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What Does This Mean? The Narrative Tradition

July 22 - October 1, 2006

 

This summer and early fall the Tampa Museum of Art will showcase What Does This Mean? The Narrative Tradition, the last in a series of three special exhibitions organized to provide visitors with an opportunity to engage in issues and ideas raised by the museum's permanent collection. What Does This Mean? The Narrative Tradition, on view July 22 - October 1, 2006, will encourage visitors to actively look at how we construct meaning from such elements as images, words, associations, and metaphors.

This exhibition series was made possible by a 2004 Museums for America grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). According to Tampa Museum of Art Interim Executive Director Ken Rollins, "The Tampa Museum of Art is honored to have been selected for this prestigious award and we look forward to applying the information we learn to our mission of promoting lifelong learning."

The 56 works of art featured in this exhibition will encourage visitors to identify the processes of construction and deconstruction that often take place in understanding artwork. Because artists choose a variety of methods to construct narratives and visual literacy in their work, sub-themes such as "What are the Ways to Construct a Story?," "What Happened?," and "Fact or Fiction: Is It Real, Imaginary, or Fake?" are also explored. Core objects from the museum's permanent collection and outside loans from regional collections such as The John and Mable Ringling Museum and the Margulies Collection in Miami, as well as prominent national museums and galleries, will fill the exhibition.   

Some artists juxtapose words with pictures to invoke a reaction or question a viewer's interpretation of images, such as the photographs of Duane Michals and Barbara Kruger, or the prints of Carrie Mae Weems. Other artists, like Jenny Holzer, use words alone as the subject of their artwork. Still other artists rely simply on images to imply a story, such as Eric Fischl and Ruth Orkin. Video by Tony Oursler and photographs by James Casebere and Jerry Uelsmann will explore artifice through photographic sets and models while surrealist images by Kenny Scharf and Joel-Peter Witkin will offer alternative realities.

The Narrative Tradition also will be explored through scenes depicted on Greek vases from the museum's permanent collection of Greek and Roman antiquities. These narrative scenes and mythological creatures represent aspects of Greek mythology first recorded in Greek literature.

"Organizing three exhibitions within a one-year period has provided fascinating opportunities for the museum to explore and refine topical themes, to assess the future directional growth of the museum's collections, and to develop and critique winning installation designs," says Elaine D. Gustafson, director of exhibitions &collections and curator of contemporary art. The IMLS grant also provides the Tampa Museum of Art with the opportunity to develop different interpretative media ­ from label copy and interpretative tours to participatory activity stations ­ all of which allow the museum to explore how people experience art exhibitions.

The IMLS exhibition series began with Why Was This Made? Understanding Form and Function (April 17 ­ July 10, 2005), followed by Who Am I? Exploring Identity (October 9 ­ January 8, 2006).

 

(above: Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988), Blowing Smoke Rings, after 1950. Etching. Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of the Sybiel B. Berkman Foundation 2000.51)

 

(above: Kenny Scharf (American, born 1958), Galaxiverse, 1998. Two-color line etching and aquatint print on paper. Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Jeanne Rozier Winter 2000.17)

 

(above: Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934), Untitled (Flying Figure). Silver gelatin print. Tampa Museum of Art. Museum purchase in honor of Benjamin E. Norbom, President of the Board,1988-1989 1989.37)


(above: Sandy Skoglund (American, born 1946), Germs are Everywhere, 1986. Dye destruction/ cibachrome. Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange 1989.21)

 

(above: Richard Ross (American, born 1947), Polar Bear, Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1995. Color coupler print. Tampa Museum of Art. Museum Purchase with funds provided by the Frank E. Duckwall Endowment Fund within the Community Foundation 2001.27)

 

NARRATIVE LABELS FROM THE EXHIBITION

 

Theme One: What are the Ways to Construct a Story?

 

Shusaku Arakawa (Japanese/American, born 1936)
The Sharing of Nameless, 1984-86
Color lithograph and screen print with embossing
Edition 47 of 60
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Franzblau 1987.1
 
Arakawa and his wife Madeline Gins work in many printmaking media as well as in filmmaking, video, sculpture, painting, and architecture. They typically meld the disciplines of physics, metaphysics, phenomenology, semiotics, and philosophy in their work to examine human thought. This print explores human awareness through its use of color, line, text, and graphics.
 
 
Abel Barroso (Cuban, born 1971)
Tabaco con ideologia (Cigars with Ideology), 2001
Handmade Spanish cedar bas-relief "cigar box" with
woodblock print (inside lid) and lithograph scroll-print
(inside box) viewed by turning two hand-carved crank
handles
Edition XXXV/XLX
Courtesy of Sara and Mort Richter
 
A meticulous craftsman, Barroso creates playful works that often invite the viewer to interact. In this work he combined printmaking with sculpture to produce a biting and humorous commentary on contemporary Cuban life. Tabaco con ideologia (Cigars with Ideology) is an authentic cedar cigar box carved by the artist that contains a scroll that can be hand-cranked to reveal in sequence a story of Cuba, the United States and cigars. It also serves as a poignant reminder of the deep historical ties between Tampa and Cuba, particularly the once-thriving cigar industry that existed in Ybor.
 
 
Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988)
1960 Yellow Door, 1983
Oil, oil stick, color Xerox on paperboard collage with metal collage and collaged wood on painted door with nails
Courtesy of Maureen and Doug Cohn
 
Basquiat extracted subject matter from personal experiences, art history, African-American history, politics and pop culture. He painted loosely, often depicting skeletal figures and mask-like faces that expressed his obsession with mortality. Other frequently depicted imagery such as cars, buildings, police, children's sidewalk games, and graffiti came from his experience living on the streets of New York City. With its complex iconography and integration of text and images, his artwork is not only unique but enigmatic as well. The artist once said "I would cross out words so you'll see them more. The fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them."
 
The surface of 1960 Yellow Door is dense with writing and seemingly unrelated imagery, some of it collaged onto the painting's surface. The overall composition reveals Basquiat's strong interest in his black and Haitian identity as well as his identification with historical and contemporary black figures and events.
 
 
Alexander Calder (American, 1898-1976)
Untitled (Circus Performers), about 1930s
Watercolor and ink
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Regina O'Brien 2000.44
 
In 1923 Alexander Calder took a job illustrating for the National Police Gazette, which sent him to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to sketch circus scenes for two weeks in 1925. The circus thereafter became a lifelong interest of Calder's.
 
This watercolor is a significant example of Calder's favorite motif and illustrates his talent for conveying narrative through the simple means of line and color washes. Unbroken lines not only delineate the circus performers but also convey their movements and energy. The drawing has a light, humorous feeling to it, which is likewise characteristic of Calder.
 
 
Jim Campbell (American, born 1956)
Suite of four prints, 2003
Dynamism of an Automobile (after Luigi Russolo)
Dynamism of a Cyclist 2001 (after Umberto Boccioni)
Dynamism of a Cow
Dynamism of an Observer in the Weeds
Digital inkjet prints
Edition 29 of 50
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Ina Schnell 2006.23.1-.4
 
To create these four images, Jim Campbell fed 2-3 minutes of video or film imagery through a computer, collected every "bit" of information, and then printed it all at once into a still photograph. The result is a blurring effect that gives the appearance of motion. The images are updated variations on Italian Futurism (an art movement in Italy in the 1920s that sought to capture the dynamism of life in a still image) and also related to quantum physics' Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. As the viewer attempts to move closer to the images to bring them into focus, they become less legible as the distance decreases. As a result tension exists between the content of the print s and their surfaces.
 
 
Lesley Dill (American, born 1950)
Poem Dress of Circulation, 1994
Multimedia assemblage lithographed
USF Proof
Courtesy of the University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum
 
Lesley Dill pairs fragments of poetry by Emily Dickinson with her own images of the human body to generate thought-provoking works of art. By combining words with images, the fragile with the indestructible, the handmade with the mass-produced, Dill creates evocative works of art that suggest elusive, layered meanings. In addition to the text, part of Poem Dress of Circulation's emotional effect is derived from the image of the heart and the vein-like offshoots. The wrinkled dress that the text is printed on suggests the seemingly fragile yet resounding effects that the spoken word can have.
 
 
Howard Finster (American, 1916-2001)
Elvis at Three and a Half, 1991
Serigraph
Edition 84 of 90
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Ray Kass 1992.31.1
 
One of the most noted folk artists of the 20th century, Reverend Howard Finster was both an artist and an unabashed Baptist evangelist. It is through his artwork that he preached. In his images -- essentially painted sermons -- Finster included exuberant religious text along with apocryphal signs and colorful popular culture icons as a way to spread the word of God.
 
 
Simone Gad (Belgian/American, born 1947)
Esther Williams Water Ballet, 1980
Mixed media
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of the artist in memory of Jimmy Spheeres, John Gilston, and Monique Girard 1984.68
 
Since the early 1970s Simone Gad has explored the subject of Hollywood stars in both visual and performing art. (Gad grew up the daughter of an over-demanding stage mother who initiated her daughter's show-biz career at the age of 4.) Her early tableau-installations show her interest in combining found objects, mannequins, and Pop themes to create unique visual statements that relate to the life or image of the star depicted.
 
Composed of a child's wading pool, water toys, and a sunburned mannequin relaxing with her toy poodle on an ironing board (as opposed to a diving board) and wearing dark sunglasses and a camera around her neck, this kitschy expressionist/pop assemblage is a tribute to 1950s Hollywood icon Esther Williams, as well as to the human spirit that continues to keep going even when it appears pointless. The installation ultimately serves as both a celebration and parody of stardom and America's obsessive fascination with it.
 
 
David Hockney (British, born 1937)
Christopher Isherwood Talking to Bob Holman, Santa Monica,
March 14, 1983, 1983
Collage of 98 color photographs
Courtesy of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Museum purchase, 1986 SN8970
 
In the early 1980s, Hockney began experimenting with the camera, making large composite images of Polaroid photographs arranged in a rectangular grid format. Later, as here, he used regular 35-millimeter, commercially processed color prints to create photocollages, compiling a 'complete' picture from a series of individually photographed details. The subject would actually move while being photographed so that the piece would show his/her movements seen from the photographer's perspective. (In later works Hockney changed his technique and moved the camera around the subject instead.) Because these photos were taken at slightly different times and show movement, the resulting image has an affinity with cubism and the way human vision works. The impression is that the viewer is in the room, witnessing the narrative.
 
 
David Hockney (British, born 1937)
Panama Hat, 1972
Etching and aquatint
Edition IX/L
Courtesy of Dr. Bernard and Sharon Stein
 
David Hockney is an English painter, draftsman, printmaker, filmmaker, and set and costume designer known for his penetrating portraits of contemporary personalities and depictions of the lifestyle and landscape of Los Angeles. His large body of graphic work, concentrating on etching and lithography, in itself justifies his important place in modern British art.
 
 
Barbara Kruger (American, born 1945)
Untitled (Who will write the history of tears?), 1991
Photographic silkscreen on vinyl
Courtesy of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Museum purchase, 1991 MF 91.1
 
Barbara Kruger assimilates information taken from popular culture and the mass media and combines it into bold artworks that critique gender roles and power structures. Relying on the graphic punch of strong reds and blacks, terse language, and aggressive design, Kruger confronts the viewer with provocative ideas and witty reversals.
 
 
Rebecca Sexton Larson (American, born 1959)
Lost Letters, 1996
Oil on gelatin silver print on paper
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Gregg Thomas, Chairman's Annual Gift 1999.15
 
Rebecca Sexton Larson utilizes the written word in combination with photographic images to create powerful narratives that examine family structures and personal relationships. Unlike most photographers, Larson paints over her images and occasionally stitches poignant text onto their surfaces with thread. Because Larson uses a pinhole camera, her images have a soft, ethereal quality rather than sharp details, a by-product of the long exposure time needed. This quality is further embellished by the application of oil paint (applied with Q-tips and cotton balls) and pencil. Here, two photographs have been juxtaposed to evoke a narrative. The items depicted-old love letters, a vintage photograph, the exterior of a house, a dress, and elements of nature ---all relate to her personal history and memories, but are also universal. As Larson creates layers of images, paint and text, she investigates the impact of time and context in understanding the past.
 
 
Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923-1997)
As I Open Fire (Triptych), 1966
Offset lithographs
Unnumbered edition
Courtesy of Vincent and Sylvia Sorrentino
 
Famous for his Pop art style that he developed in the early 1960s, Roy Lichtenstein typically depicted banal objects of modern commerce and mass media, such as enlarged comic strips showing printing with Ben-day dots, talk balloons, and exclamations. His works usually are large scale, employ a limited color scheme (the primaries), and are depicted in thick outlines and in a neutral deadpan manner. Most of his best-known works are close, but not exact, copies of comic book panels, a subject he largely abandoned in the mid-1960s. This three-part print features a fighter aircraft firing its guns in a dazzling red and yellow fury. Rather than actually depicting the subject matter, Lichtenstein shows it the way mass media would portray it. The cartoon style is heightened by the use of the onomatopoetic lettering BRAT! and the boxed captions.
 
 
Brian Magee (American, born 1942)
A Song for the Hearing Impaired, 1983
Gelatin silver print montage
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Anita Suchocki in memory of Anthony J. Suchocki 1990.38.a-d
 
This black-and-white photo-collage consists of four panels that are meant to be read visually in sequence. Known as a rebus, it is a puzzle composed of words or syllables that appear in the form of pictures. Each sentence is made up of a series of photographs attached by photo-mount corners to the backboard. Each panel is read visually from left to right, with blank spaces indicating the end of each sentence. Unfortunately, the text still remains a mystery.
 
 
Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954)
Marie-Jose in Yellow Dress, 1950
Aquatint
Courtesy of Dr. Bernard and Sharon Stein
 
After becoming ill with cancer, Matisse frequently worked from his bed. One of his later projects involved making brush drawings created with broad sweeps of black with no color and no surface detailing. In seeking to find an even more dense black for his "monochrome paintings," Matisse learned the technique of sugar-lift aquatint. Working on prepared copper plates he could draw with his brush and the dilute sugar solution directly on to the plates while seated or in bed. When the plates were bitten in the acid bath and inked, the stroke created a line of deep intense black with all the vitality and variation of the touch of the brush.
 
This aquatint, with its broad but expressive strokes and unmatched simplicity, is recognized as one of Matisse's greatest prints. The artist made several impressions of it, apart from the editions he printed in color.
 
 
John "Crash" Matos
K'AM, 1990
Screenprint
Edition 2 of 99
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Martin and Estelle Karlin 2003.5
 
A pioneer of the Graffiti art movement, Matos spray painted murals on subway cars, basketball courts, and on the walls of buildings in dilapidated New York neighborhoods. Through these actions, he created a visual link between street life and established society. K'AM combines the stylistic approach of graffiti-for example, overlapping compositional elements at different angles and using text--with Pop art imagery. Like Roy Lichtenstein, he uses onomatopoetic lettering to heighten the work's visual impact.
 
 
Duane Michals (American, born 1932)
Christ in New York, 1981
Gelatin silver print
Edition 9 of 25
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange
1989.28.a-.f
 
Duane Michals creates highly personal stories by arranging photographs into sequences and painting over the images and/or adding text. The sequenced imagery signify moments in time temporarily interrupted and encapsilated. These tableaux evoke the passage of time and make real the invisible reality of relationships, emotions, and fantasies.
 
 
Kathie Olivas (American, born 1976)
Violent Violet, 2000
Encaustic on wood
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Jim and Barbra Beeler in memory of James N. Beeler, Sr. 2000.34
 
Using literary text and imagery that tends to be deeply feminine, Olivas explores issues of identity in her work. The literary fragments and obscured text, in combination with the masked "character," are meant to evoke a reaction in the viewer, one that is both comfortably familiar and questionably introspective.
 
 
Tony Oursler (American, born 1957)
Colors, 1995
Video installation
Courtesy of the Collection of Martin Z. Margulies
 
Unlike other media artists, Tony Oursler projects video of talking heads onto sculptural elements. The visitor can listen to part or all of the dialogue (scripts written by Oursler but performed by others), and can start at the beginning or come in in the middle. The visitor can't help but focus on the face, which reflects and spouts a plethora of emotions, ranging from bliss to awe. At times the talking head seems to be laughing, at other times, crying. Ultimately it is up to the viewer to determine what the head is describing and the installation's overall meaning.
 
 
Hollis Sigler
If She Could Free Her Heart to Her Wildest Desires, 1982
6-color lithographic, folded multiple printed on white arches cover
Edition IV/XXXXV
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Jeanne Rozier Winter 2000.24
 
Paper engineering contributes to this print's interesting aesthetic and technical effects. If She Could Free Her Heart to Her Wildest Desires is presented in the form of a pop-up book. When the book is opened, the treasure chest and wolves "pop up." Sigler's naive drawing style adds considerable charm to the work, while the print's overall message addresses feminist issues of desire and fear of fulfillment.
 
 
Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960)
Two Pairs, 1997
Photogravure
Edition 11 of 50
Courtesy of the Polk Museum of Art, Permanent Collection Graphicstudio Subscription Purchase 1997.18
 
Lorna Simpson was one of the first artists to explore text/image art. In her work she tackles issues of identity, gender, and social dynamics that are generated by the visual clues she provides and by the viewers's assumptions about them. This particular work is about looking and piecing together information for comprehension, but at the same time not being sure of exactly what is being seen. To convey this idea, Simpson depicted two different pairs of binoculars divided by text. The binoculars represent both the presence and absence of the figure while the text dividing the composition delineates various scenarios and the different ways of interpreting them.
 
 
Kiki Smith (American, born 1954)
The Vitreous Body, 2000
With adapted translation of "The Way of Seeming" by Parmenides
Heliorelief (woodcut) on handmade paper with hand cuts
Edition 9 of 120
Courtesy of the Polk Museum of Art, Permanent Collection Graphicstudio Subscription Purchase through the Kent Harrison Memorial Acquisition Fund 2001.10.1
 
Known primarily as a sculptor, Kiki Smith has also devoted herself to printmaking and book art. The recurrent subject matter in all of Smith's work has been the human body as a repository and metaphor for knowledge, belief, and storytelling.
 
Starting in the 1980s, Smith began creating artworks based on internal organs, cellular forms, and the human nervous system. The Vitreous Body pairs images of the inner eye with text about vision and the cosmos by the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides. As the pages turn, the images progress closer and closer to the eye's center. Throughout, the translucent paper and the cutout pages underscore the theme of vision. As in all of Smith's art, The Vitreous Body renders the human body in frank, non-heroic terms, expressing its dual aspects of vulnerability and strength.
 
 
Mitchell Syrop (American, born 1953)
Lift and Separate, 1984
Gelatin silver print triptych
Tampa Museum of Art. Museum purchase, 1990.19.a-.c
 
Mitchell Syrop embraces the form of advertising, but only to question it. His photographs look like slick, seductive advertisements, but it is under this guise that he investigates the way advertisers construct meaning. Conditioned to the notion that a caption sheds light on the accompanying image, viewers automatically compare Syrop's short familiar slogan to the seemingly unrelated pictures. The shifting connections that result expose the many meanings language and imagery can carry, depending upon their context. Ultimately the viewer is challenged to find the meaning behind the piece.
 
 
Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953)
Not Manet's Type, 2000
Photolithograph
Courtesy of Segura Publishing Company, Inc.
 
Known for her sometimes biting use of humor, Weems employs narrative structures and a choreographed cast of props and characters to explore and disclose stereotypes of race and gender. Weems creates works of art that relate to or derive from African American culture in order to comment on racism and difficult topics seldom addressed in mainstream media.
 
 
Red-Figure Krater
A: Battle of Greeks and Amazons, Death of Semele, Dionysos with Hermes and Nymphs
B: Dionysos and Ariadne Flanked by Erotes; Naiskos Scene of Mounted Oscan Warrior Flanked by Two Pairs of Men and Women
Attributed to the Arpi Painter
Greek, Apulian, 310-300 BC
Ceramic
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Sahlman 1987.36
 
This large krater is an excellent example of the Greeks' gift for using attributes to create a visual narrative. For example, the bolt of lightning on the top center of the second register symbolizes Zeus, and the character to the left of center on the bottom register who wears winged shoes and carries a caduceus wand is Hermes, the messenger of the gods. The child at the center of the bottom register is surrounded with bunches of grapes and floral motifs, attributes associated with the god Dionysos. The costumed character to the far right of the scene is dressed as a wooly satyr, offering another clue about the story portrayed on the vase. Combined, these symbols describe a stage production of the myth about the birth of Dionysos, the god of wine and celebration.
 
On the other side of the krater mourners are shown at the shrine of an Oscan warrior. A reclining Dionysos and his consort Ariadne are depicted on the neck. If the narrative scenes on both sides of the krater are considered together then this vase was perhaps a funeral offering to someone who loved to attend the theater and had a particular liking for the play depicted on the front side of the vase.
 
 
Statuette of a Bird Actor
Character from Aristophanes' Birds
Greek, about 300 BC
Terracotta
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Knight Zewadski, to be shared jointly with the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta 1988.34.10
 
Sometimes a single image can recall an entire story. This terracotta statuette, for instance, probably represents a chorus member from the comedy Birds, written by the famous playwright Aristophanes and produced in 414 BC. The twenty-four-member chorus in Birds was made up of performers in costumes designed to look like a variety of birds. Which bird this statuette portrays is hard to say, but as a souvenir, it would surely have triggered its owner's memory of the entire performance.
 

 

Theme Two: What Happened?

 
Milton Avery (American, 1893-1965)
Fishing Scene, not dated
Ink on paper
Courtesy of Dr. Bernard and Sharon Stein
 
Largely self-taught as an artist and a steadfast admirer of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Milton Avery favored simplified forms and flat, luminous colors over meticulous details. Avery sketched constantly, and his drawings of family and friends served as the subjects for nearly all his paintings. This peaceful fishing scene is indicative of Avery's joyous response to the world around him.
 
 
Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988)
Girl Blowing Smoke Rings, 1945
Etching
Edition XXV/XXV
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of the Sybiel B. Berkman Foundation 2000.51
 
Isabel Bishop was a leading printmaker during the first half of the 20th century. Her principal subject matter was anonymous, urban, working-class women, depicted singularly or in groups, as they went about their everyday activities in New York City. Along with fellow artists Kenneth Hays Miller and Reginald Marsh, she captured the character and fleetingness of such everyday events as taking the subway or eating at a lunch counter. However her insight and ability to capture the unspoken language of the human face and body rendered her work unique. Looking at Girl Blowing Smoke Rings, one easily perceives the woman's pensive mood.
 
 
Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988)
Girls at Counter, about 1940s
Etching with gray wash
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of the Sybiel B. Berkman Foundation 2000.54
 
 
Eileen Cowin (American, born 1947)
Untitled (The Bathers), 1987
Dye destruction print (Cibachrome)
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange, 1989.22
 
The narrative behind this image is left to the viewer's imagination. The female figure, inspired by the 19th-century painting of a Turkish bather by the French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (Nude from the Back), appears as a voluptuous yet vulnerable object of desire. The man is a stock character from a film noir. The high-gloss black background both isolates and connects the two figures, whose self-conscious poses and parallel relationship suggest the tribulations of contemporary life. The mystery and disquiet of the drama forces the viewer to bring personal experience to the issues the drama suggests -- for example, male/female relationships, alienation, aging, joy, and pain.
 
 
Louise Dahl-Wolfe (American, 1895-1989)
Night Bather I, 1939 (printed in 1983)
Gelatin silver print
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Knight Zewadski 1991.45.2
 
One of America's foremost fashion photographers, Louise Dahl-Wolfe worked for Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Sports Illustrated, among others. She spent most of her career documenting haute couture and photographing celebrities, and thus helped to define the post war look of American women: spirited, sophisticated, and above all, independent.
 
Dahl-Wolfe is known for taking her models out of the studio and into the real world, where they struck natural, comfortable poses and interacted with their environment. Here the model ironically mimics the pose of the sculpture in the foreground. Like the classical figure (Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty?), she appears to have been caught unaware.
 
 
Eric Fischl (American, 1948)
Untitled (Woman with Dog), 1989
Aquatint etching
Edition 52 of 100
Courtesy of Vincent and Sylvia Sorrentino
 
Much of Eric Fischl's work deals with the anxiety and discontent found in suburbia. Fischl's provocative images suggest narrative stories, but obliquely and dispassionately. His figures are engaged in dramatic scenarios that oftentimes bear overt sexual overtones. Equally important, their relationships are unclear. As a result, the viewer feels like a voyeur, a reluctant and embarrassed witness who must construct meaning behind these powerful, psychological vignettes.
 
 
Gladys Shafran Kashdin (American, born 1921)
Card Players (Rainy Sunday), 1945
Oil on canvas
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Gladys Shafran Kashdin, Ph.D.
in honor of Ruth and R. Andrew Maass 2000.011
 
Gladys Kashdin's themes and styles have evolved throughout her career, ranging from social realist and abstract expressionist works to those based on philosophy, mythology, and ecology. This early painting shows the influence of cubism and the social realist movement popular in America in the mid-20th century. The two men are engaged in a common social activity for adults in post-WW II America.
 
 
Fletcher Martin (American, 1904-1979)
The Rural Family, 1934
Oil on wood
Courtesy of Dr. Bernard and Sharon Stein
 
Fletcher Martin was one of many artists who worked for the government's Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. United by a desire to use art to promote social change, these artists sympathized with the labor movement and with the plight of the rural poor. Many were inspired by artists of the Mexican mural movement; Martin, himself, was influenced by David Alfaro Siqueiros, whom he assisted on a mural project.
 
The Rural Family sensitively draws upon the lives and struggles of the farming community. Although Martin's artistic skills were largely self-taught, he taught art at the University of Florida as well as the State University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota, San Antonio Art Institute, and Washington State University.
 
 
Ruth Orkin (Americna , 1921-1985)
American Girl in Italy, 1952 (printed 1980)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Gift of Paulette and Kurt Olden, 1986 MF86.53
 
American Girl in Italy is Ruth Orkin's best-known image. A photojournalist for many major magazines including Life, Look, Horizon, and Ladies Home Journal, Orkin traveled to Israel in 1951 on assignment with the Israeli Philharmonic. After living in Israel for a few months, she continued her travels in Italy. In Florence, she met an art student in her hotel who became the subject for a picture story titled "Don't Be Afraid to Travel Alone." Orkin shot this timeless image at the Piazza del Repubblica. The photograph originally appeared in Cosmopolitan in September 1952, but is known throughout the world today.
 
 
Luis Gonzales Palma (Guatemalen, born 1957)
El Reves de las Entrega (The Opposite of the Surrender), 2005
Kodalith film, silver leaf, red paper and resin
Edition 3 of 10
Tampa Museum of Art. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Frank E. Duckwall Endowment within the Community Foundation 2005.20
 
This image mixes the realism of a photographic likeness with obscure narrative to create the impression of witnessing a dramatic moment in time. By posing his subjects in theatrical ways and transforming them with the addition of angel wings, thorns, roses, etc., Palma crafts mythic worlds that transcend time and place. In the past, he has torn, colored, and otherwise defaced his photographic prints to convey meaning as well. Here he uses silver leaf and encases the entire photograph in resin. The overall impression is of a young girl molded by sorrow and pain.
 
Richard Ross (American, born 1947)
Polar Bear, Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1995
Color coupler print
Edition 3 of 25
Tampa Museum of Art. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Frank E. Duckwall Endowment Fund within the Community Foundation 2001.27
 
Museums can be viewed as modern temples of learning or old-fashioned repositories. This paradox intrigues Richard Ross, who uses photography to focus on and ultimately question the museum's role as a cultural agent of representation: an institution whose exhibitions freeze ideas (what we're supposed to know), values (what we think is worth preserving), and objects in timeless-and often humorous-environments. Ross does not alter the objects or their settings, yet they seem to come to life. Here a taxidermal (stuffed!) polar bear relaxes in its display case behind an old fashioned heating unit. The irony of the juxtaposition as well as the anthropomorphized bear infuses the image with humor, melancholy, and nostalgia.
 
 
William Wegman (American, born 1942)
Waiting for Dinner, 1988
Dye diffusion print (Polaroid Polacolor II)
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange, 1989.40
 
William Wegman's Weimaraners ­ Man Ray, Fay Ray, and her puppies ­ have become part of the standard iconography of contemporary photography. Since 1970, Wegman has painted, photographed, and created videos of his dogs in a wide variety of witty, anthropomorphic tableaus. This large image of Fay Ray wryly comments on portraiture and the human condition. Fay's pose satirizes the conventions of portrait photography while Fay herself represents childhood qualities of innocence and purposeful play. In Waiting for Dinner, the absurdity of the situation prompts us, in a spirit of good humor, to question man's behavior and "real-life" conditions.
 
 
Black-Figure Kalpis
Theseus and the Minotaur
Attributed to the Painter of Vatican G-49
Greek, Attic, 490-480 BC
Ceramic
Tampa Museum of Art. Joseph Veach Noble Collection 1986.36
 
Shown on the white ground panel of this vessel is the moment when the legendary Athenian hero Theseus delivers the coup de grâce that destroys the evil Minotaur. The story glorifies the hero, and by association emphasizes the greatness of the Greek city of Athens. To the Greeks the story also served as an allegory for the abstract concept of the superiority of civilized society over barbarism.
 
 
Black-Figure Amphora
A: Herakles Fighting Amazons
B: Two Standing Warriors, One Fallen Warrior
Attributed to the Leagros Group
Greek, Attic, 520-500 BC
Ceramic
Tampa Museum of Art. Museum Purchase 1982.11.1
 
The adventures of the hero Herakles were chosen frequently as the subject for black-figure vase painting. He is easily recognizable by his attributes: a lion-skin cloak and a club. The scene on this amphora shows Herakles engaged in the ninth of his twelve labors, taking the girdle of the Amazon queen. Battles between Greeks and Amazons symbolized the struggle of civilization for ascendancy over barbarism, exemplified by female warriors, a concept that was alien to male-dominated ancient Greek society.
 
 
Black-Figure Lekythos
Wedding of Peleus and Thetis with Gods Dionysos, Apollo and Hermes
Attributed to the Edinburgh Painter
Greek, Attic, about 510 BC
Ceramic
Tampa Museum of Art. Joseph Veach Noble Collection 1986.44
 
This sedate wedding-processional scene is a metaphor for the calm before the storm. The three male gods in attendance are easily recognized by their attributes: Dionysos to the left with his rhyton, or drinking horn; Apollo with his lyre; and Hermes wearing his broad-brimmed hat. More ambiguous are the two figures in front of the chariot. The woman facing the chariot may be the goddess Eris (strife), whose anger over not having been invited to the wedding had dire consequences. She arrived unexpectedly and demanded the young Trojan prince Paris (probably the youth leading the procession) to decide who was the most beautiful of the three goddesses: Athena, Hera or Aphrodite. The result of his choice (Aphrodite) led to the Trojan War.

 

Theme Three: Fact or Fiction: Is It Real, Imaginary, or Constructed?

 
James Casebere (American, born 1953)
Waterfall, about 1985
Gelatin silver print
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange, 1989.43
 
James Casebere photographs tabletop constructions rather than actual physical environments. With the goal of extending the traditional uses of the camera, he thinks of photography in terms of its relationship to sculpture, as well as its kinship to performance, animation, and set design. His convincing fabrications (semblances of depth, volume, and texture) play with pictorial illusion. In Waterfall, despite its careful articulation of light and dark, the space is oppressive, with no discernible exit or path out of what appears to be rubble. According to Casebere, the rigid architectural form serves as a metaphor for social structures. The image conveys a sense of the constricting limits placed on the individual: the external pressures to conform and assimilate oneself to the social mass.
 
 
William Kentridge (South African, born 1955)
Walking Man, 2000
Linocut on canvas
Edition 2 of 9
Courtesy of Ina Schnell
 
Best known for his series of handcrafted, animated films about a fictional Johannesburg industrialist, South African artist William Kentridge grapples with such issues as freedom, history, and justice in his art. Measuring more than nine-feet tall, Walking Man depicts a striding figure--half man and half tree -- against a brooding sky, low hills, and electrical towers. The work relates closely to Kentridge's film, "Shadow Procession," in which shadow puppets reminiscent of characters from the French Revolution and South Africa's own political rallies march across the screen in a disturbing procession, hauling their belongings as if in an exodus. Influenced by the brutality of his native land's apartheid, Walking Man conveys the drudgery of living amidst prolonged violence.
 
 
Justine Kurland (American, born 1969)
Slumber Party (Denver, Colorado), 2000
Chromogenic development print
Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago 2001:31
 
Justine Kurland practices a style of photography that involves staging reality so that she can explore the social dynamics of girlhood. The adolescents in Kurland's pictures are depicted in groups, yet each one seeks haven in a hostile environment. The landscapes they pose in are typically majestic, and the postures and activities of the girls often create a mysterious, even foreboding tone.
 
In Slumber Party (Denver, Colorado), girls in sleeping bags lie scattered across an unprotected expanse. The result is epic imagery, where isolated figures braving elemental situations are wrought in a narrative style of photography that is inventive, dramatic, and fragmentary. The stagecraft of Kurland's art is achieved through a collaboration between the artist and her models. Upon the selection of a location, usually a place important to locals and sometimes suggested by the girls themselves, Kurland talks about certain themes and scenarios ­ the runaway, the road, a shared paradise ­ which her models respond to and interpret for the camera.
 
 
Vik Muniz (Brazilian, born 1961)
Jorge, 2003
Photogravure on silk collé
Edition 5 of 18
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of the Board, Staff and FOTA (Friends of the Arts) of the Tampa Museum of Art in honor of Emily S. Kass, Director, 1996-2005 2005.5
 
Muniz combines aspects of sculpture, painting, and photography to create his artworks. The artist uses common everyday items---dirt, magazines, toys, chocolate syrup, etc.-to create work that he then photographs. For this print, Muniz cut _-inch paper circles from magazines and arranged them in a collage, which was then photographed and used as the basis to create the photogravure.
 
The strength of Muniz's work lies in his ability to capitalize on both the viewer's preconceptions and misconceptions: the image of Jorge appears to be a portrait evoking the paintings of contemporary artist Chuck Close, but upon closer inspection, the magazine circles that make up the image are readily apparent. Muniz's technique forces the viewer to choose whether to focus on the image as a whole or on its individual components, and to question the veracity of the depiction. The final image is several times removed from its source, a painting of a snapshot of Jorge.
 
 
Nic Nicosia (American, born 1951)
Real Pictures #11, from the series Real Pictures,1988 (printed in 1992)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Columbia College, Chicago 2001:23
 
Nic Nicosia examines the underbelly of modern American life ­ the lust, violence, and humor that pervade many aspects of society. The artist belongs to the generation of photographers that emerged in the 1970s who questioned the authority of film and exposed the artificiality inherent in photography. With startling humor, he disrupts the viewer's expectations by taking intimate, mundane backgrounds of the universally familiar, in this case a backyard, and altering them with a layer of artifice that seems all too real. In this photograph, the three children seem caught in the act of setting the backyard tree on fire. One boy holds a can of gasoline while the girl warily acknowledges our presence by looking over her shoulder.
 
 
Kenny Scharf (American, born 1958)
Galaxiverse, 1998
Two-color line etching and aquatint print on paper
Edition II/ XXXV
Tampa Museum of Art. Gift of Jeanne Rozier Winter 2000.17
 
The guiding principle behind Kenny Scharf's work is to reach out
beyond the elitist boundaries of fine art and connect to popular culture. Directly related to graffiti art, Scharf's bright images are amalgamations of fantastic fictions drawn from television and pop culture, with cartoon-like characters and playful sinuous lines and shapes, all set in a make-believe universe.
 
Scharf was part of a group of East Village artists who came into prominence in the 1980s and included Keith Haring, John Matos, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. These artists generally shared an experimental spirit and favored subject matter related to the gritty cityscape of New York.
 
 
Cindy Sherman (American, born 1954)
Untitled (#141), 1986
Dye destruction print (Cibachrome), ed.6/6
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange, 1989.42
 
Although Cindy Sherman's photographs are pictures of herself, they are most definitely not self portraits. Rather, Sherman uses herself as a vehicle for commentary on a variety of issues, such as the construction of self-image and the role of women in the modern world. Sherman dresses up as various characters and stereotypes---here, as an unsettling, androgynous swashbuckler-in order to question the comfortable norm of beauty and glamour, thereby asking us to find and accept our own identities.
 
 
Sandy Skoglund (American, born 1946)
Germs are Everywhere, 1986
Dye destruction print (Cibachrome), ed.20/20
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange, 1989.21
 
Sandy Skoglund brings creativity, imagination, and whimsy to her art. She creates life-size, garishly colored tableau environments that combine familiar and disturbing elements in domestic or dreamlike settings, often forcing the viewer to rethink ordinary things in new ways. (Skoglund's preoccupation with the patterns created by food, animals, and color is her hallmark.) These environments then serve as the stage sets for her photographs.
 
In Germs are Everywhere, Skoglund fabricated a banal, bilious green domestic setting overrun by a plague of pink germs, made out of chewed bubble gum. Mesmerized by the blank TV screen, the seated woman seems unaffected by the pervasive germs. The viewer wonders if this contented self-absorption is because the woman is oblivious to her surroundings or blandly accepting the familiar. Skoglund's scene is playfully surreal, but also vaguely ominous.
 
 
Jerry Uelsmann (American, born 1934)
Untitled (Flying Figure), 1987
Gelatin silver print
Tampa Museum of Art. Museum purchase in honor of Benjamin E. Norbom, President of the Board, 1988-1989, 1989.37
 
With tools such as Adobe Photo Shop, it is becoming increasingly difficult to know if a photographic image is factual, enhanced, or totally contrived. Despite the prevalence of these computer programs, Jerry Uelsmann creates his surreal photographs entirely in the darkroom, masking and exposing different areas of photosensitive paper as he changes negatives. The seams and edges of each successive negative are concealed, and the resulting composite suggests the unity of a singular view or scene. The metaphoric and symbolic force of Uelsmann's photographs derive from the juxtapositions and forms depicted in the images.
 
 
Joel-Peter Witkin (American, born 1939)
The Guernica Variations: Pathological Reproduction, 1986
Gelatin silver print
Edition 7 of 15
Tampa Museum of Art. Bequest of Edward W. Lowman by exchange 1989.12
 
Joel-Peter Witkin considers issues of morality as central to his work. Drawing from a rich body of sources - literature, myth, art history, and the history of photography - Witkin creates elaborate photographic tableaux that address the morbid, the perverse, the erotic, and the religious. The photographs are undeniably powerful, with dense contextual narratives full of myth, allusion, and allegory. Most visitors cannot remain ambivalent upon seeing one. In nearly all of his darkly fantastic images, the moral issues are acted out by social outcasts and human oddities. In some cases the artist also has used dead bodies or body parts in the creation of his work. Witkin references the 3-hour aerial attack by the German Condor Legion that struck Guernica, Spain on April 26, 1937 as well as Pablo Picasso's painting of the catastrophe in the photograph's title. Witkin deliberately manipulates the photographic surface to make it appear aged, an act that contributes to the spiritual and ephemeral quality of his imagery.
 
 
Red-Figure Fragment:
Pegasus being Tamed by Bellerophon
Attributed to the Darius Painter
Greek, Apulian, 360-350 BC
Ceramic
Tampa Museum of Art. Joseph Veach Noble Collection 1986.104
 
Bellerophon was said to have been thrown by the winged horse Pegasus, carrier of Zeus' lightning bolts, when he tried to ride up to Olympus, a story that served as a metaphor for the consequences of lacking humility before the gods. Greek folk tradition tells of numerous fresh water springs created by the stamping of Pegasus' magical hooves.
 
 
Black-Figure Lekythos
Sphinx and Youths Running
Greek, Attic, 540-530 BC
Ceramic
Tampa Museum of Art. Joseph Veach Noble Collection 1986.47
 
Hybrid creatures abound in Greek mythology. In ancient Greek art, sphinxes and sirens are half-bird monsters that often symbolize death. In the scene on this lekythos the youths seem not merely to be running a foot race; they appear to be fleeing from the sphinx close on their heels. This could be a symbolic expression of the idea that everyone is in a race against death.

 

THE PARTICIPATORY GALLERY

What Does This Mean? The Narrative Tradition will include a participatory gallery space in the exhibition's adjoining Focus Gallery.

The Participatory Gallery will provide an opportunity for visitors, especially children, to interpret works of art and make connections to the world around them. Visitors will be invited to manipulate images similar to the art viewed in the exhibition, spend time in a reading resource area, view themselves as part of a piece of artwork, and experiment with their own interpretations of the works and the stories they provide. As the Tampa Museum of Art focuses on the visitor experience by creating a welcoming environment, the aim of the Participatory Gallery is to create a family-friendly space for the community to play, explore and learn together.  

 

Gallery Activities

A large-scale magnet board on one wall will become a workspace for recreating an image, based on a photograph by David Hockney, which has been segmented into smaller pieces. This work is on loan from The John and Mable Ringling Museum.Visitors will explore the process of the artist and make a personal connection to his ideas and inspiration.  

A set will be constructed that is similar to Sandy Skoglund's photograph Germs Are Everywhere, showcased in the exhibition. Visitors will have the ability to change an element in the setting through a computer program, and will experience how the manipulation of elements can alter the experience or interpretation of an artwork.

Visitors also will have the opportunity to make a journal entry to communicate their experience or interpretation of an artwork in the exhibition. The goal of this activity is to create an environment where the visitor can reflect upon their individual experience in the exhibition.

 

INSTITUTE OF MUSEUM AND LIBRARY SERVICES FEDERAL GRANT

The Tampa Museum of Art was awarded a 2004 Museums for America grant of $115,663 from the federal government through the Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Tampa Museum of Art is one of three museums in Florida and the only art museum in the state selected for this prestigious award. The IMLS grant allowed the Tampa Museum of Art to mount a series of exhibitions designed to provide a variety of opportunities for visitors as they engage in issues and ideas raised by the museum's permanent collection. Findings from the exhibitions will directly affect the installation, interpretation, and educational programming in the current museum, as well as in the future home of the Tampa Museum of Art. The purpose of the IMLS grant is to support lifelong learning.

 

 

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