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Spring 2017 Director’s Letter
This past fall marked an unprecedented collaboration among more than 25 Yale University schools, departments, programs, associations, and museums, which presented Grace Notes: Reflections for Now—directed by acclaimed artist Carrie Mae Weems—on September 9 and 10 at the Yale Repertory’s University Theatre. This combined effort of University partners resulted in one of the most moving performances ever presented at Yale, and also sparked conversations across these many units regarding future joint initiatives.
It was most fitting that this coming together began with Weems, who followed her performance with the Andrew Carnduff Ritchie Lecture at the Gallery on December 1. Weems’s lecture was titled “Past Tense,” and she spoke poignantly about her work and how it is influenced by the issues facing our country today. The use of poetry and scenes of civic unrest in her artworks juxtaposed with images of hope and powerful movement—in a variety of media—make all who experience these objects reconsider how we interact with one another. Who can help but be inspired?
As a member of Yale’s newly formed Initiative on Race, Gender, and Globalization, I can emphatically state that the conversations initiated by Weems will be carried on by students, faculty, and staff in the months ahead. For example, new student internships, organized jointly by the Gallery and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, are enabling us to better understand our collections of Native American artworks and how best to present and interpret them for our multiple and varied audiences. As we often do, we have been learning a great deal from these young Yale students, who bring diverse perspectives and open minds to weighty issues.
One of the exhibitions on view this semester, Modern Art from the Middle East, celebrates the 175th anniversary of Arabic studies at Yale in collaboration with Yale’s Council on Middle East Studies and our dear colleague Kishwar Rizvi, Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art. This installation of works, drawn from the Barjeel Art Foundation, highlights the art movements that blossomed in Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria in the second half of the 20th century and complements the teaching and public presentations taking place across the University during this yearlong celebration.
Our visitors will be treated to three additional new curatorial-debut exhibitions and installations this spring, originating from different departments at the Gallery: Let Us March On: Lee Friedlander and the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Small-Great Objects: Anni and Josef Albers in the Americas, and Lumia: Thomas Wilfred and the Art of Light. Each of these fascinating exhibitions is the result of deep research and close looking by young scholars on our staff. We are also delighted to present It Was a New Century: Reflections on Modern America, which opened in December, as well as the relocated and reinstalled Laura and James J. Ross Gallery of African Art—both of which hold rich pleasures.
Additional collaborations are sure to spring from the ideas offered by our newest colleagues on campus, Marta Kuzma, Dean, Yale School of Art, and Deborah Berke, Dean and Professor, Yale School of Architecture, who both began their tenure this past fall. Together with Tim Barringer, Chair and Paul Mellon Professor, Department of the History of Art, we have already initiated conversations about ways in which we can better integrate their schools’ students and faculty with our curators, teachers, and collections in the galleries.
Key to the success of these initiatives is the return of Jock Reynolds, who resumes his position as our Henry J. Heinz II Director on January 1, 2017, following his well-deserved six-month sabbatical. My colleagues and I have done our best to keep the Gallery running smoothly in his absence this past semester. Please do look for Jock once again in the galleries and around campus, and be sure to welcome him back!
It has been an honor and my pleasure to serve as acting director. Stepping into this role has given me the opportunity to get to know so many more of our members and visitors, and I look forward to continuing to greet you and learn with you in our exhibitions and installations.
Acting Director (July 1–December 31, 2016); currently Senior Deputy Director and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art
Pamela Franks, Senior Deputy Director and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art