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George Carlson: Heart of the West
December 15, 2007 - April 13, 2008
The Denver Art Museum added to its exciting exhibition lineup when George Carlson: Heart of the West opened December 15, 2007 in the Hamilton Building's Dietler Western Art Galleries. The exhibition features the work of living artist and former Coloradoan George Carlson, considered one of the finest sculptors of western subject matter working today. He is widely known for his sensitive interpretation of animals, especially horses, in bronze. His figurative work features a number of subjects including the Tarahumara Indian tribe in Mexico, with whom he lived. Several pastel drawings from his journeys to Mexico will also be displayed. (right: George Carlson, Old Navajo, 1960-75. Denver Art Museum: William Sr. and Dorothy Harmsen Collection.)
"We think he is an artist who has stood the test of time," says Ann Daley, Associate Curator of the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum. "He doesn't like to be considered a western artist, but we think he is appropriate. We've admired his work for a long time, and think he is due an exhibition."
George Carlson: Heart of the West features more than 35 objects from several lenders including the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, works owned by a private Colorado collector, and the artist's studio. The exhibition will be on view through April 13, 2008.
In addition, George Carlson's work is highlighted in the latest issue of Western Passages, published by the Petrie Institute of Western American Art at the Denver Art Museum. "Heart of the West: New Painting and Sculpture of the American West" includes essays on George Carlson, collecting Western American art, the Museum's Contemporary Realism Group, artist-explorers and the Western landscape, and full color illustrations. (left: George Carlson, Of One Heart, 1981. Denver Art Museum: Funds from Contemporary Realism Group.)
The Petrie Institute presented a symposium titled Heart of the West: New Art/New Thinking on January 5, 2008, at the Denver Art Museum. This one-day symposium explored multiple perspectives on contemporary western American art. Four prominent American art scholars, curators, and museum directors discussed topics including modernism vs. realism in early 20th century western painting, museum roles in balancing popular art with elitist institutional imperatives, status of contemporary western art today, and post-modernist conceptions of the West.
Selected wall text from the exhibition
Related video transcript
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In September 2007, The Denver Art Museum announced that Denver resident Tom Petrie would endow the Museum's Institute of Western American Art. Additionally, he agreed to a long-term loan of pieces from his comprehensive collection of works by Western artist Charles M. Russell for display at the Museum. In recognition both of this gift and Mr. Petrie's long-time commitment to Western art and the Denver Art Museum, the Museum announced a new name for the Museum's Western art initiative: "The Petrie Institute of Western American Art."
The gift will be used to fund art display and conservation, Institute staffing, special exhibitions, and educational efforts including the annual Western Passages publication and an annual symposium. An impressive lineup of upcoming exhibitions that will be supported by the gift includes George Carlson: Heart of the West (December 15, 2007-April 13, 2008), In Contemporary Rhythm: The Art of Ernest L. Blumenschein (November 15, 2008-February 15, 2009), Charles Deas: Telling Tales to 1840s America (June 6, 2009-August 30, 2009) and The Russell Retrospective (November 2009-January 2010).
"As the Denver Art Museum is at the geographic center of the Rocky Mountain West, our goal is to create one of the most internationally respected centers of Western American art," said Peter Hassrick, director of the Institute. "In conjunction with other recent gifts and initiatives by ardent supporters including the Dietler, Harmsen and Wallace families, this generous gift from Mr. Petrie provides us with very exciting momentum towards achieving this goal."
"As an avid collector of Western art and a resident of Denver, my intention is that this gift will help continue to elevate the importance of Western art within the Colorado community and at the Denver Art Museum," said Tom Petrie. "With the progress that's been made in the last decade in terms of strengthening the collection, building an excellent curatorial team and increasing the priority on Western American art, I feel that the Denver Art Museum is well positioned to develop this program into one of the finest in the world."
The Institute was founded in 2001 following the very successful Painters and the American West exhibition, drawn from the esteemed Anschutz collection, and a major donation of more than 700 objects from the collection assembled by Bill and Dorothy Harmsen. Since then, Peter H. Hassrick, a leading scholar and curator in the field of Western American art and past director of the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, was hired as director of the Institute. Former director and curator Joan Carpenter Troccoli has been appointed senior scholar and has focused on writing and curatorial duties associated with exhibitions and publications. Hassrick, Troccoli and associate curator Ann Daley also worked to prominently display many of the major works from the collection in the Dietler Galleries of Western American Art in the new Frederic C. Hamilton Building, which opened in October of 2006.
A member of the Denver Art Museum Board of Directors since 1998 as well as the Museum's Western Advisory Committee, Tom Petrie is a Vice Chairman of Merrill Lynch and has a long career in energy investment banking. Mr. Petrie is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, holds an MSBA from Boston University and received an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering from the Colorado School of Mines.
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