At The New School’s signature building at 66 West 12th Street, the elevator doors opening onto the third floor frame a striking tableau: six black-and-white images of abandoned industrial works, starkly photographed and arrayed like family portraits. No cheerful parade of travel posters and still lifes, sophisticated images like Bernd and Hilla Becher’s Blast Furnace Heads grace virtually every wall of campus. Students and faculty making their way around this urban campus for the first time soon discover that The New School Art Collection is a stirring chronicle of the last 80 years, and of the intellectual ferment embodied by the university itself.
As an institutional holding, the collection tells a remarkable story of The New School’s longstanding embrace of artistic expression. Although it would take an entire scholarly career to view its 1,800 pieces of painting, sculpture, and other media, highlights from this idiosyncratic narrative are on display in (re)collection, an exhibition featuring some of the collection’s most provocative pieces. On view through September 7 at the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at 66 Fifth Avenue, (re)collection has as its centerpiece Harvest Festival Ecuador, a newly restored 1932 mural by Camilo Egas, an artist who directed The New School’s art program for nearly 30 years. After the exhibition closes, the Egas mural will return to its original home at 66 West 12th Street.
From its inception, the university art collection was intended to mirror the bold ideas circulating in New School classrooms. For that reason, many of its best-known images, including work by Carrie Mae Weems, David Wojnarowicz, Lorna Simpson, and Jos√© Clemente Orozco, have a decidedly political cast. Other pieces, such as prints by Andy Warhol and photography by Berenice Abbott, represent some of the most celebrated figures in the New York art scene, some of whom, like Egas, were influential instructors at The New School. Abbott herself started the first photography program at The New School and spent much of her career teaching here.
On the final day of (re)collection, the university community is invited to a closing reception and gallery talk. Professor Michele Greet, an author and scholar of Latin American art, will lecture on Camilo Egas and the history and significance of his New School mural.
Wednesday, September 7, 6:00’8:00 p.m.
Sheila C. Johnson Design Center
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery
2 West 13th Street
To learn more, visit the collection’s website www.newschool.edu/artcollection.