“Don Gummer, The Armature of Emotion: Drawings and Sculpture” on view at Fairfield University’s Walsh Art Gallery, March 3 – June 11, 2016


Media Contact: Teddy DeRosa, tderosa@fairfield.edu, 203-254-4000 ext. 2118

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (January 26, 2016) — Fairfield University’s Walsh Art Gallery presents a new exhibition, “Don Gummer, The Armature of Emotion: Drawings and Sculpture”— a major survey of works by this renowned artist — on view from Thursday, March 3, through Saturday, June 11, 2016.  An opening reception, free and open to the public, will take place in the Quick Center for the Arts on Thursday, March 3 from 6-7:30 p.m.

“Don Gummer, The Armature of Emotion: Drawings and Sculpture” presents more than 50 drawings, watercolors, cardboard and bronze models, wall reliefs, and free-standing bronze and steel sculptures by the artist. Gummer’s richly layered, cerebrally composed drawings, incorporate color, encaustic (an ancient technique in which pigment is suspended in wax) and collage. In scale, they range from quick, small sketches, to elaborate monumental panels that are tapestry-like in their grandeur and proportions.  Although all Gummer’s drawings typically have the character of finished, autonomous creations regardless of size, many are in fact stages of a genesis: they are preliminary ideas and studies for sculptures, which show him working out, evolving, and testing different vantage points or compositions.  The essential role of drawing in his creative process as a sculptor, and the fluidity of forms and ideas that mutate and migrate between media, are among the central themes explored in the selection of works on view.

Within Gummer’s oeuvre certain themes and motifs recur. The exhibition presents a number of these groups of interrelated works. One is the series “Darwin’s Map,” which is iterated in collage drawings and wall reliefs.  In both media, ribbon-like bars of color, at once fluid and masterfully controlled, form layered kaleidoscopes — suggestive, paradoxically, of stasis and flux.

Another group of work has the Twin Towers as its subject and inspiration. Gummer executed a series of watercolors of the buildings only weeks before they were destroyed on September 11, 2001. In some they appear rigid and immutable, in others shifting and ethereal, dissolved in an atmospheric haze.  Some five years after the disaster Gummer returned to the subject in a stainless steel sculpture, which will be on view in the Quick Center for the Arts.

Architecture is a leitmotif in Gummer’s art and another focus of the works presented in the exhibition.  Building things has always been an impulse for the artist who, early in his career, worked as a carpenter and a construction worker.  (Many of his drawings and monumental sculptures have the character of a building erected to the framing stage, a residual and lingering imprint of that experience.) House-like motifs are present in a number of his works, and the floor plans of imagined and actual buildings, such as the Church of Sant’Ambrogio in Milan, become the stuff of monumental drawings and wall reliefs.  This exhibition is the first time that a group of his architecture-inspired drawings and related reliefs have been systematically exhibited together.

Gummer’s art is full of paradoxes.  Movement and repose, exuberance and restraint, emotion and reticence, gravity and weightlessness, volume and void — these antitheses are perfectly synthesized in his compelling, poetic works.  An ineffable optimism — a belief that whatever is wrong, or askew, can be righted — suffuses his work, as Gummer himself has said.  The sense of ascent, of soaring upwards, of reaching toward some higher plane or imagined, better place that his sculptures in particular embody, is a reflection of that essential truth. 

The idea of an armature resonates in Gummer’s work on many levels, both literally and figuratively.  In the traditional sculptor’s practice, an armature is the metal framework around which a sculpture is modeled in clay.  An armature can also be an external skeleton that holds up and contains the work inside.  As such, they are seen in the exhibition in three small-scale models and two monumental drawings showing models for sculpted works, each contained within an armature.  Their presence implies an external control—a supporting framework that keeps forms from collapsing and holds excess or imbalance in check.  Invisible armatures are always present in Gummer’s sculptures, in which that indelible and unerring optimism is rigorously channeled.  His work thus depends on armatures of all sorts—analogues of the sense of internal and external structure he brings to everything he creates. 

The exhibition has been organized by Linda Wolk-Simon, Director and Chief Curator of the Museums of Fairfield University.

Two public programs are offered in conjunction with the exhibition. “Drawing and Sculpture: A Conversation with Artist Don Gummer and Curator Luke Syson” will take place on March 23 at 6 p.m., in the Wien Experimental Theatre of the Quick Center for the Arts. (Luke Syson is Chairman of the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.) “Did Donatello Draw? Designing Sculpture in the Renaissance,” a lecture by Dr. Michael Cole, Professor and Chair of the Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University will take place on April 20 at 6 p.m. in Bellarmine Hall.  All events are free and open to the public.  Please register at bellarminewag.eventbrite.com as space is limited.

Generous support for the exhibition has been provided by the Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation. Venü Magazine is the exclusive media sponsor.

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Posted on January 27, 2016

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