The world-renowned sculptor, Martin Puryear, came to campus yesterday to help site the Memorial to Slavery and Justice that he has designed for Brown University. The Bell Gallery’s preparatory team built him a full-scale model of the Memorial, which was used to determine where the final version will be placed. The Memorial will be made of ductile cast iron and granite, and it will live on the front green (also known as the quiet green) next to Hope College. The dedication is planned for next fall. Below are some images of the artist at work.

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Sculptor Martin Puryear (right) and project manager John Cooke siting full-scale model of the Memorial to Slavery and Justice.

 

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Daniel Hopfer, Death and the Devil Surprising a Worldly Woman, c.1520 Gift of Leo Wallerstein

 

This print by German artist Daniel Hopfer explores both vanity and death, which were common subjects in the sixteenth century. Personifications of death and the devil performing the Totentanz (the dance of death) creep up behind an unsuspecting woman and her attendant. The aristocratic woman stands before her dressing table looking into a hand mirror, and perhaps catches a glimpse of her fate in the reflection. The intricately hatched lines juxtapose the heavy folds of the woman’s dress and the scaly skin of the dragon-faced devil. A smaller demon stands upon the devil’s head menacingly brandishing a spear, while another hovers over the women’s heads. The figure of death is presented as a decrepit old man holding a skull and an hourglass, objects associated with time, to remind the viewer of the transience of life and material pleasures. The image’s moralizing message emphasizes that money and social status are ultimately meaningless at the time of death and encourages a more virtuous life instead. In the late sixteenth century, this type of images, known as memento mori (Latin for “remember you will die”) became very popular.

Hopfer (1470-1536) is generally considered to be the first to use etching in the history of printmaking, a technique he may have drawn from his job etching decoration onto armor. He worked in Augsburg, Germany, which is reflected in his signature consisting of his initials and a decorative pinecone resembling the imperial city’s coat of arms. A contemporary of Albrecht Dürer, Hopfer was known for his use of gothic and Italian style across a variety of themes, from biblical illustration, historical events to portraiture and everyday scenes.

- Victoria Kung ’14, Curatorial Intern

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Bernd and Hilla Becher, Framework Houses, 1959-1973/1993, Set of twelve duotone lithographs

The David Winton Bell Gallery is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of a series of twelve photographs by pioneering conceptual photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher: Framework Houses, Industrial District of Siegen from 1959­–1973. These duotone lithograph prints belong to one of two such portfolios the Becher’s printed in the early 1990s.  In 1959 the Bechers met and began meticulously photographing the industrial architecture of their native Germany. They approached the built landscape systematically, identifying and documenting groups of like structures. For each of these “typologies” they serially photographed the buildings in black and white, frontally and centrally framed, and isolated from the surrounding environment by a neutral cloudless sky. The resulting sense of objectivity is echoed by the formal arrangement of each typology into a non-hierarchical grid. The Bechers’ use of seriality as an organizing principle paralleled non-compositional developments in minimalism and conceptual art at the time. Moreover, their procedural approach to photography recalls echoes the essentially mechanical nature of the medium itself.

While many of the Bechers’ typologies document explicitly industrial buildings — such as grain elevators and water towers ­— the Framework Houses reflect the broader landscape of industrial production. This series records the living quarters of Siegen’s many ironworkers. The majority of the houses were built between 1870 and 1914 at the height of iron smelting in the region. In 1977 the Framework Houses were published in an epynonomously titled artists’ book, the Bechers’ first and most well known.

This exciting acquisition represents the first purchase made as part the Bell Gallery’s initiative to expand its collection of documentary photography into the present. The Bell Gallery has exceptionally strong photography holdings from the 1920s to 60s, including significant bodies of work by artists such as Berenice Abbott, Walker Evans, Danny Lyons, and Larry Clark.  The Framework Houses mark a pivotal moment in the history of photography, representing the transition from the straight forwardly documentary practices to the more conceptually driven work generated by the Bechers and their students.

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