The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art brings a new dimension to its gallery.
More than 25 new acquisitions will be unveiled Sept. 23 as part of The Big Reveal at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. The show. runs through April 15. Chief Curator Barbara O’Brien says the works have been acquired over the past year and a half. “There is something theatrical in presenting works to the public. It’s as if a curtain parts on the gallery stage and we come into the art’s presence. We don’t have previews, but we invite the community to come and enjoy this together. Isn’t that an aspect of drama and theater, the excitement as the stage on the gallery is set?”
Fundamentally, museums add to collections to preserve art for future generations and to stimulate dialogue. At the Kemper, O’Brien and the staff work to “foster an understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art, and to present significant works of art as educational resources.” “We are committed to our audience to bring them strong, contemporary art.” The collection has more than tripled since the museum opened in 1994.
Visitors will come face to face with two-dimensional and three-dimensional art that will strike chords or encourage questions and maybe provide a few answers. The linchpin to this exhibition is Petah Coyne’s Untitled #1336 (Scalapino Nu Shu). O’Brien says the piece is aesthetically visceral with beauty, death and regeneration. The colorful palette of the feathers from the taxidermied pheasants and peacocks against the blackened bark of the apple tree is just astounding, she says. “We go for works that are immersive art and poetically made. Petah’s piece will be front and center and surrounded by other acquisitions.”
In addition to the larger Coyne piece, O’Brien pointed out the two ink on tracing paper works by Susan Hefuna is a newer artist who is of Egyptian and German descent. These works, titled Building, reference the traditional lattice forms in women’s buildings in the Middle East. Susanne Kühn’s oil painting, Regina Studying, is larger. Kansas City artist Barry Anderson’s installation pieces add another dimension to the exhibition. “We are adding not just breadth, but depth to our holdings,” she says.
University of Missouri-Kansas City Professor Barry Anderson is also a video artist. His works, Janus 2 and Pigeon, represent two different genres for Anderson. He describes Janus 2, a newer work, a moving, abstract painting that has some representational pop images, including advertising and some of his own family photos. “There are two monitors with hyper color and kinetic motion. Pigeon is one of my earliest video pieces. It’s shown all over the world. In 2001, I was into video. I was in Siena, Italy and sat down with the bird. It’s a funny, tongue-in-cheek moment.”
Anderson says he looks forward to having works shown with the Coyne piece. “To be in the company of many types of artists who have been vetted through museums proves we are in good company.”
Keith Jacobshagen, a professor emeritus of the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, has been painting the light and space of the Midwestern plains for more than 30 years. Two of his landscapes will be part of the Big Reveal. “The idea of the sky … most of us who live on the plains see it is as part of our daily lives. My father was a test pilot and we watched weather. If I were inside the house, he would ask me to come look at the cloud. There is an interesting dichotomy between the sky and what is below the horizon. The sky is constantly changing second by second, but what is below the horizon – the land is solid, but changing in slow ways, almost in ways that are almost impossible to discern.”
Jacobshagen has strong ties to Kansas City. He says he became an artist here as he attended the Kansas City Art Institute. “I was across the street from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I was over there almost every day, maybe for 20 minutes looking at the Dutch painters or the contemporary works.” Trained as a graphic designer and illustrator KCAI, he worked in the Contemporary Design Department of Hallmark. In 1966 he was accepted into the MFA program at the University of Kansas, met Robert Sudlow, and began painting landscapes.
“I am not a card-carrying environmentalist, but I do care as a painter as my subject matter is jeopardized. If people come away with the ability to form an affection for where they live and pay attention to where they are, I’ve done my job,” Jacobshagen says.
Two pieces in the exhibition have been part of a previous exhibition. Ana Maria Hernando: When the Women Sing showed during the winter at the Kemper at the Crossroads. “It’s an honor to have the two pieces purchased by an institution that takes great care and commitment to preserve art for the future.”
Hernando’s pieces are collage and paper. “I work in many mediums so the two pieces show a part of the body of my work. Then to be in the company of other artists is a way to be part of a conversation. I hope that when a person stands in front of one of my works, there is an interaction, thoughts and feelings. I am that conduit as an artist to the threads that move back and forth from the work to the viewer. It’s not just their heads, but their hearts and emotions.” l