Surface Tension: Pattern, Texture, and Rhythm in Art from the Richmond Museums Collection

The University of Richmond Museums presents Surface Tension: Pattern, Texture, and Rhythm in Art from the Collection, on view from March 20 to May 14, 2010, in the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art. The exhibition features art in which pattern, texture, and rhythm are the primary elements that generate energy and visual movement as well as emotional and aesthetic content. These selected paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and textiles are from the permanent collection of the Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art and Print Study Center.

Also on view in both the Harnett Museum and UR Downtown is a companion presentation of student art by University of Richmond students and by children attending three local Richmond public schools, who were inspired by the Surface Tension exhibition.

To create the art featured in Surface Tension, the artists used line, color, shapes, and sometimes surface manipulation (such as thickly applied paint or charcoal) to create complex compositions, which may be abstract or representational. Highlights from the exhibition include a lithograph by Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein who was inspired by the graphic design of comic strips as well as other forms of inexpensive and popular printing methods. Photographs by Life magazine photographer Andreas Feininger emphasize the complex patterns found in natural forms, such as rock formations and flower petals. Two oil paintings by Richmond artist Theresa Pollak demonstrate her mastery of color and form in creating dense compositions that reference the landscape.

Surface Tension also includes an activity and resource room where visitors can learn more about basic elements of art and design. Here visitors can create their own artworks with the knowledge they gained from the exhibition. Projects for visitors range from collages and graphic design to learning more about movement and rhythm. The exhibition is designed to foster active learning and engage students in careful observation skills. The exhibition and the resource room will address multiple disciplines within the Virginia Standards of Learning, including visual arts, English, history, mathematics, and science for K-12 students.

The University of Richmond Museums, along with the University’s Bonner Center for Civic Engagement and UR Downtown, partnered with art teachers at the following public schools to provide an extensive educational component to the exhibition: G.W. Carver Elementary School, William H. Fox Elementary School, and Overby-Sheppard Elementary School. Using the work in Surface Tension as inspiration, students created a variety of types of art including portraits made with continuous line, collages of two- and three-dimensional objects, drawings of abstract patterns based on Islamic textiles and ceramics, still-life paintings, and Pop art-inspired compositions. These works are displayed in the resource room in the Harnett Museum and The Wilton Companies Gallery at UR Downtown.

The University of Richmond students created their work while enrolled in beginning and advanced design courses during the 2009-2010 academic year. These students created digital prints and paintings and drawings on paper focusing on the same formal elements of pattern, texture, and rhythm.

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition and related programs were made possible in part with funds from the Suhor-Graham Foundation and the University’s Cultural Affairs Committee. Surface Tension was curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Deputy Director and Curator of Exhibitions, University Museums. For more information or to schedule a group tour contact Joan Maitre, Administrative Specialist, 804-287-6424 or email [email protected]

Image: Roy Lichtenstein, “Untitled”, 1974. Lithograph on paper, 32 1/2 X 24 3/4 inches. Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums. The I. Webb Sumatt Jr. Print Collection.