I received a promotional mailing from Edward Tufte about the first major museum exhibition of his sculpture. I can’t say much about the actual exhibition (Seeing Around, on view at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum) as I haven’t been there. (Yet?) But I do have a few thoughts on the promo pieces.
First of all, any art exhibition, museum, gallery, etc., which uses Charles Schulz’s Peanuts is awesome; but super bonus points for using the strip in which Charlie Brown is too intimidated to discuss what he sees in cloud formations with Lucy. What more of a non-threatening introduction do you need to proceed?
So, like anyone who receives multiple-paged stuff, I began to flip through the pages… Until I found Tufte pièce de résistance: four pages on animals and landscape sculpture.
If seeing the photo of sheep nestled into a contemporary art sculpture doesn’t get you, how about Zerlina the Golden Retriever peeping from Geometric Cutouts? And if that slice of adorableness still doesn’t entice you to read Tufte’s thoughts on the artistic relationships between land, animals, and landscape sculptural artworks, how about a photo of Zerlina’s “repertoire of concealment methodologies” — complete with cartoon bubble thoughts for both the dog and the cast iron lion?
I may not have been a real fan of such contemporary and large-scale sculptures before, but through such inviting images and narrative Tufte now has me intrigued…
So I stopped flipping through the brochure, and began reading. And viewing far more of the art (and viewing it far more thoughtfully too).
Inside, Tufte presents some food for thought. Like the images shown, his artist’s statements are welcoming. Tufte just ‘talks’ about his works, his intentions, and invites you to see not only his works, but other works, perhaps in new ways.
He doesn’t talk down to the reader — but he sure as heck doesn’t ramble on in such a lofty way that makes me think (as I far too often do) that either the Emperor has no clothes or I don’t know a damn thing about art.
(The latter might in fact be true, but such intimidation doesn’t welcome anyone to view the exhibition — other than those, like Hugh Grant, who will pretend they get it to appear hip — which really just reinforces the silence around naked Emperors too.)
From here I fell in love with several of his abstract sculpture series: The eight feet wrenches (above, left), and the Open Ended series (at bottom of the post).
What’s more, I want to stand before them outside. Even if Zerlina and/or the sheep aren’t there. I want to see how the light, the trees Tufte planted in the museum’s sculpture garden, the other people all play with the giant abstract sculptures.
Which is precisely what this catalog or promotional book is supposed to do.
So hat’s off to Tufte for exposing himself as a very fine Emperor of contemporary art sculpture indeed.