“Affinity Atlas” Full-length Exhibition Video

I’m Tracy Adler, the director of the Ruth
and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College. Affinity Atlas is the
inaugural exhibition at the Wellin, and it’s curated by Ian Berry. The exhibition features over 70 works by 50 artists, and it’s comprised of both works
drawn from the collection, as well as those on loan from artists, galleries, and
private collectors, and it features new site specific pieces by emerging
contemporary artists. This exhibition takes a traditional compare and contrast
model of teaching art history to the next level by presenting works of art
and artifacts from different cultures and eras side by side for us to consider
the similarities and differences that exist between them. We’ve had the
opportunity to welcome classes from all different disciplines on campus, from art
history and studio art to religious studies and romance languages. This is
also a very central idea to the intention of the museum is that we are
integral to the academic programs of the institution. My name is Ian Berry; I’m
guest curator of Affinity Atlas. The show opens with a very large work by the
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz. “Prometheus”, which is the work that you enter the
gallery looking at and also this fantastic image of a skeleton leaning on
another artifact. The combination of everyday discarded trash and art history
made for a perfect combination for Affinity Atlas. “Lawn” is one of the new
works for the show, Affinity Atlas. It’s the work of three artists working as a
collaborative team. Johannes van der Beek, Max Galleon, and Aaron King. The three of them brought works that they had made in their studios here to the Wellin to
combine, stack, lean against, prop up, and hang on display furniture that they made specific for the gallery right here at
Hamilton. They were inspired by the themes of the show that relate to the
history of museums: how museums collect, how the museums show their collections, and the strange combinations that can occur when works, very strange works are
put together in museum storage. For Affinity Atlas we also commissioned the
artist Michael Oatman of Troy, New York to create a 29-foot long collage called
“The Branch.” “The Branch” is a multi-panel collage that spans one of the largest
walls in the gallery and includes thousands of cut out pieces of paper
that are mixed together to form a single image of a branch that starts in
darkness and goes through four seasons and then trails off into the cosmos. Also
on view is a very large scale, room-filling sculpture by Demetrius
Oliver. The piece is called “Orrery”, and an orrery is a word for a model for the
solar system. It’s like a globe or a map. In Demetrius’s “Orrery,” his
contemporary orrery, he’s made a map of his own personal universe. All the objects
that are attached to this series of hanging umbrellas are scrounge bits from
his studio: his private and intimate universe. Towards the end of the
exhibition, there’s a section of works that, on their surface look like
traditional landscapes. Some photographs by Sylvia Saunders, watercolor by Charles Birchfield, but then also some seemingly abstract
drawings by Spencer Finch, or a very mystical pyramid sculpture by Paul Tech, which has a pumpkin stem coming from its bronze sides, and then right in the
middle what seems to be a piece of a water damaged house taken
right out of the wall and propped here in this beautiful new museum by Valerie
Hegarty. And if you look carefully at the combinations and connections between
these objects, I think you get a sense of the power of landscape. Affinity Atlas is
on view through April 7th at the Wellin Museum, and it is the first of many
exciting and new exhibitions on the cutting edge of art and scholarship in
the field.

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