Bell Gallery at Brown University presents “Recent Acquisitions: Photography and Abstraction”; Danny Lyon exhibition extended

Providence, RI – The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University is presenting the second in a series of special exhibitions featuring recent additions to the Gallery’s photography collection. Focusing on abstract images made with a medium that is conventionally tied to reality, Recent Acquisitions: Photography and Abstraction includes work by Bernice Abbott, Tom Baril, Marilyn Bridges, Edward Burtynsky, Christiane Feser, Jed Fielding, Bill Jacobson, Lauren Henken, Dorothy Norman, Gabriel Martinez, Aaron Siskind and Hiroshi Sugimoto. On view from January 19 through May 26, 2019, the exhibition is curated by Bell Gallery director Jo-Ann Conklin and curatorial assistant Allison Pappas.

In the early 20th century, some modern artists and photographers began to embrace an abstract visual language of line, shape, space, color and texture to allow pure visual expression of form to dominate their work. Photographers featured in Recent Acquisitions: Photography and Abstraction use various devices including image cropping, shooting unidentifiable details or incomprehensible vantage points, or manipulating materials and tools of image-making. Highlights of the exhibition include Abbott’s Collision of Two Balls (1959); Burtynsky’s Greenhouses, Almira Peninsula, Spain (2010); Norman’s Georgia O’Keeffe Painting with Light Bulb (1936); Siskind’s series of location-titled images including Providence 14 (1971) and New York 3 (1987); and Sugimoto’s Baltic Sea, Rugen (1996).

The exhibition begins with a series of striking images by Siskind, who in the 1940s pioneered a style of photography that pushed the boundaries of photographic abstraction by isolating expressive contours in forms found in recognizable subjects—including the flat surfaces of graffitied walls, fragmentary posters, and rusted signs. Photographers Burtynsky and Bridges make use of aerial views to amplify geometric forms and disorient the viewers. In Martinez’s Tularosa (2015) ephemeral patterns of lights fall across a dark green ground, created by exposing x-ray film to trinitite (sand exposed to atomic bomb radiation). While Jacobsen’s Place #512 (2011) recalls the modernist color experiments of Josef Albers.

The Gallery’s collection contains strong holdings in photography, with depth in 20th-century American works. Over the past decade, the Gallery has built upon these holdings, focusing on images created since the turn of the 21st century.

Bell Gallery Director Jo-Ann Conklin said, “We are thrilled to present the second in a series of three installations highlighting recent gifts and purchases. A concerted effort was made to collect works that form a dialogue with the more historic photographic material in our collection.”

In addition to Recent Acquisitions: Photography and Abstraction, the Bell Gallery has extended the exhibition Danny Lyon: The Only Thing I Saw Worth Leaving featuring more than 100 photographs by Danny Lyon (b. 1942) also drawn from the Gallery’s collection, plus four films on loan from the artist. A rigorous survey of Lyon’s photojournalistic practice in the 1960s, the exhibition is organized around five topics that Lyon has referred to frequently when discussing his work: empathy, freedom, history, destruction and narrative. Now on view through March 17, 2019, Danny Lyon: The Only Thing I Saw Worth Leaving is curated by Allison Pappas, a Graduate curatorial assistant at Brown.

The exhibition features photographs from four of Lyon’s most significant series: Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement (1962–1964), The Bikeriders (1963–1966), The Destruction of Lower Manhattan (1966–1967) and Conversations with the Dead (1967–1968), about the Texas prison system. The films include Llanito (1972), profiles of people living in rural communities in New Mexico; El Mojado (1974), following the plight of undocumented workers from Mexico; Dear Mark (1981), a tribute to the artist Mark di Suvero; and Born to Film (1982), featuring generations of Lyon’s family and friends.

Conklin said, “We are delighted to extend the presentation of this important work from our collection that captures the volatility of the 1960s through Danny Lyon’s lens. His photographs eloquently amplify Brown Arts Initiative’s programming examining protest, art and activism on the anniversary of 1968.”

About David Winton Bell Gallery

The David Winton Bell Gallery, an affiliated program of the Brown Arts Initiative, is Brown University’s contemporary art gallery and home to an important part of the University’s permanent art collection. The Gallery hosts four to five exhibitions each year, annual exhibitions of student artwork and a triennial exhibition of artwork by Brown faculty members.

Broadly concerned with the presentation of exemplary work by artists living today, the Bell Gallery takes pride in showing artwork irrespective of media, content or subject and makes special efforts to support and show the work of emerging or under-recognized practitioners. Alongside the contemporary arts, the Gallery also makes use of its art historical collections, programming exhibitions on the arts and culture of the last five centuries. The Bell Gallery maintains a permanent collection of more than 6,000 works of art, dating from the 16th century to the present, with particularly rich holdings in contemporary art and works on paper.

Founded in 1971, the Gallery is named in memory of David Winton Bell, a member of the Brown University class of 1954. It is housed in the Albert and Vera List Art Building designed by internationally renowned architect Philip Johnson, that also includes classrooms, lecture halls, and extensive studio space. Free and open to the public, the Gallery is open Monday – Wednesday and Friday 11 am – 4 pm; Thursday 1 – 9 pm; and Saturday and Sunday 1 – 4 pm, and located at 64 College Street in Providence, Rhode Island.

Marilyn Bridges Geometries, 1987 Gelatin silver print David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University Gift of Marsha Hurst ’67 and Richard J. Hiller ’66