microtonic pipes like I have never heard, to a percussive, upbeat dance fitting of a dakini. Throughout the event, I am struck by how the power of the artworks around me interact with the music and the building, and how those relationships evolve as time progresses. At any given moment, I am satisfied to be here, having the experience I am having. Is this something like samadhi?

But when I begin to become attached: for example, when I begin to miss the blocks of orange light which sunset cast on the wall, I begin to miss out on the current experience of night available to me, with its different beauties and significances. This, I feel, is the Buddha’s most useful teaching to my daily life, which is full of attachments: to loved ones, to routine, to self-image. Because nothing is permanent, my attachments dissatisfy me when the conditions of my life change: I am dissatisfied that the relationship I want to last must inevitably end; I am dissatisfied when my students are not as talkative as they were last week; I am dissatisfied that, at 24, I am still so much skinnier than other men. The Buddha: “…on the cessation of craving ceases attachment; on the cessation of attachment ceases becoming…” (Mitchell, Donald W. “The Teachings of the Buddha.” Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. 42. Print.)

Here is a creative response to the challenges and questions of intimacy, attachment and impermanence which the current exhibition at the Pulitzer has begun to raise for me. The first draft of this poem was written at Sound Waves on Thursday, October 6, in fragments, on the back of a receipt I had in my wallet at the time.

Chanting for the Opening Reception

Monks from the Mid-American Buddhist Association chant on Vesak Day. Listen to them and members of other Buddhist temples at the Reflections of the Buddha opening reception.

As you readers may have noticed, there hasn’t been much to read here recently, but I assure you the Pulitzer staff and its partners have been busy the past three weeks. Much has happened since Dreamscapes concluded with KDHX DJs emitting dreamy sounds throughout the galleries. Everyone has been developing programs, events, catalogues, docent trainings, and community connections as part of our next exhibition, Reflections of the Buddha.

As I write this, senior curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra is working with art handlers and registrars to configure awe-inspiring statues and thangkas in relation to the Ando building (quite a humbling experience, they might say). These works date from the second to the twentieth century and were created in Afghanistan, China, India, Japan, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, and Tibet. If you would like a sneak peek, visit the Reflections of the Buddha web catalogue holding page and download the gallery guide. Witness the works in person by attending our opening reception next Friday, September 9, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Since Reflections of the Buddha showcases  works born from the culture and philosophy of Buddhism, the Pulitzer decided to partner with Buddhism specialists in the St. Louis community and beyond for several programs and events. As a complement to the opening festivities, at 6 p.m., members of the Buddhist Council of Greater St. Louis will share an opening chant, featuring examples of Buddhist traditions living in the St. Louis area. 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.
Read more

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

Emily Pulitzer Discusses Her Dream of the Pulitzer Building

This Saturday at 1pm, Bill Wischmeyer, Architect of Record for the Pulitzer building, will share his personal knowledge of Tadao Ando’s St. Louis achievement for the second Exploring Art: Dreamscapes and Ando’s Architecture. Last month, Emily Pulitzer explained her vision of the building and the realization of that dream. Pulitzer docent Francesca Wilmott recaps that discussion here:

Speaking in front of the reflecting pool, Emily Rauh Pulitzer shared the lively deliberations that occurred between her and Tadao Ando, as well as artists Richard Serra and Ellsworth Kelly, whose work was commissioned for the building. Unlike the commissioning process in the United States, Mrs. Pulitzer explained, Japanese architects do not traditionally involve clients in each stage of their planning. However, Mrs. Pulitzer held to her vision, and together, she and Ando developed an art sanctuary that fulfilled both their aesthetic and practical needs.

Tadao Ando has discussed the tensions that often accompany a collaborative process, noting that: “Working collaboratively with such uncompromising artists was incredibly demanding. However, the numerous changes and modifications made with each visit to the construction site have given the works a vitality and reality unique to this place. For me, the exciting collaboration with these artists has provided a rare and stimulating opportunity to reconsider the architecture and to rethink what it means to create.” Ando made one such modification upon viewing Richard Serra’s plan for Joe, the enormous Corten-steel sculpture that occupies the outdoor courtyard. Rather than constructing wide vertical windows along the wall that looks onto Joe, as initially planned, Ando felt that narrow horizontal windows would better frame the sculpture from within the building. Read the rest of this entry »

Exploring Art: Dreamscapes and Ando’s Architecture


This Saturday, at 1pm, Emily Rauh Pulitzer will speak in the galleries about Tadao Ando’s architecture and her dream of the Pulitzer building. Courtney Henson, Visitor Services Manager, describes the Exploring Art program:

“As you go through, the spaces will change in size and sometimes in shape and the light will change. As you go through the building, the senses will change, the mood will change, the fiction will change. If they are subtle enough then you will think of it as a fiction or a story, you will just live it as reality.” –Tadao Ando

Ando’s description is one that suits the concepts in Dreamscapes. Senior curator Francesca Herndon-Consagra has chosen works based on the false realities that we are nightly confronted with in our own dreams. Each object chosen for the current exhibition at the Pulitzer offers an opportunity for discussion; sometimes personal but always within the strange real space of Ando’s architecture.

In February and March, two guests will speak about the architecture at the Pulitzer. This Saturday, February 19, Emily Rauh Pulitzer will speak at 1pm regarding the process of building the Pulitzer. This discussion may include some of the hopes and dreams and the sometimes nightmares of building an Ando sanctuary. Saturday, March 19, Bill Wischmeyer, Architect of Record for the Pulitzer building, will speak at 1pm on his experience with the building. Read the rest of this entry »

Gallery Assisting stylus

Changing Records

I have been working as a Gallery Assistant at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts for a little over a month now, and the experience has been remarkable. My first visit to the Pulitzer was at the behest of a Tadao Ando enthusiast and part-time art historian; I spent a great deal of time marveling at the modern and elegant design that Ando so beautifully conceived. Later that month, I returned for Ideal (Dis-) Placements and was hooked.

I feel fortunate to have begun my tenure along with the wonderful stylus by Ann Hamilton. It has been fun showing visitors how to interact with the space. The touch pad at the front entrance always draws a curious smile when I ask visitors to sign their name and wait to hear what happens. Delight is often the next reaction. Read the rest of this entry »

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