Unsettling the Familiar

To accompany the work of Intersections artist Xavier Veilhan, curator of modern and contemporary art Vesela Sretenovic dipped into the permanent collection for some unexpected pieces. Veilhan’s work is somewhat puzzling and strange, she says, because it teases our perception and understanding  of what we see and think we know. He mixes representation and abstraction, organic and man-made materials, figures and landscapes, the familiar and the strange. This play of  seeming contradictions is evident in the installation in the Cafritz Gallery that welcomes visitors to the museum and will serve as entry to the Veilhan show.

Left to right: Alexander Archipenko, Standing Woman, 1920, Oil paint on gessoed papier-mâché on wood; 19 1/4 x 12 1/4 x 1 1/8 in.; 48.895 x 31.115 x 2.8575 cm.. Gift from the estate of Katherine S. Dreier, 1953; Alberto Giacometti, Monumental Head, 1960, Bronze; 37 1/2 x 11 x 10 in.; 95.25 x 27.94 x 25.4 cm.. Acquired 1962; Francis Bacon, Study of a Figure in a Landscape, 1952, Oil on canvas; 78 x 54 in.; 198.12 x 137.16 cm.. Acquired 1955. Below: James Casebere, Yellow Hallway #2, 2001, Digital chromogenic print; 48 x 60 1/8 in.; 121.92 x 152.7175 cm. Gift of the Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, DC, 2011;Juan Hamilton, Bruja, 1988, Bronze, red patina; 15 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 13 3/4 in.; 39.37 x 34.29 x 34.925 cm. Gift of Rosina Yue Smith, 1993. Photos: Joshua Navarro

Vesela embraced the eclecticism of both Veilhan’s oeuvre as well as our own collection. A new photography acquisition by James Casebere, Yellow Hallway #2, makes its debut next to a little-seen work by Juan Hamilton, Bruja, 1988. The shimmery, flooded space of the photograph looks otherworldly next to the very earthy mound of Bruja, perhaps referencing Veilhan’s gift for distortion and yet still holding on to simple abstract shapes. The figure is represented by a trio in a variety of styles and materials: Alexander Archipenko’s assemblage Standing Woman, 1920, Francis Bacon’s painting Study of a Figure in a Landscape, 1952, and Alberto Giacometti’s bronze sculpture Monumental Head, 1960. Photographs by Brett Weston and Berenice Abbott will speak to Veilhan’s exploration in photography and landscape. And last, but certainly not least, is Naum Gabo’s Linear Construction in Space No. 1 (Variation), 1943, of which Vesela cannot say enough. The simple, beautiful form is an exercise in optics or, to paraphrase Veilhan himself, in “deep looking.”

Naum Gabo, Linear Construction in Space No. 1 (Variation), 1943, Lucite with nylon thread; 24 1/8 x 24 1/4 x 9 7/8 in.; 61.2775 x 61.595 x 25.0825 cm.. Acquired 1948, photos by Paul Strand and Brett Weston.

A Surprise Around Every Corner

A new permanent collection installation greeted visitors to the Phillips last week right when they walked through the double glass doors into the galleries. What’s on view? A 1960 sculpture by Alberto Giacometti, a 1952 painting by Francis Bacon, a 2001 photograph by James Casebere, and a 1988 sculpture by Juan Hamilton. This group of works will remain on view throughout the winter.

(works in the permanent collection from left) Francis Bacon, Study of a Figure in a Landscape, 1952; Alberto Giacometti, Monumental Head, 1960; James Casebere, Yellow Hallway #2, 2001; Juan Hamilton, Bruja, 1988. Photo: Joshua Navarro

(works in the permanent collection from left) Francis Bacon, Study of a Figure in a Landscape, 1952; Alberto Giacometti, Monumental Head, 1960; James Casebere, Yellow Hallway #2, 2001; Juan Hamilton, Bruja, 1988. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Phillips Flashback: February 1963

Entrance to the 1960 annex with Giacometti exhibition, 1963. Photo from Phillips Collection Archives.

Giacometti opens on February 7, 1963, comprising 37 sculptures. From this show, Monumental Head (1960) is purchased for the collection. In his introduction to the catalogue, Duncan Phillips writes of Alberto Giacometti:

Out of all this creative exploration there emerges one constant – one single ‘artistic personality’ – Berenson’s sine qua non. It is to be found in [Giacometti's] every period. It is the image of a human being, miniature or massive, the image of a lonely estranged presence beyond specific description.