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Art in Residence: Dartmouth Recalls the Work of Visiting Artists

  • Beaver Meadow, by Paul Sample, a longtime artist in residence at Darmouth.

    Beaver Meadow, by Paul Sample, a longtime artist in residence at Darmouth.

  • Reflection, by Charles Burwell, is part of the “In Residence’’ exhibit at Dartmouth College.

    Reflection, by Charles Burwell, is part of the “In Residence’’ exhibit at Dartmouth College.

  • Young Man With Bird, by Carlos Sanchez.

    Young Man With Bird, by Carlos Sanchez.

  • Chocorua IV, by Frank Stella

    Chocorua IV, by Frank Stella

  • Noted American photographer Walker Evans took this photograph of Trinity Church in Cornish. It’s part of an exhibit at Dartmouth College of works by artists who’ve been in residence there.

    Noted American photographer Walker Evans took this photograph of Trinity Church in Cornish. It’s part of an exhibit at Dartmouth College of works by artists who’ve been in residence there.

  • Beaver Meadow, by Paul Sample, a longtime artist in residence at Darmouth.
  • Reflection, by Charles Burwell, is part of the “In Residence’’ exhibit at Dartmouth College.
  • Young Man With Bird, by Carlos Sanchez.
  • Chocorua IV, by Frank Stella
  • Noted American photographer Walker Evans took this photograph of Trinity Church in Cornish. It’s part of an exhibit at Dartmouth College of works by artists who’ve been in residence there.

There’s a question hanging over “In Residence: Contemporary Artists at Dartmouth,” the otherwise illuminating and wide-ranging exhibition that sprawls across Dartmouth College’s visual arts infrastructure.

The question is this: Dartmouth was founded in 1769, so what made visual art so much more important in 1931 that the artist-in-residence program got started?

It seems like a big cultural shift. There had always been artists at Dartmouth and in the college’s orbit, but apparently none had been thought of as “in residence” for the college’s first 160 years. After the Armory Show, the 1913 New York exhibit that introduced modernism to America, art had become a wide-open field. The federal government began paying artists during the Great Depression, not long after Dartmouth’s residency program started, and after World War II, artistic expression boomed along with the economy.

Dartmouth’s start was modest. Carlos Sanchez, a native of Guatemala and a 1923 Dartmouth graduate in engineering, returned to his alma mater in 1931 as the “Fellow in Art,” funded by the Rockefeller family. He stayed for a year, and was followed by muralist Jose Clemente Orozco, who stayed for two years. Thereafter, the Canadian painter Lawren Harris stayed for four years, then Paul Sample, who became a legendary figure at Dartmouth and in the Upper Valley, stayed from 1938 to 1962. Not surprisingly, “In Residence” is particularly strong in Sample’s work.

But it wasn’t until after he left that the residency picked up steam. The Hopkins Center for the Arts opened in 1962, and Matthew Wysocki, who led Dartmouth’s Visual Studies Department, which combined art history and studio art, was empowered to bring four artists to Dartmouth each year for 10 weeks at a time. The exhibition catalog, which contains a 1988 interview with Wysocki conducted by Timothy Rub, who would later direct the Hood, gives an account of the artist-in-residence program from 1962 on.

When I went to the Hood this week it was primarily to see the photographs Walker Evans made while at Dartmouth in 1972. Evans, who was perhaps the most definitive of American photographers, found in the Upper Valley some of the same Depression-era scenery he had photographed in the South decades before, and his carefully composed images of Trinity Church in Cornish, and interiors of the home of Alfred Petersen in Enfield, are classic examples of Evans’ straightforward treatment of vernacular America.

The portion of the exhibition at the Hood is roughly chronological, so the first room includes Sanchez’ work, as well as a suite of Orozco’s preparatory drawings for his Dartmouth mural, The Epic of American Civilization. Painted on high walls in the reserve reading room of Baker Library, the mural can feel a bit distant, especially when standing face to face with the drawings, which are just as masterful.

That first room in the exhibition, which contains Sanchez, Orozco, Harris and Sample, is wonderfully coherent. Their works are lively and deeply humane. As the exhibition goes on, and the number of artists mounts, the exhibition starts to spin off its moorings. Native American artists are grouped together, as are a clutch of photographers, attempts at organization that stumble. I wonder whether a straight chronology might have been better.

Still, there are some big names represented here, and Dartmouth students were lucky to work with them. Rauschenberg, Stella, Judd, Kahn, among others, but not many women, at least not until recently, have been in residence at Dartmouth.

The chaotic nature of contemporary art, rooted as it is in the idea that all voices have value, makes the absence of the historical underpinnings of the residency program more glaring. Take this criticism with a helping of salt: I haven’t seen the other branches of the exhibition, in the Black Family Visual Arts Center.

A pair of lunchtime gallery talks about “In Residence” are planned for the coming weeks, one by studio art professor Colleen Randall on Tuesday and one on March 1 by Hood Museum Director Michael Taylor.

O penings and Receptions

AVA Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon opens the 6th annual “Best of the Upper Valley High School Exhibition ” on Friday. This year’s show has received artwork from 18 schools. A reception and award ceremony, which in past years has been a jam-packed celebration of high school visual arts, is planned for Feb. 28, 5 to 7 p.m.

Kimball Union Academy’s Taylor Gallery hosts “Revision,” recent paintings by Maine artist Tollef Runquist, through April 5.

Nuance Gallery in Windsor opens “Luminaries,” a group show, and “Making Visible,” recent work by Valery Woodbury, Michelle Woodbury and Nance Silliman , with a reception Saturday evening, 4 to 6.

Last Chance

Norwich Public Library exhibits paintings by local members of the Vermont Watercolor Society through next Thursday, Feb. 27. The show includes paintings by Sue Bridge, Jennifer Brown, Cynthia Crawford, Nancy Dean, Jennifer Dembinski, Kathy Finnigan, Rebecca Gottesman, Nan Green, Debbie Hamilton, Owen Hamilton, Vickie Herzberg, Judy Miller, Kate More, Kate Reeves, Deborah Rice and Jo Tate.

Ongoing

Scavenger Gallery in White River Junction is showing “bikepots,” ceramics by Norwich artist Jim Walsh , that replicate bicycle sprockets and cranks.

Newport Library Arts Center hosts “Selections 2014,” featuring the work of artists chosen from last year’s juried regional show, Rosemary Conroy, Shawna Gibbs, Christine Hawkins, Bea Jillette, Hal Shukovsky and Rick Stockwell.

The Chandler Gallery in Randolph hosts “Making an Impression,” works by 18 printmakers from around Vermont, including Upper Valley artists Jeanne Amato, Brian Cohen, Victoria Herzberg, Judith Lampe, Sue Schiller, Marilyn Syme and Sheryl Trainor, through March 9.

The arts program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center exhibits mixed media by Donna Allen, woodblock prints by Matt Brown, photographs by Cathy Cone, acrylics, watercolor and colored pencil by Amy Fortier and photographs by Carla Kimball . The exhibit will continue through March.

The annual Elden Murray Photographic Exhibition and Competition is on view in Ledyard Gallery in Hanover’s Howe Library.

“Lemurs Will Follow You Home,” recent work by Strafford artist Cecily Herzig, is on view in the Hotel Coolidge’s Zollikofer Gallery in White River Junction through March 19.

The Norwich Historical Society is exhibiting six recently acquired portraits of members of two of Norwich’s earliest families, the Hutchinsons and the Lovelands, into late June. Visitors are welcome Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by appointment. Call 802-649-0124 or email info@norwichhistory.org.

Recent artwork by Jo Levasseur is on view through February at South Royalton Market.

“Penguins, Polar Bears and Kodiak Cubs,” wildlife photographs by Rochester, Vt., resident Barb DeHart, are on view at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph through March 26.

“Houses, Barns and Bridges of Tunbridge,” photographs by retired architect Alec Frost, is on view at Tunbridge Public Library.

BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vt., hosts “Juice Bar,” a colorful winter group show.

“Observing Vermont Architecture,” an exhibition of photographs by Curtis B. Johnson at the Middlebury College Museum of Art, is a companion to the publication of Buildings of Vermont , which features Johnson’s photographs and text by Glenn Andres, a longtime Middlebury College art professor. The exhibition remains on view through March 23.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3219.