At­ti­tude Ad­just­ment: Eiteljorg Mu­seum Un­veils Ren­o­va­tion

A ren­o­vated Western gallery pro­vides fresh new pos­si­bil­i­ties at the Eiteljorg Mu­seum in In­di­anapo­lis.

Western Art Collector - - CONTENTS - By Michael Claw­son

Above: Su­san Fol­well (Santa Clara), The Twins, 2017, clay, cork and paint. Gift of Steve and Jane Mar­mon. Right: E. Martin Hen­nings (1886-1956),

The Twins, 1923, oil on can­vas. Gift courtesy of Har­ri­son Eiteljorg.

As any mu­seum cu­ra­tor will tell you, con­text mat­ters. What a paint­ing hangs next to or near helps bring into fo­cus a unique story that only that con­fig­u­ra­tion of art­works can tell. It’s for this rea­son that gallery ren­o­va­tions, re­hangs and re­con­fig­u­ra­tions are so ex­cit­ing—ev­ery time a mu­seum makes big changes or shifts things around is an­other op­por­tu­nity to tell fresh, new sto­ries.

A series of new sto­ries will take cen­ter stage on Novem­ber 10 when the Eiteljorg Mu­seum of Amer­i­can In­di­ans and Western Art in In­di­anapo­lis un­veils At­ti­tudes: The West in Amer­i­can Art, a new per­ma­nent ex­hibit in two ren­o­vated gal­leries on its ground floor. The ren­o­va­tion and re­hang has been a long time com­ing, ac­cord­ing to mu­seum of­fi­cials. The ma­jor­ity of the ad­join­ing West and Gund gal­leries had been largely un­changed since the mu­seum, fea­tur­ing the col­lec­tion of busi­ness­man and phi­lan­thropist Har­ri­son Eiteljorg, was opened in 1989. “We’ve been opened for 30 years and this is the first ma­jor overhaul we’ve done,” says mu­seum pres­i­dent and CEO John Vanaus­dall. “We’ve cer­tainly ro­tated art in and out, but noth­ing com­pares to this con­cept since the mu­seum opened. It was re­ally part of a strate­gic fiveyear plan we com­pleted about two years ago. There are a num­ber of things we’re try­ing to ac­com­plish be­fore 2021, in­clud­ing work on our en­dow­ment, re­gional ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing and, most im­por­tantly, this ma­jor re­vi­sion to the per­ma­nent gal­leries.”

The costly ren­o­va­tion was funded largely by mu­seum pa­trons, as well as a fed­eral grant that al­lowed the mu­seum to un­der­take con­ser­va­tion work on some of the pieces. The re­hang will present works from the Har­ri­son Eiteljorg col­lec­tion, as well as the col­lec­tions of Ge­orge Gund and Kenneth S. “Bud” Adams, the late NFL team owner who gifted his en­tire art col­lec­tion to the mu­seum in 2015.

“I think Har­ri­son would be very proud of what we’ve ac­com­plished here with a per­ma­nent col­lec­tion that orig­i­nated ex­clu­sively from him. Other col­lec­tors have given works and the col­lec­tion has grown con­sid­er­ably, but it started with his col­lec­tion,” Vanaus­dall says. “I think he’d be es­pe­cially thrilled at the num­ber of peo­ple who visit the mu­seum to en­joy the works…we are a unique Western mu­seum here in the Mid­west and with that we have a unique role, one that can some­times be a chal­lenge out­side of the West, to bring peo­ple in to teach them about the Amer­i­can West and Na­tive Amer­i­can cul­tures.”

Vanaus­dall, like many mu­seum pres­i­dents be­fore him, is re­luc­tant to pick a fa­vorite work from the col­lec­tion—“they’re like chil­dren, so how can you pick a one?”— but he is look­ing for­ward to see­ing the new place­ment of Al­fred Ja­cob Miller’s 1845 oil Bar­ter­ing for a Bride, a piece that guest cu­ra­tor James Not­tage is also ex­cited to show for mu­seum vis­i­tors.

“It’s an amaz­ing paint­ing, but it’s also a good ex­am­ple of how the con­ser­va­tion came to­gether

for us. It was in a not-so-el­e­gant 1970s frame, so we took it out of that and had it re­framed in a pe­riod frame and it looks ex­tra­or­di­nary,” Not­tage says of the paint­ing. “There will be so many in­stances of that through­out the new spa­ces, in­clud­ing Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton’s A Buck­jumper, which was also re­framed in a more pe­riod-ap­pro­pri­ate frame. We also have two [Ernest L.] Blu­men­schein works that we have photos of from the time they were cre­ated so we could see the frames they were in. Those frames are long gone, but we’ve found sim­i­lar frames that are close to what the artist wanted. We will be show­ing these im­por­tant works the way the artists orig­i­nally in­tended.”

Not­tage re­cently re­tired as cu­ra­tor from the Eiteljorg but has stuck around to fin­ish this long-ges­tat­ing project through to com­ple­tion. While the goal is present these works in a new con­text, and quite lit­er­ally un­der new light, he also says the ren­o­va­tion has al­lowed the mu­seum to un­der­take more in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments, in­clud­ing touch­able dis­plays and video screens. One high-tech in­ter­ac­tive fea­ture will present an in-depth look at Dean Corn­well’s mu­ral paint­ing The Amer­i­can­iza­tion of Cal­i­for­nia and al­low vis­i­tors to learn more about any of the mu­ral’s dozens of fig­ures. More than any­thing, though, the ren­o­va­tion and re­hang of the two gal­leries will al­low the mu­seum to present new ideas about the West.

“Art of the West ma­tures and changes over time so there are other ideas to ex­plore and now we get to make this a more com­pelling ex­pe­ri­ence for all vis­i­tors,” Not­tage adds.

In ad­di­tion to the Rem­ing­ton and the Miller, a num­ber of other Western mas­ter­pieces will added to the gal­leries or pre­sented in a new way, in­clud­ing works by Ge­or­gia O’ke­effe, Al­bert Bier­stadt, Charles M. Rus­sell, Thomas Mo­ran, Howard Terp­n­ing and a sub­stan­tial amount of work from Taos, New Mex­ico, from artists such as Catharine Carter Critcher, Ni­co­lai Fechin, Os­car E. Bern­ing­haus, Blu­men­schein and E. Martin Hen­nings, whose dual por­trait The Twins is a fa­vorite of vis­i­tors who me­an­der through the gal­leries. Some of these artists’ works will get re­con­tex­tu­al­ized through neigh­bor­ing works, in­clud­ing the Hen­nings’ piece, which will be shown with Santa Clara Pueblo pot­ter Su­san Fol­well’s clay pot The Twins, which de­picts Hen­nings’ two fig­ures on the pot’s side.

While the mu­seum has other gal­leries for both his­toric and con­tem­po­rary Na­tive art­work,

At­ti­tudes: The West in Amer­i­can Art will present an im­por­tant se­lec­tion of Na­tive items within the new ex­hibits. Pieces in­clude Navajo weav­ings, Co­chiti ceramic fig­ures, a paint­ing by Fritz Scholder and sculp­ture by Al­lan Houser.

At­ti­tudes will also fea­ture mu­seum pur­chases

from its an­nual Quest for the West show, which this year added a piece by Krys­tii Me­laine, as well as some new ac­qui­si­tions, in­clud­ing Grafton Tyler Brown’s 1891 oil Cas­tle Geyser, Yel­low­stone and Mian Situ’s 2003 mas­ter­work The Golden Moun­tain, Ar­riv­ing San Fran­cisco, 1865. Not­tage is also ex­cited about re­hang­ing Rus­sell’s 1913 oil Crip­pled but Still Com­ing, an­other fan fa­vorite at the mu­seum. “It’s truly one of the re­ally great Rus­sell paint­ings,” he adds.

Jo­hanna Blume, as­so­ciate cu­ra­tor of Western art, his­tory and cul­ture, hopes the ren­o­va­tion brings out new vis­i­tors, but also re­turn­ing vis­i­tors.

“One thing we’re do­ing, and the de­sign is meant to re­in­force this, is to kind of sur­prise peo­ple, to make them stop and take a step back and ques­tion what they thought they knew about Western art, or more gen­er­ally Amer­i­can art. I hope we can de­light and in­spire them, and also give them pause,” Blume says. “It’s all about con­text. It helps in­form the au­di­ence and helps them un­der­stand the work, whether it’s on an aes­thetic level or a cul­tural level or even in other ways. You can see some of the jux­ta­po­si­tions we’re go­ing for with the The Twins paint­ing by Hen­nings, who was a white man who moved into Taos to work. But then look at the Twins pot and you’ll see a Na­tive woman, a con­tem­po­rary Na­tive woman, and her in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the sub­ject. It’s a com­pelling story.”

Other in­ter­est­ing jux­ta­po­si­tions in­clude Rem­ing­ton’s bronze The Bron­cho Buster, a cow­boy work by a white artist, paired with Bernard Wil­liams’ Black Cow­boy – Bill Pick­ett, a cow­boy work by a black artist; and a mes­mer­iz­ing Henry Farny Na­tive Amer­i­can scene along­side a piece by Na­tive Amer­i­can artist Scholder. It’s these sto­ries, and count­less oth­ers, that should en­tice mu­seum vis­i­tors to, or maybe back to, the Eiteljorg Mu­seum.

Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918), Cas­tle Geyser, Yel­low­stone, 1891, oil on can­vas. Mu­seum pur­chase through the gen­eros­ity of Har­ri­son Eiteljorg. Fred­eric Rem­ing­ton (1861-1909), A Buck-jumper, ca. 1893, oil on can­vas. Be­quest of Kenneth S. “Bud” and Nancy Adams.

Daniel Smith, Still­wa­ter Cross­ing, 2009, acrylic on can­vas. 2009 Quest for the West Har­ri­son Eiteljorg Pur­chase Award.

The Eiteljorg Mu­seum of Amer­i­can In­di­ans and Western Art in down­town In­di­anapo­lis. All Im­ages courtesy of the Eiteljorg Mu­seum.

Mian Situ, The Golden Moun­tain, Ar­riv­ing San Fran­cisco, 1865, 2003, oil on can­vas. Mu­seum pur­chase with funds pro­vided by the Eiteljorg Mu­seum’s Western Art So­ci­ety.

Ni­co­lai Fechin (1881-1955), Pietro, oil on can­vas. Gift courtesy of Har­ri­son Eiteljorg.

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