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Princeton University Art Museum Exhibition Features New Acquisitions

Exhibition Dates: June 22 through September 1, 2002

PRINCETON -- The exhibition "Recent Acquisitions," on view from
June 22 through September 1, 2002, at the Princeton University Art Museum, brings together recent gifts and purchases that augment the strengths of the museum's diverse holdings. East Asian, pre-Columbian, and Latin American objects are on view alongside Western drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures dating from antiquity to the twentieth century.

The selection of Chinese acquisitions ranges from a Neolithic Tripod ewer (gui) of the third millennium B.C. to landscapes by contemporary artists Jia Youfu and Luo Jianwu. The earthenware ewer is an important addition to the collection of Neolithic Chinese objects, which until now has represented only western Chinese cultures. It is a product of the Dawenkou culture, well known for jade carvings and black- and white-ware ceramics, which developed along the east coast of China in the area of modern Shandong province. Also on view is Landscape with Waterfall by Luo Jianwu. The artist spent eleven years on this monochrome ink painting, which shows a mountain gorge with a waterfall and cloudy mists. Although the subject matter is traditional, Jianwu's techniques are not: his tour-de-force handling of the brush and ink, along with a modern sensibility that incorporates representational concerns for space and composition, make this work one of the strongest statements in contemporary Chinese landscape painting.

Complementing the museum's extensive collection of ancient Greek and Roman ceramics is an Attic Greek "Tyrrhenian" amphora. In the scene on the obverse, Herakles grapples with the Keryneian Hind, whose capture was one of the Twelve Labors Herakles performed for King Eurystheus of Mycenae. Another of Herakles's Labors is depicted on the reverse, where the hero slays a multi-headed serpent coiled in a tree. The monster can be identified as Ladon, the serpent who protected the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. This is the earliest known depiction of Herakles in the Garden, which was said to be located far to the west, beyond the Straits of Gibraltar and the setting sun.

The museum's collection of pre-Columbian objects has been enriched by several gifts and purchases, including the sculpture of a Seated Aztec Macehual, which is carved in volcanic stone and dates to ca. 1490-1520. When the Spanish attacked Tenochtitlan, the island capitol of the Aztec empire, they destroyed every building and sculpture in their path, making Aztec stone sculpture very rare. This example depicts a macehual, or commoner. Also on view is a vase in excellent condition from Pusilhá, Guatemala, which at sixteen inches may be the tallest Mayan polychrome vase known. It depicts the presentation of a tribute offering to a seated ruler. From his dais, the ruler speaks to four emissaries; below, three of his minions inspect the offering of embroidered cloth for moth holes, tears, and imperfections. The scene is imbued with a gentle, satiric humor that provides a wonderful glimpse of court life in the Late Classic Mayan period (A.D. 600-900).

A small painting on copper by Francesco Trevisani (Italian, 1656-1746) depicting Christ Before Caiaphas, the gift of George and Fern Wachter, is a distinguished addition to the collection. Trevisani trained in Venice but worked in Rome, where this medium flourished from the late sixteenth into the eighteenth century. Paint applied to the non-absorbant copper support took on special richness, and the medium was appreciated for its durability and precisely rendered details. Here Christ, on trial before the Jewish high priest Caiaphas, responds during the interrogation that he is, indeed, the son of God, and Caiaphas tears his robes in outrage at this blasphemy. The painting is enlivened by a bright palette, dramatic lighting, and a chained monkey, whose posture mimics that of the bound Christ.

The collection of twentieth-century American works on paper is enhanced by several major gifts, including Wayne Thiebaud's whimsical Study for Big Peppermint of 1969-70 and Robert Motherwell's Hen of 1950. A fascinating early example of Motherwell's virtuoso draftsmanship, involving the charged polarity of controlled line and randomly torn paper, this rare figurative work exemplifies on a smaller scale the dynamic black and white dialogue that forms the basis of such monumental canvases as the Spanish Elegies, which he began in 1949.

Four works from the bequest of David L. Meginnity, Class of 1958, are included in the exhibition. Meginnity was an avid collector of modern and contemporary Latin American art and during the 1990s gave the museum over forty prints, drawings, and paintings. His bequest of nearly 100 works -- paintings, sculpture, and works on paper -- constitutes a representative collection, with certain areas of concentration, for example, the works of Francisco Toledo, considered Mexico's greatest living artist. On display is Toledo's playfully morbid Muerte y Escalera (Death and the Ladder), which reveals what the artist has called "a taste for the paradoxical and fantastic that has existed in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times." Also on view are a recent large drawing, Secretero, by the Cuban artists' collective Los Carpinteros, and works by Leonora Carrington and Sergio Hernandez.

"These selected examples attest to the broadening scope of the permanent collection," notes Victoria Reed, curatorial research associate, who organized the exhibition.

The art museum is open to the public without charge. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. The museum, located in the middle of the Princeton University campus, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. The Museum Shop closes at 5:00 p.m. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788 or visit our new Web site at www.princetonartmuseum.org.

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