By Victoria Dalkey
Sacramento Bee Art Critic
An early California plein-air painter, a groundbreaking feminist artist and a hometown boy who has become an international artist will be the subjects of three retrospective exhibitions at the Crocker Art Museum in 2012.
A career-spanning retrospective of the works of Edgar Payne (1883-1947), one of the most gifted painters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in California, will be on view at the Crocker from Feb. 11 through May 6. Featuring nearly 100 paintings and drawings, as well as photographs and objects from the artist's studio, the show will travel after its debut at the Crocker to museums in Pasadena and Tulsa, Okla.
Payne's bold paintings, employing animated brushwork and impressionistic light, captured scenes of rugged beauty informed by his reverence for the natural world.
According to Crocker chief curator and associate director Scott Shields, Payne portrayed "a broad and epic landscape that captured and conveyed the 'unspeakably sublime.' "
Payne's expeditions carried him to the Sierra, the Swiss Alps, the Southwestern desert and sites in France and Italy. Jumping into the present day, the Crocker will present a career survey of works by feminist icon Judy Chicago. The show of 29 works, ranging from early works on paper to recent cast-glass sculpture, explores Chicago's innovative approach to provocative themes and diverse media.
The show includes an early test plate from her seminal feminist oeuvre "The Dinner Party" as well as studies for later projects such as "Birth Project" and "Holocaust Project.""The Dinner Party, 1974-79" is Chicago's most famous work. Its initial display in San Francisco in 1979 drew international attention and brought women's voices to the forefront of American art. Focusing on women's experiences but also elevating women's crafts to new heights, "The Dinner Party" is only the beginning of Chicago's career of making socially relevant work, said Crocker associate curator Diana Daniels.
The show will be up from March 3 through May 13.Later in the year, the Crocker will present a survey of Sacramento native Mel Ramos, whose work is prized in Europe as well as the United States. "Mel Ramos: 50 Years of Superheroes, Nudes and Other Pop Delights" is the first major exhibition of work in his hometown and follows closely on the heels of his recent solo show at the Albertina in Vienna, Austria.
Featuring 70 paintings, drawings and sculptures, the show will be on view at the Crocker from June 2 through Oct. 21. Moving from early Abstract Expressionist paintings through renderings of superheroes from the 1960s, and female figures wrapped around giant soda bottles, popping out of candy wrappers and lounging on fresh fruit, the exhibition includes works from Ramos' series of art historical tributes. An alumnus of Sacramento City College and Sacramento State, where he received his bachelor and master of arts degrees, Ramos taught for many years at California State University, Hayward, now CSU East Bay.
"While his exuberant, celebratory and blatantly sexy paintings of women are included under the Pop Art umbrella, Ramos considers his depictions to be 'nudes' in the art-historical sense and not 'pinups.' " Shields said. "In the end, it is Ramos' love of subject, combined with playful humor and slick sensuality, that truly make his superheroes, nudes and other pop delights so distinctly Californian."
Other Crocker exhibitions scheduled for the spring include "Fishing Lines, Etching and Engraving From the Gary Widman Collection," a celebration of works devoted to the art of angling on view March 3 to May 13; the first major museum show for Gong Yuebin, a Chinese artist who creates massive conceptual installations, up from March 10 to April 29; and a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the studio glass movement with works by Dale Chihuly, Marvin Lipofsky and others on view from March 17 through Nov. 25.
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