Many Voices Echo in the Mint’s American Galleries

Many Voices Echo in the Mint’s American Galleries 

Revamped American installation offers new works and new perspectives for museum visitors. 

  

By Jonathan Stuhlman, PhD, Senior Curator of American Art 

When Mint Museum Uptown opened its doors in October 2010, one of the most exciting opportunities was the expanded space that became available for the display of its American art collection, roughly tripling what had been available at Mint Museum Randolph. While a number of new objects have entered the collection, and special loans from private collectors have come and gone, the American galleries have remained relatively static over the past 10 years.

The summer of 2020 marked the first major changes in the American galleries since Mint Museum Uptown opened a decade ago. The incorporation of 18th- and 19th-century paintings from the Adams collection bequest, special loans of a monumental canvas by Julius Leblanc Stewart, a curvaceous Gorham art nouveau punch bowl, a sumptuous floral still life by Severin Roesen, and a new pocket gallery installation featuring a diverse array of images of America at mid-century, are just a few of the visitors can experience.

The most significant change, however, occurs in the first gallery of the Level 4 wing that provides access to both the American, and Modern and Contemporary collections. Rather than starting a chronological journey through American art history, this gallery puts the focus on the theme of portraiture, probing this enduring topic across time and different artistic mediums. The 13 works of art featured in this installation reflect the museum’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion with works of art by women, as well as African-American, Latino, and European artists.

Instead of being greeted by an 18th-century image of children hung over a Chippendale fall-front desk, visitors now encounter Kehinde Wiley’s iconic Philip the Fair juxtaposed with John Singleton Copley’s St. Cecilia: Portrait (Mrs. Richard Crowninshield Derby) created more than 200 years earlier. Visitors are encouraged to compare and contrast these two full-length portraits, taking time to consider how the artist engaged with and depicted the person portrayed, as well as the reasons behind the creation of each portrait.

These kinds of pairings are echoed throughout the rest of the gallery in works executed in media ranging from oil on canvas to photography to hand-painted porcelain. One example of these juxtapositions is Robert Henri’s early 20th-century painting Dorita, which features a young Spanish dancer gazing boldly out at the viewer. To its right contemporary photographer Ruben Natal-San Miguel’s vibrant photograph Mama, in which a young woman with vitiligo poses with a similar intense gaze in front of a brilliant red background. These two portraits of women with intense expressions provide a striking contrast to photograph Ai, in which the artist, dressed in black, lies prone in front of a black background, twisted away from the viewer. The ways in which artists depict family and loved ones is also explored in paintings by Kay Sage and Paul Cadmus, and photographs by Linda Foard Roberts and Oliver Wasow. In the center of the space is Cindy Sherman’s Madame Pompadour (née Poisson) Soup Tureen, which probes questions of identity, history, gender, power, and self-portraiture.

Throughout the level 4 galleries, the commitment to diversity and inclusion continues, as visitors encounter 20th- and 21st-century works by artists, including Blanche Lazzell, Augusta Savage, Helen Lundeberg, John Biggers, Hale Woodruff, Romare Bearden, Barbara Pennington, Haywood “Bill” Rivers, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Juan Logan, Leo Twiggs, E.V. Day, Iruka Maria Toro, and Vik Muniz, and a special-focus exhibition on photographer Linda Foard Roberts.

Although the cross-disciplinary thematic approach is highlighted in a permanent collection gallery, visitors are encouraged to think about how artists have engaged with other themes across time—landscape, still life, history, abstraction—as they explore the rest of the collection and other parts of the museum.

This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.

Nina Simone portrait by Russell Young

The Mint Museum acquires Russell Young Work ‘Nina Simone’

Screen print painting depicts North Carolina native and Hall of Fame inductee.

The Mint Museum has acquired a painting of North Carolinian and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nina Simone.

Nina Simone is by British artist Russell Young. “Having such a beautiful portrait of a N.C. native who was such a strong African-American woman, activist, and performer will add to our contemporary art collection here. Plus, I think it will be such a popular piece with our audiences,” said Dr. Jonathan Stuhlman, the Mint’s senior curator of American, Modern, & Contemporary Art. He made the choice with former Assistant Curator Adam Justice, now Director of Galleries at UNC Charlotte.

Russell Young was born in 1959 in Northern England. From an early age, he was drawn to the idea of the quintessential “American dream,” which he thought represented freedom and possibility. Known for his bold, iconic silkscreen paintings of pop imagery turned upon themselves to explore the nature of the American counter culture as seen through the eyes of his youth, his bold ground breaking screen print renditions present a visual journey that bears witness to both the excess and ambition that has helped shape the American Dream. His prints are a brooding and sometimes brutal celebration of the characters and events that glamorize and chastise in equal measure. Whether through direct visual reference or by title, the works set out to both assert and challenge our perception and understanding of what it is to be American in the 21st century.

His body of work includes paintings, screen prints, sculptures, installations and film. He has shown in galleries and museums in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Tokyo, Singapore, New York, Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles. His work is included in the collections of Aby Rosen, The Qatari Royal Family, Kate Moss, David Bowie, Liz Taylor, Barack Obama, The Albertina Museum, The Saatchi Collection and Brad Pitt.

The screen print painting, embedded with diamond dust, is not yet on view but will go out in the coming months, following a grand re-opening celebration for Mint Museum Uptown this fall; watch mintmuseum.org for updates.

The Mint Museum puts Mexico ‘IN FOCUS’ with ‘Revelar y Detonar (Reveal and Detonate): Contemporary Mexican Photography’

Exhibition is part of eight-exhibition In Focus/Enfoque project thanks to Bank of America

Develar y Detonar (Reveal and Detonate): Contemporary Mexican Photography features the powerful, thought-provoking work of more than 40 of Mexico’s leading photographers. This not-to-be-missed exhibition, on view from October 28, 2017 through June 17, 2018 at Mint Museum Uptown, examines the wide range of approaches that these photographers use to explore subjects, ranging from their own personal histories and relationships to their engagement with the country’s diverse landscape to pressing social and political issues ranging from land use, drug trade, and immigration to beauty, sexuality, and gender.

Media and special guests may preview the exhibition at 10 a.m. on Thursday October 26 at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, 500 South Tryon Street in Charlotte. RSVP to leigh.dyer@mintmuseum.org .

Ranging in size from a few inches across to floor-to-ceiling murals, some of these works are highly formal; others make a play for sheer beauty; still others are manipulated or staged to instill a sense of magic and wonder. Develar y Detonar promises to open an engaging dialogue around the power of photography to both document and question many aspects of modern life, examining issues that are not isolated to residents of Mexico but that stretch across cultures and borders. This exhibition is drawn from the Televisa Foundation’s rich collection of contemporary art; after having been seen in Madrid and Mexico City, The Mint Museum’s presentation marks its North American debut.

“I am honored that The Mint Museum was given the opportunity to be the first museum in the country to host this important exhibition. The Mint has a long relationship with Charlotte’s Latino community, which is one of the fastest growing in the country,” said Dr. Jonathan Stulhman, the Mint’s curator of American, Modern, & Contemporary Art. “While the photographers featured in this exhibition are all based in Mexico and draw upon subjects and themes that are a part of their daily lives and personal histories, we believe that many of these topics transcend borders and offer the opportunity for a rich dialogue in our community. The work in the show is at turns thought-provoking, beautiful, shocking, and humorous: an unfiltered, no-holds-barred snapshot of contemporary life.”

Develar y Detonar is also the central exhibition in a community-wide initiative celebrating Mexican photography titled In Focus/Enfoque: Contemporary Photography in Mexico, which involves many arts and cultural organizations across Charlotte this fall including Bechtler Museum of Modern Art; LACA (Latin American Contemporary Art) Projects; The Light Factory; McColl Center for Art + Innovation; New Gallery of Modern Art; and SOCO Gallery.

“We modeled this community-wide initiative after a program we sponsored in Los Angeles called Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which featured Latin American and Latino art at 70+ institutions,” added Allen Blevins, Bank of America’s director of Global Art & Heritage Programs. “In Focus/Enfoque provides a unique opportunity for Charlotte to highlight the contributions of Hispanic and Latin American artists and spark community dialogue on the topics raised within these collections.”

Reveal and Detonate (Develar y Detonar): Contemporary Mexican Photography is organized and circulated by Televisa Foundation, Hydra Photography, and Centro de la Imagen. It is presented to the Charlotte community with support from Bank of America.

It is accompanied by educational programs including a panel discussion featuring leaders in Mexican-American relations; a Latin Music Concert featuring “Music of Mexico;” an educator workshop; and a series of dates throughout spring 2018 when Spanish-language interpreters will be available in the galleries to answer visitors’ questions. Details available at mintmuseum.org/happenings.

“The fact that so many visual arts organizations have come together for this initiative speaks to the community engagement we have here in Charlotte,” said Charles Bowman, Bank of America’s market president for Charlotte and North Carolina and Mint Museum board member. “We’re proud to be a convener of In Focus/Enfoque and provide an opportunity to feature important, thought-provoking work of these artists.”

As a major supporter of arts and culture across the region, Bank of America led the planning, collaboration, and funding of In Focus/Enfoque: Contemporary Photography in Mexico. The Arts & Science Council is supporting collaborative community engagement and programming efforts. For details, visit CharlotteCultureGuide.com/InFocus .

Note: Visitors may find some subject matter challenging.

IMAGE: Fernando Montiel Klint. Estudio de campo, from the series Muro de la Concentración II, 2014, chromogenic print.