Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel and Modernity from the Bruce Museum Collection

The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut, demonstrates the powerful relationship between traveling and art, both in its making and collecting in Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel, and Modernity in the Collection of the Bruce Museum, a major, new exhibition drawn from highlights of its own collection on view in the Museum’s main galleries from Saturday, January 23, 2010, through Sunday, April 25, 2010. The show is supported by the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund.

Romare Bearden Exotic Encounters reveals a little-recognized but key aspect of modern aesthetics, featuring approximately 70 rare, rich and wondrous objects brought back from journeys all over the word that now reside in the collection of the Bruce Museum. For the artist and collector, the physical displacement of a journey is a thrilling yet frustratingly evanescent experience. Depicting what one has seen or felt abroad and collecting objects that evoke far-away places and people are ways to recollect the excitement of travel, preserving the sensations of exotic encounters that might otherwise vanish into thin air.

Bruce Museum Adjunct Curator Kenneth Silver culls the permanent collection of the Bruce Museum to present an exhibition that reshuffles the deck of cherished art and artifacts, uncovering the complex and surprising connections between the extraordinary places we visit and the remarkable things we bring back. Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel, and Modernity in the Collection of the Bruce Museum includes a vast array of painting, sculpture, and photography, as well as decorative and utilitarian objects, including works by Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Wharton Edwards, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, and Romare Bearden, as well as a myriad of anonymous craftsmen-and-women.

The lure of European culture for American artists and travelers in the late-19th and early 20th centuries are amply demonstrated in works depicting the canals of Venice, the British countryside, and French Gothic architecture. The “orientalist” fascination with Islamic and Middle-Eastern culture is seen not only in exquisite depictions of Arab costume but also in rare vintage photographs from the 1860s of Egyptian temples and funerary sculpture (some still half-buried in sand). Also on display in the exhibition are examples of the decorative arts of China and Japan with which well-to-do American tourists at the turn of the century embellished their homes, paintings of the Pacific islands and the Caribbean made by artists in search of well-earned escape, and carved objects from Africa that testified to the western search for extreme foreign experience, often in the context of colonial exploitation. Finally, works of art and objects related to travels throughout the Americas conclude the exhibition – from Mexican crafts and pre-Columbian sculpture to the arts of Native North Americans, including basketry, beadwork, painting and sculpture.

Works of art, ethnographic documents, trophies and souvenirs, however we describe them, many of the things that have filled our homes and public collections for centuries have a shared origin in chronicling the experiences of travel and serving as examples of artistic tourism.

The Bruce Museum is located at 1 Museum Drive in Greenwich, Connecticut, near Interstate-95, Exit 3, and a short walk from the Greenwich, CT train station. Museum hours are: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission: $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, and free for children under five and members. Free admission to all on Tuesdays. Groups of eight or more require advance reservations.

Museum exhibition tours are held Fridays at 12:30 p.m. Free, on-site parking is available. The Bruce Museum is accessible to individuals with disabilities.

For information, call the Bruce Museum at (203) 869-0376, or visit the Bruce Museum website at www.brucemuseum.org

Image: Romare Bearden (1914-1988), “Three Women”, 1979. Lithograph, 81/100, 28 ¼ x 21 inches. Gift of Raymond Dubrowski, 1982. Bruce Museum Collection

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