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Elephants and Abstracts Invade Block Museum of Art

September 29, 2009 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 40 Arts Circle Drive, is located on Northwestern University's Evanston campus. Beginning Sept. 22, the museum will reopen for the fall with new hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The museum is closed on Monday. Admission to the museum and to all programs is free, unless noted. For more information regarding Block Museum exhibitions, programs or location, phone (847) 491-4000 or go to the Block Museum Web site at



"Henry Moore: Elephant Skull," Sept. 22 through Dec. 13, Alsdorf Gallery. In the 1960s British sculptor Henry Moore became intrigued by the skull of an African elephant kept in the London garden of his friends Sir Julian and Lady Juliette Huxley. The Huxleys eventually gave the skull to Moore, who examined the object's internal and external spaces in a series of etchings printed as an album in 1970. At the time of publishing, Moore called the works "a mixture of observation and imagination," noting that while studying and drawing the skull up close he "could begin to see in it great deserts and rocky landscapes, big caves in the sides of hills, great pieces of architecture, columns and dungeons." "Henry Moore: Elephant Skull" exhibits all 28 prints Moore produced for the portfolio, along with a rare original vellum cover. The album on display is a recent acquisition by the Block Museum. The exhibition also will include the skull of an elephant on loan from Chicago's Field Museum.

"Robert Motherwell: An Attitude Toward Reality, From the Collection of the Walker Art Center" Sept. 25 through Dec. 6, Main Gallery. The art and rhetoric of Robert Motherwell helped define the New York School, a group of abstract painters active in the 1940s and 1950s that also included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. With an extensive academic background, Motherwell acted as the movement's unofficial spokesperson, writing and speaking about his generation of artists. Influenced in his artwork by surrealism and psychology, Motherwell employed techniques designed to release the creative process from rational control and express the subconscious, as seen, for example, in his "Lyric Suite" drawings. His art explored themes both intimate, such as a series of collages incorporating personal items like cigarette packets and pieces of mail, and international, like "Elegy to the Spanish Republic," a subject he reworked in various formats throughout his life. "Robert Motherwell: An Attitude Toward Reality" offers an overview and introduction to the artist, spanning more than four decades of his career with more than 40 drawings, collages, prints and paintings. The exhibition is organized by the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.


Docent guided Adult Tours of the Fall 2009 exhibitions, Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 2 p.m. Saturdays from Sept. 26 through Dec. 6. Block Museum docents will lead free guided tours of "Henry Moore: Elephant Skull" and "Robert Motherwell: An Attitude Toward Reality, From the Collection of the Walker Art Center" exhibitions at 2 p.m. Saturdays from Sept. 26 through Dec. 6. Tours of the galleries begin in the museum lobby. Reservations are not necessary.

Docent-led Group and School Tours by Appointment, from Sept. 22 through Dec. 13. The Block Museum offers free docent-led tours to groups of eight or more. The 45-minute-long tours are available each day the museum is open. The Block also provides hourlong interactive tours and activities for school groups Tuesday through Friday from Sept. 22 through Dec. 11. Arrangements for group or school tours should be made at least four weeks in advance by e-mailing blockeducation@northwestern.edu. Visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/education for more information.


Gallery Talk, Print Techniques, 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 8. Block Museum senior curator Debora Wood will discuss the printing methods on display in the exhibitions "Robert Motherwell: An Attitude Toward Reality, From the Collection of the Walker Art Center" and "Henry Moore: Elephant Skull" during this hourlong talk. Admission is free.

Family Workshop, "Drawing Sculptures," 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. Get inspired by the work of artist Henry Moore and a real elephant skull as you create your own drawings and sculpture. This two-hour program is designed for children aged 8 and older and their families. Admission is free. Advance registration is required and space is limited. Contact blockeducation@northwestern.edu.

Panel Discussion, "Meaning and Methodology, Robert Motherwell and Henry Moore," 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. David Getsy, Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Chair in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; and Robert Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History at Lafayette College, will examine Motherwell's and Moore's creative processes and writings as they relate to their artworks. Huey Copeland, assistant professor of art history, Northwestern University, will moderate.

"Educating the Eye: Etching, Engraving and Lithography," 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19. Take a trip to Anchor Graphics, a fine art print shop at Columbia College in Chicago, for a demonstration of how etchings and lithographs are made. The tour will be followed by lunch at the historic Chicago Firehouse restaurant. Cost is $50 for Block Museum Members and $70 for nonmembers. Price includes transportation and lunch. Reservations are required. Call (847) 491-7540.

Adult Studio Workshop, "Experimentations in Process," 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25. Explore the artistic methods used by Robert Motherwell. Artist Tara Strickstein will lead this hands-on class for adults. Cost is $15 for Block Museum members and $20 for nonmembers. Advance registration is required. Contact blockeducation@northwestern.edu.

Block Cinema Screening, "Painters Painting," 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28. Robert Motherwell, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg are among the artists interviewed in this 1973 documentary centered on the New York art scene. David Raskin, associate professor of art history, theory and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, will introduce the film and lead a post-screening discussion.


The Sculpture Garden of Northwestern's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art constitutes one of the most significant groupings of modern sculpture in the region. In 1987, Leigh Block, one of the museum's inaugural donors and a preeminent collector of modern art, bequested a large group of outdoor bronze sculptures to the museum. These pieces formed the core of the collection, which now features monumental sculptures by some of the 20th century's most renowned European and American sculptors, including Barbara Hepworth, Jacques Lipchitz and Henry Moore.

In 1989, the Block Museum opened its Sculpture Garden with nine of the monumental bronzes donated by Leigh Block. The Sculpture Garden was designed by Chicago architect John Vinci and through donations and acquisitions has grown to 22 pieces. Located on the Evanston campus, it is open year-round. For more information about the Sculpture Garden, visit www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/collections/sculpture.html.


The Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston

campus. The gallery is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Admission is free. The gallery places emphasis on ethnic cultural art, art by emerging artists, art by or about women, artwork by Northwestern undergraduate and graduate art students and traveling art shows. For information, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, e-mail dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit the Dittmar Web site at www.norris.northwestern.edu/dittmar.php.

 "100 Years of Excellence: McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science Exhibit," through Sept. 29, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Since its establishment in 1909, the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, has sought excellence in achieving its two parallel missions: to produce new knowledge and to engage and educate students. The history of McCormick shows that real-world problem solving has been a hallmark of engineering education at Northwestern for a century. McCormick fosters a culture in which innovation is not only encouraged, but expected. It is a culture that thrives today, driving new initiatives, research discoveries and superior education. On display in this exhibition are archival photographs and video presentations that document McCormick's history, while providing insight to current activity. A reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, with McCormick Dean Julio M. Ottino is free and open to the public.

"Unearthed" exhibition, Kristy Deetz and Joseph Pintz, Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Oct. 4 through Oct. 30. "Unearthed" combines the talents of Kristy Deetz, chair of the art discipline at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, and Northwestern alumnus Joseph Pintz, who teaches ceramics at Bowling Green University. The exhibition celebrates the artistry of objects created from natural sources. Carved wooden reliefs painted with encaustic, Deetz's "Earthtexts" are visual metaphors of the book form and autobiographical explorations. Playing off of concepts such as palimpsest (a parchment tablet that has been inscribed two or three times), aporia (such as a figure of speech or a rhetorical question) and table of context -- her pieces operate as visual puns and connect ideas of language to body and earth. Her "Earthtexts" include materials such as beeswax, a bird's nest, twigs, stones and hair. Ceramic artist Joseph Pintz believes that the things we surround ourselves with are dense with meaning and define the structure of one's life. His carved ceramic forms explore the role that objects play in fulfilling our physical and emotional needs. Pintz's work is featured in the September 2009 issue of Ceramics Monthly. An opening reception from 3 to 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, at the gallery is free and open to the public.

Artist Talk, "Reading Texts and Textures," Kristy Deetz, 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4, Dittmar Memorial Gallery. Artist Kristy Deetz's talk will take place during an opening reception at the gallery. Admission is free and open to the public.

Free Pottery Workshop -- Joseph Pintz, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, Artica Studios, Norris University Center. Join ceramic artist Joseph Pintz for a hands-on workshop to explore using bisque molds to create functional forms. Learn how this low-tech process for vessel making can be a great alternative to wheel throwing. The workshop is free and open to all skill levels. Register online at www.dittmar.northwestern.edu.

(Nathalie Rayter, a junior in the School of Education and Social Policy, contributed to this story.)

Topics: Campus Life