Thursday, October 14, 2010

Robert and Julian Onderdonk

Julian Onderdonk, In the Hills of the Spanish Oaks, c. 1917
Collection of Susan and Claude Albritton

Julian Onderdonk (1882 – 1922), known as “the father of Texas painting,” is celebrated for his poetic renderings of the South Texas Landscape. Trained in his teenage years by his father, the realist painter Robert Onderdonk, Julian spent two formative years on Long Island in New York City, studying with William Merritt Chase, one of the most important painters and teachers of his generation. After an attempt to establish a studio in New York City, Julian returned to San Antonio in 1909, and painted the Texas landscape until his untimely death in 1922.

Robert Onderdonk, Portrait of Julian Onderdonk, 1892
Roger Houston Ogden Collection

While not the first or only painter to capture the shimmering blue Texas landscape with bluebonnets in blossom, Julian Onderdonk is by far the most popular. In 1901, ten years before Onderdonk painted his first bluebonnet landscape, the bluebonnet was named the official Texas flower. This series captures a popular subject with a strong regional identity, using the newly-developed style of American Impressionism.

Julian Onderdonk, Bluebonnet Scene with Girl, 1920
Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Gift of Roger H. Ogden Collection

Julian Onderdonk’s style was formed by his studies with William Merritt Chase in 1901 – 1902 in Southampton, New York. There, Chase and his students painted out-of-doors (en plein air), exploring the boundary between perceptual truth and the subjective impressionistic approach of capturing light as it strikes the eye. Lacking the theoretical base of French Impressionism, American Impressionism was rooted more deeply in felt response to the landscape, rendered in a traditional compositional scheme, with a clear foreground, middle ground and background. What Onderdonk shares with the French Impressionists is the love of painting out-of-doors, the exploration of the times of day, an interest in capturing the play of light on canvas, and the subjective filtering of the landscape through the eyes of the artist.

Julian Onderdonk, A Spring Morning, Bluebonnets, San Antonio, 1913
Private Collection

Julian Onderdonk’s bluebonnet paintings stand as important examples of a moment of transition in American art. They also represent a burgeoning concern with place and regional identity, subjects that became increasingly important within the context of American art in the decades after his death in 1922. ~DH

Paintings by Robert and Julian Onderdonk will fill three galleries of the Ogden's Goldring Hall through January 2, 2011.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection

the brown & green collection from Crunchy Bugs Creative on Vimeo.
Interview by David Houston.
Video by J. Elliott Houston

The Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art was the first major body of work added to the museum’s permanent collection after Roger Ogden’s founding donation.Inspired by the collections of friends, Brown began seriously acquiring art for himself in the 1970s, a moment when the art world was in a major period of transition, and the art of New Orleans was experiencing a new trend of narrative painting, invigorated by the use of exuberant color. This trajectory - colorful paintings with a strong, clear narrative – became the focal point of Brown’s collecting, and this body of work chronicles several important artists working in New Orleans that define the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Fred Trenchard, Self Portrait While Dreaming of a Day at the Beach, Circa 1971

The sculpture in this collection represents the opposite trajectory of the paintings: far more purist and minimal, with clean lines and a straightforward articulation in metals and wood.

Steve Arthur Prince, Untitled, 1990

In the 1970s, Brown married Linda Greene, herself a collector and art lover. The shared collection continued to grow, resulting in this generous donation. This collection is one of several which, like the Roger Houston Ogden Collection, retains a distinct identity within the museum’s larger permanent collection.

Robert Warrens, I Cried a River Over You, 1975

This exhibition of works from the Michael Brown and Linda Green Collection will be on view through January 2, 2011. Filling three galleries, the exhibition includes works by Peter Dean, Robert Warrens, Frederich Trenchard, Justin Forbes, Noel Rockmore, Roland Golden, Arthur Silverman, Steve Prince, Martin Payton, Jose Torres-Tama,Robert Childers, Jack Gates, Gina LaGuna, William Ludwig, Molly Mason, Jesus Moroles, John Scott, and Clifton Webb.

Justin Forbes, Cooling Off, 1994

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Walker Evans' Louisiana: Photographs from the Collection of Jessica Lange

Walker Evans
[Greek Revival Townhouse with Men Seated in Dourway, New Orleans]
March 1935
Silver gelatin print

Walker Evans is recognized as the most important and influential American photographer of his generation. Working in what he called the “vernacular style,” Evans forged an approach that preferred the everyday to the precious and the factual over the artful. Although he often photographed inanimate objects, with architecture and signage being among his most lasting subjects, he also captured the harsh realities of American life in the grips of the Great Depression. John Szarkowski, long time curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, observed in Looking at Photographs (1973):

“Evans's work seemed at first almost the antithesis of art. It was puritanically economical, precisely measured, frontal, unemotional, dryly textured, insistently factual, qualities that seemed more appropriate to a bookkeeper's ledger than to art. But in time it became clear that Evans's pictures, however laconic in manner, were immensely rich in expressive content. His work constitutes a personal survey of the interior resources of the American tradition, a survey based on a sensibility that found poetry and complexity where most earlier travelers had found only drab statistics or fairy tales.”

The works in the Ogden Museum’s current exhibition were taken during two sequential trips to Louisiana in 1935 and 1936. The first, funded by Gifford Cochran, was to form the basis of a never-realized book on antebellum Southern architecture, and the second, just after Evans began working for the Farm Service Agency of Roosevelt’s New Deal, captured the architecture of New Orleans, the plantations of River Road, New Iberia, and the areas outside of Baton Rouge. His primary tool was an 8X10 view camera, supplemented by a 5x7 Speed Graphic and a Leica 35mm. Many of these vintage prints show variations from later prints, and some are examples of simple mistakes. Evans discussed these errors in a diary entry from this time, where he observed that most of the negatives were “… very successful, very exciting, some very good, some shocking errors. Tend to overexpose, tend to raise the lens board too much, leaving corner rings.” Some of these mistakes have become a part of the larger photographic language, and are sometimes purposefully emulated by subsequent photographers.

The photographs of the American South constitute a major body of work within Evans’ life work. He immediately began exhibiting his Louisiana photographs, and many of them have been regularly included in subsequent exhibitions and publications. Evans’ best known photographs of the South were made in Hale County, Alabama in July and August of 1936, and published in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941), with text by James Agee. Although the subject of the South waned in Evans’ output after his leaving the Farm Services Agency in 1938, his connection to New Orleans remained strong. During his first trip to New Orleans, he met Paul and Jane Ninas at the Arts and Crafts Club in the French Quarter. Jane, herself an artist, became Evans’ guide during his two trips in the mid-thirties, and in 1941, became the first wife of Walker Evans, until they divorced in 1955.

Walker Evans

[Woodlawn Plantation, Belle Chase, Louisiana]

March 1935

Silver gelatin print

The architectural photographs in this exhibition follow the same model as his architectural photographs shot in Cuba two years before in 1933. Objective, frontal and documentary in intent, these photographs are a testament to the ebb-and-flow of endurance and loss of the architectural fabric of Louisiana. ~ David Houston, 2010

Walker Evans’ Louisiana: Photographs from the Collection of Jessica Lange will be on display through January 2, 2011 on the third floor of the Ogden’s Goldring Hall. All works are generously on loan from Jessica Lange, who is not only a talented actress, but a skilled and accomplished photographer herself. Special thanks are also owed to Joshua Mann Pailet and A Gallery for Fine Photography, New Orleans.