This past year has seen the opening of remarkable new museums and new opportunities for citizens of North Carolina to explore their collections of world-class art and craft. In Charlotte, the Bechtler Museum and Gantt Center will soon be joined by the Mint Uptown, opening Oct. 1 at the Levine Center for the Arts. In Raleigh, the North Carolina Museum of Art opened its new 127,000-square-foot gallery building showcasing its permanent collection last April and will soon be re-opening galleries in its original exhibition space. And museums like the Nasher in Durham will continue to surprise with cutting-edge exhibitions like The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl.
The Mint Museum Uptown opens to the public with a 24-hour celebration starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. Kathleen Jameson, executive director, the Mint Museum, sees countless opportunities to collaborate with neighboring museums at the Levine Center for the Arts, along with the Knight Theatre and North Carolina Dance Theatre, all of which will benefit the citizens of North Carolina.
Jameson is exploring potential collaborations with the many cultural institutions on and near the Levine Center for the Arts, whether ticket discounts or one-price day passes. “We’ve got this great plaza in front of the museums, and I think our stairs are like an amphitheater, so we can have performances and collaborate in a lot of different ways,” Jameson says.
Some of those collaborations are already taking place. Video artist Janet Biggs is producing a video about NASCAR at the nearby NASCAR Museum that will be part of her installation at the Mint this November. A February 2011 program with the Charlotte Symphony will include a performance at the Knight Theatre followed by a salsa party at the Mint. Next March, North Carolina Dance Theatre is premiering an original ballet as part of a citywide commemoration of Charlotte-born artist Romare Bearden’s 100th birthday, and the Mint has been providing works of art from its Bearden collection to inspire the choreography and even the set design.
“The sense of collaboration here is extraordinary—and rare,” Jameson says. “You can already see the benefits in the community.”
“For me, art isn’t something that’s separate from life— it’s a part of everyday life,” she adds. “When people go through the museum they will see things they will really be able to relate to. Craft and design is one very important point of entry, because it does seem more accessible and is often more fun. It is a living tradition, and in North Carolina it is so rich and such a treasure. It’s important for people to be able to connect to that and to understand the leading role that North Carolina plays on a world stage.”
The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Thursday, Sept. 2 through Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011, examines the culture of vinyl records through 50 years of contemporary art from the 1960s to today. The exhibition includes the work of 41 artists from around the world, including popular artists like Laurie Anderson and David Byrne, established artists like Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha and Carrie Mae Weems and rising stars of the contemporary art world like William Cordova, Robin Rhode and Dario Robleto. Some of the artists, including Kevin Ei-ichi deForest, Jeroen Diepenmaat, Taiyo Kimura and Lyota Yagi will have their work shown in a U.S. museum for the first time.
The Nasher commissioned two original works for the exhibition. Thundersnow Road was created by Xaviera Simmons, a Brooklyn-based artist whose work includes photography, performance, installation, theater and sound projects. She proposed making a series of large-format film photographs based on the landscape of North Carolina and using those photographs as inspiration for songs.
Fifteen artists were asked to respond to Simmons’ photographs, and their music was pressed onto a limited-edition vinyl record album. “They really paid attention to the images, and it seems like they were deeply inspired by the project,” Simmons says.
When the decision was made to press the album on vinyl, Durham-based Merge Records was a natural fit. Now in its 21st year, the independent record label founded by Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan had its first number-one hit on Billboard 200’s Aug. 21, 2010 album-sales chart with The Suburbs, the new album by Montreal rock band Arcade Fire. McCaughan says that five percent of the album’s sales in the first week were in the vinyl format, an exceptionally high number. (Arcade Fire’s three albums on the Merge label have sold a total of more than one million copies.)
McCaughan, who is a guitarist and singer for the Merge band Superchunk, was one of the artists asked to compose a song for the project, collaborating for the first time with friend Harrison Haynes, drummer for the indie rock band Les Savy Fav and one of the former owners of the late Branch Gallery in Durham. They composed a musical reaction to Simmons’ photograph of a person in a red sweatshirt, boxing in a field.
“I love the idea of visual art and music being combined,” McCaughan says. “I have recorded a couple of soundtrack film score albums (Who Loves the Sun and Looking for Leonard) and to me it’s the same thing, in terms of combining the visual with writing music.”
The album received a limited pressing of 1,000, each numbered and signed by Simmons, and will be played in the gallery during the exhibition. McCaughan gives it a positive review. “I think it plays really well as an album,” he says. “It’s rural without being nostalgic or old-timey. Some of the instrumentation certainly evokes that, and some of the feel of the music is Southern, but it’s not revivalist.”
Simmons was energized by her collaboration with the musicians as well as with McCaughan. “Merge really helped me learn the logistics involved with producing a vinyl record, and now I plan to produce one every year or year and a half, hopefully making my own music or sounds–but always in collaboration with my community.”
The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh celebrated its dramatic new building this spring, and on Sunday, Nov. 7 it debuts the renovated former museum facility for exhibitions with five concurrent shows.
American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell (through Jan. 30, 2011) will trace the evolution of Rockwell’s art over his six-decade career. It features 40 original works of art and a complete set of 323 Saturday Evening Post cover tear sheets, spanning 47 years. (This exhibition requires a ticket; sales are currently open to museum members and will be available to the general public starting Sunday, Sept. 5. Other exhibitions are free. For more information, visit http://www.ncartmuseum.org/.)
Bob Trotman: Inverted Utopias (through March 27, 2011) features the North Carolina native’s painted, stained and carved wood figurative sculptures from the past decade. (Trotman is a 2010 recipient of a N.C. Arts Council Fellowship.) Fins and Feathers: Original Children’s Book Illustrations from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (through Jan. 30, 2011) features original illustrations for children’s books from the late 1960s through today, including illustrations by Leo Lionni, Eric Carle and Petra Mathers.
Binh Danh: In the Eclipse of Angkor (through Jan. 30, 2011) includes this Vietnamese photographer and artist’s chlorophyll prints, found butterfly specimens and Daguerreotypes, with a focus on his recent works documenting and interpreting the genocide that took place in Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. John James Audubon’s The Birds of America will be on permanent display in a special gallery devoted to Audubon’s art. It consists of 435 large, hand-colored prints produced by a combination of engraving and aquatint and is one of only 200 complete sets remaining in existence.
The North Carolina Museum of Art is open Tuesday–Thursday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Friday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays.
There are notable exhibitions at other North Carolina museums this fall. The Ackland Museum in Chapel Hill features Flowers from Earth and Sand: Art Glass and Ceramics, 1880-1950 from Sunday, Sept. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 12. Sewell Sillman: Pushing Limits at the Asheville Art Museum Friday, Aug. 6 through Sunday, January 9, 2011 highlights the work of Stillman (1924–1992), who studied with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College. And the Weatherspoon Museum in Greensboro features Works from the Rosenblum Collection: Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol Saturday, Sept. 25 through Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011. The Durham Arts Council presents People You May Know, an exhibition of intimate, engaging and non-traditional portraits that highlight local and often overlooked people in the community and others who are historically significant. It opens Friday, Oct. 8 and runs through Jan. 9, 2011.