Published: September 26, 2006
The Katonah Museum of Art presents two independent exhibitions on view to December 31 that explore iconic female forms from the past and the present. “Ancient Art of the Cyclades” is only the fourth exhibition ever organized in the United States devoted to the vibrant and remarkably enduring crafts traditions that took hold in the Greek Cyclades Islands during the third millennium BCE.
Today’s idols are drawn almost exclusively from the realm of popular culture rather than from any religious context. “Wonder Women: Idols in Contemporary Art” presents images of women from the film industry, pop music and fashion — some highly recognizable, others of cult figures or fantasy characters — who have been transformed from mere mortals into beings of mythic stature.
“By pairing these two exhibitions the museum is giving viewers a chance to make connections between art and society, between art from two very different cultures and to contemplate what endures from past centuries and what may endure from our own time,” says executive director Neil Watson.
Guest curator and scholar Pat Getz-Gentle is the leading expert in the study and authentication of Cycladic objects. For “Ancient Art of the Cyclades” she has brought together works from a dozen museums and from 16 private collections. These pieces are not frequently exhibited in public and they are being presented at a time when there is much controversy surrounding the ownership of ancient objects from this region and era.
“With all of the legal battles and accusations revolving around antiquities,” says Watson, “the museum is especially pleased to have received a substantial grant from The J.F. Costopoulos Foundation, which is based in Athens and comes with the endorsement of the Greek Ministry of Finance.”
The significance of having the experience of viewing these precious objects in person cannot be underestimated. Only “in the flesh” can one fully appreciate the beauty of the stone and the subtleties of form and detail that are the most arresting qualities of Cycladic figurative and receptive sculpture,” says Getz-Gentle in the catalog that accompanies this exhibit. “Ancient Art of the Cyclades” brings together an exceptional collection of prehistoric iconic figures and stone vessels that are enduring mementoes from a long lost culture. They were first discovered in the early Nineteenth Century and have been cited as inspirational by Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani and other masters of modern art.
“Wonder Women: Idols in Contemporary Art” has been curated by Suzanne Ramljak, an independent curator and editor of Metalsmith magazine, who has written and lectured widely on Twentieth Century art. For “Wonder Women” she selected paintings, photographs, prints and video works that examine worship of feminine idols. Many of the images in “Wonder Women” are of highly recognizable women — Marilyn, Madonna, Barbie — while a few represent cult figures or fantasy characters. Together the works shine a spotlight on the process and trappings of deification, as mere mortals are transformed into beings of mythic stature. Included are works by Candace Breitz, Renee Cox, Mary Beth Edelson, Audrey Flack, David Levinthal, Mel Ramos and Andy Warhol.
Katonah Museum of Art is on Route 22 at Jay Street. For information, 914-232-9555 or www.katonahmuseum.org.
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