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Beyond the Frame, Impressionism Revisited: The Sculptures of J. Seward Johnson, Jr.

May 8 through August 7, 2005

 

(above: Sculptor J. Seward Johnson, Jr. in his studio surrounded by the clay life-scale "people" that will become his l9-figure piece Were You Invited?, inspired by Renoir's  Luncheon of the Boating Party.   @2001 J. Seward Johnson, Jr. and The Sculpture Foundation.  Photo by Christopher Boas.)

 

I use my art to convince you of something that isn't real.

You laugh at yourself because you were taken in,

and in that change of your perception,

you become vulnerable to the piece

and intimate with it in a certain way.

- J. Seward Johnson, Jr.

 

Beyond the Frame, Impressionism Revisited: The Sculptures of J. Seward Johnson, Jr., one of the most unusual exhibitions ever presented in this area, opens at Nassau County Museum of Art (NCMA) on Sunday, May 8 and remains on view through Sunday, August 7. The exhibition,  sponsored at NCMA by Dr. Harvey Manes, broke all attendance records in its Washington showing. Beyond the Frame will only be seen in the New York area at Nassau County Museum of Art. (right: Were You Invited?, Inspired by Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, ©2001, J. Seward Johnson, Jr. and The Sculpture Foundation. Photo by Christopher Boas)

The greatest masterpieces of Impressionism come alive through the incomparable works of sculptor J. Seward Johnson, Jr. In Beyond the Frame, Johnson appropriates two-dimensional Impressionist works and reimagines them in his three-dimensional format using such works as Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party, Manet's Olympia and Van Gogh's Bedroom, among others. His highly-detailed superrealistic interpretations of these works, bringing them beyond the limitations of canvas and often beyond the originals which inspired them, present a convincing, even arresting, sense of immediacy, inviting viewers to physically interact with his art, walking around and through the installations so as to examine the environments from different vantage points.

The exhibition fills all two floors of NCMA's galleries and also extends outdoors onto the magnificent grounds of museum's 145-acre property. Pondering the Benefits of Exercise, Johnson's recreation of Renoir's Rower's Lunch, is planned to be sited so that the museum's pond serves as the work's watery backdrop, and a hillside is to be the setting for On Poppied Hill, Johnson's interpretation of two works by Monet:  Figures on Hilltop and Poppies.

Originally a painter, J. Seward Johnson, Jr. turned his talents to sculpture in 1968. His famed lifesize cast bronze figures have been exhibited at major international museums and have been seen in such prominent public settings as Rockefeller Center in New York City and Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. They are also to be found in private collections throughout the world, from Istanbul, Turkey to Sydney, Australia. Johnson's celebrated works, detailed down to the buttons and folds of the each sculpture's "clothing," have been written about in important art journals as well as the Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Boston Globe.  (right: Welcome Home, Inspired by van Gogh's The Bedroom, ©1999, J. Seward Johnson, Jr. and The Sculpture Foundation. Photo by Ricardo Barros)

Due to the unusual nature of this exhibition, NCMA, for the first time ever, is offering several Behind the Scenes events in which participants will experience the actual installation of Johnson's vignettes. These unique lecture/walkthrough events, conducted while the museum is closed to the public, will take place on April 27, 28 & 29 and May 3, 4 & 6.

In addition to Behind the Scenes, NCMA is presenting an extensive schedule of public programming that will serve to expand and enhance the experience of viewing Beyond the Frame. Curator Franklin Hill Perrell offers Secrets of the Impressionists, a Saturday afternoon illustrated slide lecture and a Monday afternoon tea and talk series of Curatorial Chat in which each session is devoted to one of the Impressionists whose work is depicted by Seward Johnson. Call (516) 484-9338, ext. 12 for further information and reservations.

This exhibition is based on the exhibition originally presented by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 

(above: Oriental Fan, lifesized bronze, Inspired by Monet's La Japonaise, ©2000, J. Seward Johnson, Jr. and The Sculpture Foundation. Photo by Ricardo Barros)

 

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