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Cranbrook

Cranbrook surveys its history in ‘With Eyes Opened’

Artis Lane (Painting, 1951 - did not graduate) Portrait of Diahann Carroll, 1966, oil on canvas. Courtesy Collected Detroit and the artist. Photo: Jessie Mellon
Artis Lane (Painting, 1951 – did not graduate) Portrait of Diahann Carroll, 1966, oil on canvas. Courtesy Collected Detroit and the artist. Photo credit: Jessie Mellon

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — This summer, Cranbrook Art Museum is pleased to debut With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932, the first book and largest exhibition to expansively chronicle the school’s nearly 90-year history as a radical experiment in the education of artists. On view from June 18 – September 19, the exhibition will occupy the entire museum.

The result of a four-year research project, the With Eyes Opened exhibition features more than 275 works by more than 220 artists representing the Academy’s various programs of study—architecture, ceramics, design, fiber, metals, painting, photography, printmaking and sculpture. However, in keeping with the Academy’s interdisciplinary spirit, all of the museum’s galleries combine works from different disciplines and mix historic and contemporary pieces, bringing into dialogue different artistic visions and voices across the arc of the school’s history. A special focus of the project is to expand the historical legacy of the Academy’s early reputation in design by expanding the canon of artists and designers associated with the school through the inclusion of women and artists of color.

Jack Lenor Larsen (MFA Weaving and Textile Design, 1951) with Winifred “Win” Andersen, Magnum (Upholstery and wallcovering fabric), 1970. Layered Mylar, cotton flannel, sheer polyester, organza, wool, cotton and synthetic threads. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Museum Purchase with funds from the Wetsman Foundation. © Jack Lenor Larsen. Photo: PD Rearick
Jack Lenor Larsen (MFA Weaving and Textile Design, 1951) with Winifred “Win” Andersen, Magnum (Upholstery and wallcovering fabric), 1970. Layered Mylar, cotton flannel, sheer polyester, organza, wool, cotton and synthetic threads. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Museum Purchase with funds from the Wetsman Foundation. © Jack Lenor Larsen. Photo credit: PD Rearick

To cover the most ground in capturing the Academy’s history, the museum has also published a landmark 624-page companion book commemorating the impact of the Academy, focusing on 200 of the many thousands of artists, former students and faculty who have formed its artistic community. The exhibition and publication were conceived as parallel projects that share a title but not a checklist; several artists are included in one but not the other.

Cranbrook Academy of Art opened in 1932 and offered a radical approach to arts education. Described as part laboratory, part artist colony, and part atelier, or artist workshop, this close-knit community of artists and designers offered an intensely productive and interdisciplinary environment for creative work, and continues to do so to this day.

Cranbrook Academy of Art, Triton Pools featuring sculptures by Carl Milles (Artist-in-Residence, Department of Sculpture, 1931–1953). Courtesy Michigan State Preservation Office. Photo: James Haefner.
Cranbrook Academy of Art, Triton Pools featuring sculptures by Carl Milles (Artist-in-Residence, Department of Sculpture, 1931–1953). Courtesy Michigan State Preservation Office. Photo credit: James Haefner.

Cranbrook rejected the Beaux Arts educational tradition by replacing academic professors with practicing artists; privileging the artist’s studio over the classroom; emphasizing experimentation and the exploration of other disciplines; and rejecting historical precedents in favor of searching for new forms of expression resonant with contemporary life. With no classes, curriculum, or grades, Cranbrook dispensed with the rudiments of school and instead offered an experience of artistic life.

Eero Saarinen (Instructor, Department of Architecture, 1939–1941) (designer) Knoll International, Inc. (manufacturer), Pedestal or Tulip Side Chair, designed 1955–57, fiberglas-reinforced plastic, aluminum, upholstery. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Knoll International. Photo: RH Hensleigh and Tim Thayer
Eero Saarinen (Instructor, Department of Architecture, 1939–1941) (designer) Knoll International, Inc. (manufacturer), Pedestal or Tulip Side Chair, designed 1955–57, fiberglas-reinforced plastic, aluminum, upholstery. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Knoll International. Photo credit: RH Hensleigh and Tim Thayer

Although other schools such as the Bauhaus (1919–1933) or Black Mountain College (1933–1957) also emerged in the early 20th century, only Cranbrook Academy of Art remains a vital force in the worlds of art, architecture, craft, and design.

With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932 is organized into the following gallery themes that highlight the school’s contributions to the fields of art, architecture, craft, and design:

Charles Eames (Architecture 1938-1939, Artist-in-Residence, Department of Design, 1939–1941) and Ray Kaiser Eames (Weaving, 1940–1941) (designers) Herman Miller, Inc. (manufacturer), ESU (Eames Storage Units), 1941-1951, steel, birch plywood, plastic laminate. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Herman Miller, Inc. Photo: R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer
Charles Eames (Architecture 1938-1939, Artist-in-Residence, Department of Design, 1939–1941) and Ray Kaiser Eames (Weaving, 1940–1941) (designers) Herman Miller, Inc. (manufacturer), ESU (Eames Storage Units), 1941-1951, steel, birch plywood, and plastic laminate. From the collection of the Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Herman Miller, Inc. Photo credit: R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer

Architecture of the Interior highlights Cranbrook’s contributions to the advent of mid-century modernism as well as contemporary limited edition furniture. It also includes a 36-foot-long wall of chairs created by Cranbrook artists and designers that underscores the academy’s dominance of this genre.

Mixing Chamber focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of Cranbrook by showcasing work that crosses mediums and disciplines. It features a custom mural by artist Cleon Peterson and new works by Vivian Beer and Tony Matelli set against a dramatic floor-to-ceiling installation of draperies created by textile designer Ruth Adler Schnee.

Salon Abstraction: this floor-to-ceiling installation highlights the use of abstraction across the academy through paintings, photographs, prints and sculpture.

Sculpture Court examines this founding discipline as well as other large-scale works from disciplines such as architecture, fiber, metals, and ceramics.

Maija Grotell (Artist-in-Residence, Department of Ceramics, 1938–1966) Vase, c.1942, stoneware. Collection Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Benjamin Micou in memory of Maija Grotell. Photo: R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer
Maija Grotell (Artist-in-Residence, Department of Ceramics, 1938–1966) Vase, circa 1942, stoneware. From the collection of the Cranbrook Art Museum. Gift of Mrs. Benjamin Micou in memory of Maija Grotell. Photo credit: R. H. Hensleigh and Tim Thayer

Object Islands explores the how the role of the craft departments at Cranbrook have exerted an outsized role and impact on other disciplines as well as the fields of jewelry and metals, fiber, and ceramics. The gallery also includes a new installation of a signature indigo work by Rowland Ricketts.

Portrait Gallery highlights how Cranbrook artists continue to re-conceptualize the portrait through painting, sculpture, and photography. Among the featured artists are Artis Lane, Liz Cohen, and  Jova Lynne.

The Menagerie looks at how artists have drawn inspiration from the animal kingdom.

Paper Trail shows how the print and poster remain dominant forms of expression at Cranbrook for both artists and graphic designers.

Playground shows how Academy-educated artists have played an important role in the evolution of the concept of play. Features works by Charles and Ray Eames, Gere Kavanaugh, Cas Holman, and Jim Miller-Melberg.

About Cranbrook Academy of Art
Cranbrook Academy of Art is the country’s top-ranked, graduate-only program in architecture, design and fine art. Each year, just 75 students are invited to study and live on its landmark Saarinen-designed campus, which features private studios, state-of-the-art workshops, a renowned Art Museum, and 300 acres of forests, lakes, and streams, all a short drive from the art, design, and music scene of Detroit. The focus at Cranbrook is on studio practice in one of 11 disciplines: Architecture, 2D, 3D, and 4D Design, Ceramics, Fiber, Metalsmithing, Painting, Photography, Print Media, and Sculpture. The program is anchored by celebrated Artists- and Designers-in-Residence, one for each discipline, all of whom live and practice on campus alongside Cranbrook’s students. For more information, visit cranbrookart.edu.

Visit the website for the Cranbrook Art Museum and see its dedicated page for With Eyes Opened: Cranbrook Academy of Art Since 1932.