New Acquisitions at the McNay Art Museum

Posted in museums by Editor on November 4, 2018

Press release (30 October 2018) from the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio:

Yasumasa Morimura, ‘Dedicated to La Duquesa de Alba/Black Alba’, 2004, chromogenic print, mounted on canvas (San Antonio: Collection of the McNay Art Museum, 2018.33, ©Yasumasa Morimura).

Richard Aste, Director of the McNay Art Museum, announced today the acquisition of two major works that broaden the McNay’s permanent collection of contemporary art: Dedicated to La Duquesa de Alba/Black Alba by Yasumasa Morimura and Robert by James Gobel.

Funds for these newly acquired works of art were generated by the McNay Contemporary Collectors Forum. The McNay Contemporary Collectors Forum (MCCF) supports contemporary art at the McNay and builds bridges between the Museum and San Antonio’s vibrant art community. In addition to other programs, MCCF initiated the Artists Looking at Art series, which features four artists each year and displays their work in the Museum for three months. MCCF also hosts an annual fundraising event each fall that directly supports the McNay’s art acquisition fund.

“We are thrilled to include the vision of Morimura and Gobel in the collection of the first modern art museum in Texas,” said Aste. “Their works expand the canon of art history and new ideals of beauty and truth in the 21st century.”

“These particular acquisitions enhance two expanding priorities of the McNay’s contemporary holdings—an increasing global presence and greater emphasis on under-recognized communities,” said Head of Curatorial Affairs René Paul Barilleaux. “Together with other judicious purchases made by MCCF since 2003, these artworks demonstrate the ever-expanding ways in which artists communicate their vision through content, subject, materials, and presentation.”

Francisco de Goya, ‘Mourning Portrait of the Duchess of Alba’ (‘The Black Duchess’), 1797, oil on canvas, 77 × 51 inches (New York Hispanic Society).

Both newly acquired works of art will be featured in the McNay’s major summer 2019 exhibition, Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today. Presented in tandem with Andy Warhol: Portraits and following Warhol’s lead, Transamerica/n is a broad survey of works  by visual artists, performers, and self-identified artists who explore gender identity as manifest in outward appearance, individual presentation, and societal perception.

Yasumasa Morimura was born in Osaka, Japan in 1951, and received a BA from Kyoto University of Art in 1978. Morimura is featured in the collections of Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Morimura has composed works of art by referencing seminal paintings by Frida Kahlo, Vincent Van Gogh, Diego Velázquez, and Francisco de Goya, as well as images culled from historical materials, mass media, and popular culture. The artist’s first solo-exhibition at the Japan Society, New York, Yasumasa Morimura: Ego Obscura, is on view through January 13, 2019.

Through extensive use of props, costumes, makeup, and digital manipulation, Morimura masterfully transforms himself into recognizable subjects, often from the Western cultural canon. In Dedicated to La Duquesa de Alba/Black Alba, a self-portrait, Morimura draws reference from Francisco de Goya’s 1797 painting of María Cayetana de Silva, 13th Duchess of Alba. Painted the year after the Duke’s death, this portrait of the Duchess depicts her in mourning black, wearing the traditional costume of a maja. The artist’s reinvention of art historical masterpieces and iconic photographs challenges associations the viewer has with the subjects, while also commenting on Japan’s complex absorption of Western culture.

James Gobel received his BFA in Photography from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1996 and his MFA in Painting from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1999. Gobel’s work has been featured in Artforum, Art in America, Flash Art, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, as well as the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York (2014); Las Vegas Art Museum (2008); New Museum, New York (2005); and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2000).

Gobel begins his process with photographs, either posed or found, and proceeds to make drawings in pencil and yarn, then composes a mosaic of felt pieces. When viewed from a distance, the McNay’s newly acquired work, Robert, could be mistaken for an oil painting, but upon further inspection reveals a fuzzy, warm texture of delicately placed felt. Robert references Giovanni Battista Moroni’s The Tailor (‘Il Tagliapanni’), 1565–70. Although inspired by traditional portraiture, the artist’s interpretation questions the lack of visibility given to heavyset, homosexual bodies. Gobel’s portraits of zaftig male figures blend references to art history with gay culture and break down boundaries between masculine and feminine.

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