Current Exhibitions

Fairfield University Art Museum

Current Exhibitions

The exhibitions listed below are currently on view in the Bellarmine Hall galleries and the Walsh Gallery. Related programs and events are listed on our calendar and on our Eventbrite page.
Trousseau Box, Edo period (1615-1868)

Gifts of Gold: The Art of Japanese Lacquer Boxes

Bellarmine Hall Galleries

January 17 – May 15, 2020

Gifts of Gold: The Art of Japanese Lacquer Boxes will introduce viewers to the medium, functions, decorative techniques, and symbolic associations of Japanese lacquer by presenting approximately twenty exquisite works ranging from the 15th through the 21st centuries, complemented by a few select paintings. The exhibition will consist of four groupings with the following themes: 1) forms in black and red 2) seasonal and auspicious motifs 3) poetic and literary associations 4) materials and techniques. Objects in the exhibition are drawn from institutional and private collections, as well as featuring a 19th century writing box recently acquired by the Fairfield University Art Museum.

In Japan, true lacquerware is created through a time-consuming process wherein the sap of the lacquer tree is harvested, refined, and pigmented before being applied in successive layers to a substrate, often of wood. Each layer of lacquer cures and hardens, rendering the vessel waterproof and durable. Although many wares are left plain to showcase the glossy black or red finish, the art reached heights of decorative potential with developments in the 16th and 17th centuries in techniques of “sprinkled picture” (maki-e) decoration. In these uniquely Japanese techniques, small particles of gold and other metals are sprinkled onto lacquer in abstract and pictorial designs, rich with seasonal, poetic, and literary allusions. Although lacquer objects were ultimately functional – writing boxes, storage boxes, tea caddies, tables, and dining utensils – the expense and decorative richness ensured that some objects were rarely used. Lacquer boxes therefore also became markers of status, taste, and wealth. Tebako, or cosmetics boxes, were important elements of a bride’s trousseau, and writing boxes (suzuribako) stored the implements used for calligraphy; such boxes could also be presented as gifts on important and auspicious occasions, such as the New Year. Moreover, small seal and medicine cases (inrō) with exquisite designs were worn suspended from the belts of men’s traditional dress and displayed the height of fashion in the Edo period (1615-1868). Borrowing from – and in turn influencing – other arts in Japan, the lacquer tradition stands in conversation with arts such as textile design, ceramics, painting, calligraphy, and sculpture.

The exhibition is curated by Dr. Ive Covaci adjunct professor of art history in the Visual and Performing Arts Department, and will be accompanied by a full program of lectures, gallery talks, and demonstrations.

Image: Trousseau Box, Edo period (1615-1868), mid-to late 17th century, black lacquer ground on wood with decoration in gold. On loan from Yale University Art Gallery (gift of Peggy and Richard M. Danziger, LLB. 1963, 2001.801)

Mabel Poblet Pujol, Reflected(Reflejada)

Archives of Consciousness: Six Cuban Artists

Walsh Gallery, Quick Center for the Arts

January 24 – May 15, 2020

Featuring recent and key past works by internationally renowned artists, this exhibit explores the many mythologies of liberation and fulfillment promised by modern life as well as the peculiar challenges they represent for island Cubans who must navigate Cuba’s contradictory system of combining capitalism with Communist rule since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Through sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media, artists Roberto Diago, Manuel Mendive, Eduardo (“Choco”) Roca, Abel Barroso, Mabel Poblet and Luis Camejo interrogate the ways that consumerism, migration, patriarchy and the legacies of slavery shape the definitions and differential experiences of freedom that twenty-first-century technology affords all of us. Yet these works anchor the viewer in deeply Cuban locations of consciousness, revealing how austerity and sacrifice, self-reliance and dependence, fear and valor, joy and anguish reflect central principles of survival in a society where egalitarian dreams have long clashed with scarcity, poverty and painful political realities.

In Mendive’s mixed media sculptures and vivid paintings that evoke the spiritual world of Regla de Ocha (the slave-born religion better known as Santería) as well as Mabel Poblet’s deceptively iconic images of feminine beauty in objects made from recrafted photographs, Archives of Consciousness draws on culturally specific worlds of feeling to create visually stunning dialogues of wisdom and understanding. While Luis Camejo’s vast canvases depict Havana’s urban landscapes, punctuated with cars, shoppers and pedestrians, Abel Barroso painstakingly documents the daily struggles of Cubans to claim the right to both knowledge and leisure in whimsical, hand-carved wooden sculptures and intricate collages of hundreds of pencil shavings. Diago’s highly moving spiritual and abstract works made up of geometric pieces of canvas deeply woven together and texturally raw paintings on wooden planks draw on the complexities of his Afro-Cuban heritage and its struggle to survive despite efforts to eradicate it. Master printmaker Choco summons intensity in colorful sculptures and collographs that document how political scrutiny and an exclusionary gaze haunt and historically define the limits of identity and personal freedom for all Cubans, but most especially for those of African descent.

Drawn from the collection of Terry and Steven Certilman, the works of these six artists open up a living archive of thoughts and aspirations, enabling us to reflect on the essences and emotions that make up the paradoxes of life and the strength that comes from their exploration.

Lillian Guerra

Image: Mabel Poblet Pujol, Reflected(Reflejada), 2015, Digital image, PVC, metal, acetate.
Image courtesy of the artist. ©Mabel Poblet Pujol

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