BENTONVILLE -- A new exhibition at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art draws inspiration from its namesake mineral, found in abundance in Arkansas, while expanding beyond regional confines to incorporate artifacts and artwork from around the world and spanning 5,000 years of human history.
Lauren Haynes, co-curator of "Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today," said during a tour for media Thursday that early research for the exhibition showed "there is not anything quite like this, combining 10 specimens [of quartz crystal] with ancient objects and contemporary art, in an art museum that is focused on American art. It is definitely pushing past and exploding our mission of what it means to be an American art museum."
The exhibition opens Saturday and will be on view through Jan. 6. Unlike most of the exhibitions at Crystal Bridges, this one will not travel to other art museums because it is so intimately connected with the state, museum officials said. Arkansas' Ouachita mountains contain the only significant vein of high-quality quartz in North America, and some of the crystals in the exhibition were obtained in the Hot Springs area.
Haynes is a curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts at the Momentary. She organized the exhibition with guest curator Joachim Pissarro, an art history professor and director of the Hunter College Galleries in New York.
As Haynes guided visitors through the galleries, she explained the exhibition is organized into five sections, but not chronologically as many are. Instead, each section has a theme focused on a different aspect of crystal and how it has been perceived by different societies throughout time.
The first section, titled Sacred and Transcendent, features religious objects such as a 15th-century carved Buddha figure with gold and rubies; a 16th-century rosary pendant with silver gilt; and contemporary artist Marina Abramovic's bust titled Self-Portrait with Rock Crystal, which has a quartz crystal jutting from her "third eye."
In the next section, Crystal Extravagance, visitors see how people from an array of cultures and time periods used the mineral as symbols of their wealth and power. Displays feature extravagant figurines, candlesticks and jewelry from ancient Egypt and China to medieval and Renaissance Europe, some worked with precious metals.
Section three, Science and Mysticism, explores crystal as both a scientific material and one that is long-believed to have metaphysical properties. These are portrayed through photography, sculpture and other media.
The fourth section, titled Crystallic Form, explores the artistic influence of crystal's physical properties. Paintings by Pablo Picasso and Juan Gris illustrate how crystal's structure inspired the Cubism style.
Lastly, Crystal Universe looks at how crystalline refraction can serve to alter one's perceptions. Pieces here include the Portal Icosahedron sculpture of steel and LED lights by Anthony James and Ai Weiwei's standing chandelier made of crystal and copper.
Punctuating the entire exhibition are large quartz crystal specimens on loan to the exhibition from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Also, the University of Arkansas Press has published a 176-page, full-color catalog of the exhibition. The catalog may be purchased in the museum's store.
General admission to "Crystals in Art" is $12. Admission is free for museum members, veterans and visitors 18 and younger.
Pissarro and artists Miya Ando and Marilyn Minter will take part in a free opening lecture on the exhibition from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. today. Several lectures, film screenings, art classes and other events are scheduled in conjunction with the exhibition. The full calendar of programs is posted on the Crystal Bridges' website, crystalbridges.org.
Lauren Haynes (left), curator at Crystal Bridge Museum of American Art, describes artwork in the new “Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today” exhibit during a media tour Thursday at the museum in Bentonville.
Lauren Haynes, curator at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, describes Thursday the steel, glass and light emitting diode art Portal Icosahedron by Anthony James during a media tour of “Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today” exhibition at the Bentonville museum. The exhibit features 75 objects and 10 crystal specimens and runs from Saturday to Jan. 6.
Marina Abramovic’s Dozing Consciousness video art on display Thursday at Crystal Bridges is part of the new “Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today” exhibition.
Metro on 10/11/2019
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