Georgia Museum of Art opens two new exhibitions

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Georgia Museum of Art opens two new exhibitions
Gregory Gillespie (American, 1936–2000), Wheel of Life, 1992. Mixed media on panel, 96 1/2 x 96 inches. Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia; Gift of Robert and Cheryl Fishko
GMOA 1999.42.

ATHENS, GA.- The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will host the exhibition “An Archaeologist's Eye: The Parthenon Drawings of Katherine A. Schwab,” September 13 through December 7. Schwab’s drawings help explain the most badly damaged relief sculptures of the Parthenon, the temple often considered the greatest work of ancient Greek art and architecture.

In 2005, Schwab, who is professor of art history at Fairfield University, began experimenting with graphite and pastel on paper to develop a new method of recording her observations of the monumental sculpted reliefs on the east and north metopes on the Parthenon. A “metope” (pronounced MEH-ta-pee) is a rectangular panel of the decorative frieze that extends above the columns of Greek temples. The monumental panels (1.5 x 1.2 meters) preserve complex and barely legible damaged surfaces, due to Christians’ deliberate damage of the sculptures of ancient gods and heroes in the 6th century C.E.

Mark Abbe, guest curator of the exhibition and assistant professor of ancient art at UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art, noted, “Katherine Schwab’s new drawings of the Parthenon metopes are an epiphany. The product of new close and prolonged scrutiny, they reveal the once fresh and dramatic narrative of the most badly damaged and overlooked sculptures of the Parthenon. These drawings bring us intimately close to the sculptures and allow us to see anew the dramatic narrative immediacy that defined much of the best Greek art of the High Classical period.”

A tension emerges in Schwab’s drawings between what is preserved and what has been lost, creating a theme of presence within absence. They let us reimagine the Parthenon metopes and experience their mythological narratives of the battle of Olympian gods and Giants and the Trojan War with the dramatic sacking of Troy. Schwab’s drawings combine artistic ability and archaeological expertise, and, through the process of drawing, she has made new observations and discoveries.

Abbe said, “Schwab’s drawings reveal for the first time the full complexity and richness of these lost sculptural masterpieces—masterpieces that, in fact, have been hiding in plain sight.”

He continued, “I am especially pleased that, working with the Georgia Museum of Art, we have the unique opportunity to present Schwab’s drawings with new photographs of the original sculptures by Socratis Mavrommatis (chief photographer, Acropolis Restoration Service) and a freshly made, full-size monumental plaster cast of one of the best preserved metopes. This metope dramatically depicts Helen fleeing to a statue of Athena during the Greek sack of the Trojan citadel and reveals the complex surface of the Parthenon sculptures. The exhibition thus mixes artistic media and invites comparisons among Schwab’s drawings, photographs and three-dimensional sculpted form. All three artistic media have long been fundamental to the appreciation and study of Greek sculpture, and I can’t think of a better place than the Acropolis Museum in Athens, Greece, to see what is new with the Parthenon.”

The exhibition is divided into three sections. The first includes 16 pastel and graphite drawings of the east metopes, which focus on the Olympian gods fighting the Earth-born giants. The second section shows the Sack of Troy, and the third section includes a monumental, full-scale plaster cast of one of the metopes, provided by the Acropolis Restoration Service.

This exhibition is organized by the Bellarmine Museum of Art, Fairfield University, Creighton University and the Timkin Museum of Art.

The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia will turn its focus to large-scale works in the exhibition “XL,” on view Sept. 13 to Nov. 16, 2014, in the Virginia and Alfred Kennedy and Philip Henry Alston Jr. Galleries. New curator of American art Sarah Kate Gillespie has selected works that date from the 1950s to the 21st century, a period marked by a concern with scale.

This trend toward works that gain much of their impact from filling a viewer’s visual field continues, with spaces like the Tate Gallery’s Turbine Hall designed to feature large-scale art and provide an immersive experience. It may also result from an attempt to reprioritize the in-person encounter with a work of art, as large scale is less comprehensible when reproduced in a book or on a smartphone screen.

The works in “XL” come from both the museum’s permanent collection and long-term loans. Artists include Sandro Chia, Gregory Gillespie, Terry Winters and Jack Youngerman. Saul Baizerman’s sculpture “Day,” the companion to “Night,” which is on display at the Getty Center, in Los Angeles, will be on view, as will a work by Beverly Pepper, whose sculpture “Ascension” graces the quad in front of the museum.

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