UT Downtown Gallery picks figurative art from Ewing collection

"Coal Miner's House West Virginia" by Walker Evans

Knoxville News Sentinel

"Coal Miner's House West Virginia" by Walker Evans

"Martian Arts Made With Ear Plugs" by Karl Wirsum.

"Martian Arts Made With Ear Plugs" by Karl Wirsum.

"Tea Party" by Francie Rich.

Knoxville News Sentinel

"Tea Party" by Francie Rich.

"Keith III" by Chuck Close is part of the figurative arts display at The University of Tennessee's Downtown Gallery.

Knoxville News Sentinel

"Keith III" by Chuck Close is part of the figurative arts display at The University of Tennessee's Downtown Gallery.

The topic of an exhibit at the University of Tennessee's Downtown Gallery is figurative art. And the figures range from a 19th-century print of a Francisco de Goya work to a Joseph Delaney 20th-century watercolor portrait to the image of a neon yellow, almost comic space invader.

In all, 45 pieces of art by 40 artists are on exhibit through Aug. 18 at the 106 S. Gay St. gallery. It is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. There's no admission charge.

The works are from the permanent collection archives of UT's Ewing Gallery. Most of the selected work was created in the 20th century.

The exhibit includes a wide range of art in topic, style and media. There are black-and-white photographs, including a 1931 gelatin silver print of a West Virginia coal miner family by renowned photographer Walker Evans and a 1991 photo of a group of Monroe, La., teens by current UT art professor Baldwin Lee. There are prints, paintings, drawings and some illustrations from "Sports Afield" and "The Saturday Evening Post."

No matter the style or medium, each work focuses on the human figure. Well, one piece may not exactly be human but it's definitely figurative. That's the striking 52-by-40-inch print of a yellow Martian-like creature by artist Karl Wirsum that was acquired by the Ewing in 1980.

The figurative works cover a wide variety of subjects. Bright cheerful figures are depicted in a 1983 signed print by visual and graffiti artist Keith Haring. The intriguing black-and-white portrait "Keith III" by artist Chuck Close looks like a digital work but was created using squares of paper pulp.

A print from German artist Kathie Kollwitz's work is a solemn black-and-white image of a grieving woman kneeling over the body of a fallen soldier. A colorful contrast is the detailed gouache on paper 1986 work by artist Francie Rich. Called "Tea Party," the work shows well-dressed women and a man at a social gathering.

The two works by Knoxville native Joseph Delaney selected for the exhibit were done in the mid-20th century. One called "Leap Frog" is the outline of the human figure done in broad, dark black ink strokes. The second is an untitled watercolor portrait of a woman who appears to be dressed in the style of the 1950s.

The gallery's permanent collection began in the mid-1950s. That's when C. Kermit Ewing, the first chair of the UT art department, acquired some Japanese prints. Since, the collection has grown through donations and acquisitions.

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