2 big ideasHungry visitors heading for The Contemporary Cafe on the grounds of The Contemporary Museum are greeted by Robert Arneson's humorous towering, toppling sculpture "Temple of Fatal Laffs."
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The museum's newest exhibition "Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson," offers a different look at Arneson's (1930-1992) work. This exhibition, organized by the Palo Alto Arts Center, comprises more than 90 ceramic tabletop maquettes, or models, which are being exhibited for the first time from the late artist's estate.
Ranging in size from 2 to 14 inches and dating from 1964 to 1992, the maquettes form a three-dimensional journal that chronicles the evolution of the witty artist considered to be a founding father of contemporary American figurative sculpture.
Many of the maquettes represent Arneson's first concepts for works, and their freshness and spontaneous execution illuminate the artist's free-wheeling creativity, offering glimpses of his thought process in clay.
The maquettes are presented with associated notebooks and studies on paper to provide a window into Arneson's visual thinking. The exhibition also includes two full-scale sculptures in bronze and a selection of drawings, giving a sense of Arneson's creative process involving refinements, conceptual changes and shifts in scale from maquette to the final sculpture.
ALSO ON VIEW at the museum is work from one of Julie Moos' recent series of portrait photographs, "Friends and Enemies."
The series was shot at a private high school in Moos' home city of Birmingham, Ala. At the invitation of the school's principal, Moos spent several months during the 1999 to 2000 term interviewing students, teachers and counselors, as well as analyzing candid photographs in school publications.
Recognizing that much of the high school experience revolves around interpersonal relationships, and thinking about the violence that had recently occurred at Columbine High School in Colorado, Moos was sensitive to the friendships and rivalries on campus.
Converting a classroom into a studio for a week, Moos selected students to be photographed in pairs. Sometimes she chose students who were friends and other times students who were enemies, rivals or barely knew each other. The students did not know with whom they would be paired until they arrived for their sessions.
The stark settings and face-forward poses do not allow for interaction, so viewers are left to try to discern the feelings and relationships from the subtleties of behavior reflected in body language, facial expressions, and styles of clothing and hair.
In trying to resolve the photos' visual riddles, viewers bring forth their own memories, experiences and preconceptions, making the photographs portraits of ourselves as well.
"Big Idea: The Maquettes of Robert Arneson" and "Friends and Enemies: Photographs by Julie Moos"
Place: The Contemporary Museum, 2411 Makiki Heights Drive
Dates: Through Nov. 3
Also: Gallery talk about the Arneson exhibition, 10 a.m. Sept. 21, with ceramists Esther Shimazu, Vicky Chock and Kay Mura. Cost is $10.
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