Iowa art museum adds important images to its collection

‘Abandoned Farm, Tractored Out’ by American photographer Dorthea Lange (1895-1965). Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) – Looking at the photo, one can hardly believe it’s real. An abandoned farmhouse rises from the middle of a rutted expanse of land in which absolutely nothing is growing. There’s only the house and the land, both barren.

Titled Abandoned Farm, Tractored Out, the photo of a Texas farm in 1938 is one of hundreds taken by Dorthea Lange (1895-1965) when she worked for the Farm Security Administration. She captured landscapes and faces directly affected by the Dust Bowl and the economic Depression.

This photograph is one of 63 works acquired by Figge Art Museum in 2018 as the Davenport cultural institution continues to build its collection in key and affordable areas.

The number isn’t as big as in 2017 when 182 works were acquired, but there is “really cool, important stuff, nonetheless,” said Andrew Wallace, director of collections and exhibitions.

Key collecting areas include works by women – because they are underrepresented – as well as pieces by Midwesterners, photography in general and contemporary and Regionalist art, Wallace told the Quad-City Times.

The museum also added four hugely colorful Haitian paintings to complement the collection started by gifts from the late Dr. Walter Neiswanger and its first piece of street art.

About 40 works were donated and the remainder were purchased, Wallace said. Money for purchases comes from an acquisitions-only endowment fund set up nearly 90 years ago by the former Friends of Art.

Two of the new works are in display now, a 1936 photo of the Brooklyn Bridge and an oil painting, both by women.

The photo by German-born Ilse Bing (1899-1998) is in the gallery that contains Regionalist works of the 1930s. Her urban scene is considered a good counterpoint to the more agrarian-themed works by Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, Wallace explained.

While Wood was revolting against the city, “the reality was that artists were flocking to New York because that’s where you went to work and study,” he said. It was a place of new ideas.

The painting titled High Wind, High Tide is in the space off the second-floor elevator. The oil by American Jane Wilson (1924-2015) consists of different shades of green with white highlights and is painted in such a way that it is difficult to tell where the sky ends and the water begins.

In addition to being a woman, Wilson gets bonus points for being born in Iowa.

Other highlights in the 2018 acquisitions:

– A color photo called Main Street Laundromat taken in 2012 by Kathya Maria Landeros (1977-). It is one in a series exploring Mexican-American identity and the immigrant experience. The laundromat is in the state of Washington where migrant workers come to pick apples and pears, Wallace said.

– A 1936 picture of sand dunes by American photographer Edward Weston (1886-1958), whose works are known for their contrasts in texture and light. His work is found in most major American museums.

– A photograph of Half Dome in California’s Yosemite Valley, taken by William E. Dassonville (1879-1957) in 1906, more than a decade before the more famous Ansel Adams began his work.

Wooden Indian, a painting by Native American artist Fritz Scholder (1937-2005) who broke new ground in the way Native Americans are portrayed in fine art. His goal was to “paint the Indian real, not red.”

Scholder “is extremely well-known in collections all over the world,” Wallace said. “He is an important American painter, important abstract painter, important figurative painter. We’re happy to have this hugely important work by him.”’

–  XOXOXO by Puerto Rican-American artist Dan Monteavaro (1975- ), aka Moncho 1929, is the Figge’s first example of street art-inspired work. Large red X’s and O’s are painted against a background that looks like a blown-up comic book page.

–  Great Wall of Poverty is a large work by African-American artist Michelangelo Lovelace (1960- ) who is being collected by museums throughout the country, Wallace said.

The painting shows a street scene with a large wall dividing the “haves,” represented by skyscrapers, from the “have nots,” represented by about 75 people engaged in drug dealing, pick pocketing and soliciting for prostitution.

A child carries a sign that asks “Where’s Daddy?” and a billboard advises to “Play the lottery, it’s your only hope.”

The artist “intentionally made his work look child-like, but his themes are weighty,” Wallace said. “We like it because you can show it to kids and you can talk about these things, but it’s not so graphic as to be disturbing.”

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By ALMA GAUL, Quad-City Times

Information from: Quad-City Timeshttp://www.qctimes.com

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