Panel Discussion: Notes of Color
Sunday July 14, 2019, 2:00pm – 3:30pm
A discussion with Assistant Curator Mollie Berger Salah (The National Gallery of Art) and Jack Rasmussen, Director and Curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. The talk will be moderated by Elsabé Dixon, President of the Washington Sculptors Group.
Highlighting Hilda Thorpe, a painter-turned-sculptor, whose work was influenced by the Color Field painters of the 1950s, the panelists will discuss the after effects of Color Field painters on sculpture with today’s artists practicing in DC, VA and MD.
Notes of Color is an exhibition exploring the materials of both the painter and the sculptor, as inspired by the unique multi-media practice of Hilda Shapiro Thorpe, 1919 – 2000. The exhibition is on view at the The Athenaeum Gallery through July 21, 2019.
Painter-turned-sculptor, Hilda Thorpe (1919 – 2000) was a fixture of the Alexandria and Washington, DC arts scene. Her studio was on the third floor of the old “Why Not” store on the corner of King and Lee Streets for over thirty years. The Athenaeum, located on the same block as Thorpe’s former Old Town Alexandria studio, is a suitable exhibition space for area sculptors to explore color and materials within their artistic process, just as Thorpe did. Thorpe’s work demonstrates her lifelong interest in the visual and visceral properties of color, a trait she shared with her contemporaries such as Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Anne Truitt. While the study of color remained constant throughout her artistic career, it was her bold use of conventional and unconventional materials that set her apart from other artists of her time. Not only an Abstract Expressionist and Color Field painter, Thorpe was a sculptor using a wide variety of materials such as balsa wood, piping, sheet metal, and gauze. She later worked with textiles and handmade paper works. Her practice is a challenge to artists today who wish to push the boundaries of how they use materials, while retaining one of the most critical elements of art making: color.
WSG extended an invitation to its members to participate in this exhibition with sculptural work that investigates color as an integral part of the sculptural process while rethinking the ways in which they use materials. Just as the Color Field painter Hilda Thorpe explored color and presented material in both 2D and 3D formats, the panelists will tap into the work of the present exhibition Notes of Color to discuss how the work connects or departs from the Color Field mantra set forth by Hilda Thorpe and described by the Washington Post Reporter Ferdinand Protzman as: “filled with light, energy, color and commotion.”
Mollie Berger Salah (Juror)
Curatorial Assistant: Department of Prints and Drawings, The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Mollie Salah has worked in the Prints and Drawings Department at the National Gallery since graduating from George Washington University with a Master of Arts in Art History in 2014. While at GWU she held internships in the Prints and Drawings Departments of the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery of Art. Mollie has also worked at the Fleming Museum of Art, Burlington, VT, Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, VT, and the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, ME. An adapted version of her graduate qualifying paper on Kenneth Noland’s circle paintings and the psychoanalytic therapy of Dr. Wilhelm Reich was recently published for Refiguring American Art, a research project organized by Tate, London. She has also published essays on Thomas Downing and Mary Pinchot Meyer. Mollie’s research interests include artists who have lived and worked in Washington, DC, early twentieth-century American landscape painting, and the cultural impact of the Cold War.
Director and Curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center
A native of Seattle, Jack Rasmussen earned his BA in Art from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, before moving to Washington, DC, and completing an MFA in Painting, MA in Arts Management, and MA and PhD in Anthropology at American University. He worked in the Education Department of the National Gallery of Art before becoming the Assistant Director of the Washington Project for the Arts when it opened in 1975. He left this position to open the Jack Rasmussen Gallery, one of the first commercial galleries to move to downtown Washington, and then helped launch Rockville Arts Place (VisArts), served for ten years as the Executive Director of Maryland Art Place in Baltimore, and three years as Executive Director of di Rosa, a contemporary art museum and sculpture garden in Napa, California. Rasmussen has been Director and Curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, DC, since it opened in 2005. He currently serves as Chair of the Maryland State Arts Council.
Elsabe Dixon (Moderator)
Elsabé Dixon is a cross-disciplinary visual artist and President of the Washington Sculptors Group, a DC based non-profit that facilitates three shows a year and promotes an exchange of ideas amongst sculptors, collectors, curators and the local communities in the triad area of MD, DC, and VA. Elsabé has moderated panel discussions for the Renwick Alliance, (Ubuhle – Women’s Bead Craft during the A.I.D’s crisis), and for WSG programming such as the Panel discussion Micro Monuments with researcher Paul Farber, hosted by the Center for Hellenic studies in Washington DC run by Harvard. Most recently Dixon participated in a panel discussion at the Beall-Dawson Museum in conjunction with an exhibition Deep Flash: Art and Transformation at the VisArts Art Center. Elsabé Dixon maintains a studio at Liggett Hall in Alexandria Virginia and is a contributing writer for East City Art.
About the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association:
The Athenaeum Gallery is open Thursday to Sunday 12pm to 4 pm
The Athenaeum Gallery is the headquarters of the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Association (NVFAA). Founded in 1964, the NVFAA is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in all forms of art, and to establishing programs that will enrich the cultural life of Northern Virginia and the surrounding metropolitan area. The Athenaeum Gallery exhibits work created solely by artists living or working the region and strives to present visitors with a wide variety of excellent work and unique experiences.
The Washington Sculptors Group (WSG) is a volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting awareness of sculpture and fostering exchanges among sculptors, sculpture enthusiasts and the public. Organized in 1984, membership has grown to include almost 400 area artists. The WSG sponsors frequent public programs and organizes professional sculpture exhibitions juried by prominent curators.