Why This Matters: Exhibition displays the depth and range of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art’s collection and connects the museum to Charlotte in a new way.
By Bernie Petit
“Bechtler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered” reveals Charlotte’s influence on the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Art.
Walk into the exhibition and your eyes will gravitate to pieces similar to those that line Charlotte’s public art landscape. Read through the descriptive labels on the walls by several of the artworks and you’ll learn that the artists who created them are from or lived in Charlotte.
It speaks to museum patron Andreas Bechtler’s commitment to Charlotte’s artistic community that predates the January 2010 opening of the museum that bears his family name, said curator Dr. Jennifer Sudul Edwards. Andreas moved to Charlotte in 1975 to lead the American branch of his family’s business and made the city his home.
“When he arrived here in the 70s, he immediately became devoted to promoting art and culture in Charlotte, beginning with his seat on the board of the Mint (Museum) and then making sure his real estate properties and company holdings in Charlotte had artwork that was available to the public,” Edwards said.
Public Art Connections
One example is the public artwork “The Garden” by Chicago artist Jerry Pert. Andreas commissioned the work after beginning construction on the Carillon building on Trade Street in uptown in the late 1980s. The public artwork still stands in the courtyard of the Carillon; the model is found in the Bechtler exhibit.
So too is the model for North Carolina sculptor Thomas Sayre’s “Furrow,” the six large discs located along the LYNX Blue Line Light Rail. Sayre created “Furrow” through an “earthcasting” process where he dug into the ground, poured the mold and then poured his materials into the mold so that the work took on the features of North Carolina’s distinctive red clay.
The artwork “speaks to this idea of heritage and our connection to our environment, to our space,” Edwards said.
That connection is also found in the painting “Notes from Orient” by Gina Gilmour. The title references the small beach town on the North Fork of Long Island, near where Gilmour now lives, but the artwork depicts more.
“It combines the wood of the Charlotte of her youth, which is where she grew up, and also the beach and the water, which she has this natural affinity for,” Edwards said.
The exhibit also includes pieces former Charlotte resident Jim Nicholson created after visiting Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. “This Juan Miro idea of this one nationality that we all share very much comes through in Jim Nicholson,” Edwards said.
One of the most powerful artworks in the exhibit is “Absolution: Victims Becoming a Monument” by Maud Gatewood, who taught at UNC Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College in the 70s before returning to her hometown of Yanceyville, N.C.
Created in 1989, the work depicts people of varied races, ages and genders lying dead or dying in a concrete cell. It was the artist’s response to the AIDS crisis.
“Something that Gatewood dealt a lot with in her life as well as in her art was this idea that the public does not want to address issues that make them uncomfortable,” Edwards said. “By doing this painting in this incredibly overt in-your-face way, it’s forcing us to address these issues no matter how uncomfortable or unsettling it may be.”
Of course “Bechtler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered” branches out beyond Charlotte. The impetus for the show comes from extensive new research into the collection and the artists in the holdings, many of whom have very little material available in English.
Still, the universal concepts these artists explored in their work makes their art relevant.
“One of the things I wanted to emphasize with the show,” Edwards said, “is that even though there is this European modernist collection that is showing artists that may not be familiar to the region, they in fact talk about themes and issues and concerns that directly relate to people here and to artists working in this area.”
Want to Go?
“Bechtler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered” is on display through April 23, 2017, at Bechtler Museum of Modern Art at Levine Center for the Arts, 420 S. Tryon St., Charlotte. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
General admission is $8 adults, $6 seniors, college students and educators, $4 youth 11 to 18 years old and free children 10 and younger, active-duty and retired military personnel, National Guard, Reserve and their families and museum members.
Use your ASC Connect with Culture Card and get buy-one-get-one-free museum admission. For more information, visit www.bechtler.org.