A Gargantuan Exhibition
‘Elephants’ among works in ‘Animal Meet Human’
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.”
“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.”