A Gar­gan­tuan Ex­hi­bi­tion

‘Ele­phants’ among works in ‘An­i­mal Meet Hu­man’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - WHAT'S UP - BECCA MARTIN-BROWN

It’s mas­sive. It tow­ers over you.” That’s the first thing view­ers will no­tice about “Ele­phants,” Adonna Khare’s mas­sive 40-foot­long pen­cil draw­ing. On show at Crys­tal Bridges Mu­seum of Amer­i­can Art for the first time in a tem­po­rary ex­hibit, “An­i­mal Meet Hu­man,” the 2012 work is a new ad­di­tion to the mu­seum’s per­ma­nent col­lec­tion, says Alejo Benedetti, as­sis­tant cu­ra­tor.

It was a gift from ArtPrize, an in­ter­na­tional art com­pe­ti­tion in Grand Rapids, Mich., where it was win­ner of the Pub­lic Vote Grand Prize, but Khare is no stranger to the mu­seum. She was one of the artists fea­tured in Crys­tal Bridges’ 2014 “State of the Art: Dis­cov­er­ing Amer­i­can Art Now” ex­hi­bi­tion and will re­turn Aug. 11 for a gallery con­ver­sa­tion about her work.

“‘Ele­phants’ is re­ally ex­cit­ing be­cause of the scale of it,” Benedetti en­thuses. “It’s by far and away the largest draw­ing we have in our col­lec­tion, and it’s a very im­por­tant work in her ca­reer.”

A cen­ter wall was re­moved in the gallery to al­low an un­ob­structed view of the draw­ing, he adds, but that doesn’t mean it’s meant to be viewed only from a dis­tance.

“You can stand at the other side and try to take it all in, but it’s also the sort of work that pulls you in be­cause she has so many small de­tails in there,” he says. “Folks make draw­ings all the time, but to see one of that scale, it’s sort of flab­ber­gast­ing. It’s such a unique ex­pe­ri­ence to get to see that.

“Once you start to en­gage with the work, it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing line she walks,” Benedetti adds. “You see these lit­tle tableaus that are ex­tremely hu­mor­ous, but she also has this el­e­ment to most of her work where she is com­ment­ing on how hu­mans are af­fect­ing the lives of these an­i­mals, her con­cerns about ex­tinc­tion and cli­mate change — not in an ex­tremely overt way, but all han­dled in her own sort of style. It still feels play­ful at times, but there’s a mes­sage that comes through.”

The “ba­sic idea” for the ex­hibit, Benedetti says “is that we’re look­ing at ex­am­ples of artists who in­cor­po­rate an­i­mal im­agery into their art­work with the in­tent of try­ing to com­ment on hu­man con­cerns.” Also on dis­play through Oct. 30 are Andy Warhol’s col­or­ful “En­dan­gered Species” (1983), a print se­ries that in­cludes 10 im­ages of var­i­ous an­i­mals; a rare col­lec­tion of sketches by modern dance chore­og­ra­pher and in­no­va­tor Merce Cun­ning­ham, “Un­ti­tled As­sorted An­i­mals” (1980); and He­len Franken­thaler’s “The Bull­fight” (1958), all part of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and be­ing ex­hib­ited for the first time.

“All these art­works tell lots of sto­ries, and there are lots of ways we can pair them to­gether,” Benedetti says of the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion. “This is an op­por­tu­nity to see them a dif­fer­ent light.”

PHOTO COURTESY ARTPRIZE/CRYS­TAL BRIDGES MU­SEUM OF AMER­I­CAN ART

“Ele­phants” by Adonna Khare, de­tail from the 2012 car­bon pen­cil on pa­per, 89 feet, 7/8 inches by 32 feet, 3 inches. “Ele­phants” is now part of the Crys­tal Bridges per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and is on show for the first time there in “An­i­mal Meet Hu­man.”

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