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Tula Telfair: Landscapes in Counterpoint

April 24 through June 27, 2010

Read Blog entires about the installation of the exhibition...

Telfair chose 45 paintings from the Museum collection as a foundation for, and often counterpoint to, her own work. The layout of the works, most from the Hartford Steam Boiler Collection, was inspired by an installation she saw at the National Museum of Denmark. Telfair opts for unconventional groupings of pictures that call attention to the often-overlooked formal properties of historic paintings. For one wall of the gallery, she selected works based on the artists’ tactile handling of paint and clusters them from floor to ceiling with an eye to color harmonies. On another wall, she hangs paintings by John Frederick Kensett, Emil Carlsen, and Childe Hassam that made an impact on her through their dramatic lighting and the artists’ attention to atmosphere and detail. According to Telfair, the Hudson River School and Impressionist paintings in this group are “transportive and embody the Romantic landscape tradition echoed in my own work.” Each of her three “compositions” of a dozen or more canvases expresses a mood as well as creating a new way in which to experience paintings usually viewed in isolation.

Photos from members' opening...

 

 

 

 

 

The exhibition pairs nine new monumental paintings by the artist with her selection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century paintings from the museum’s collection. Telfair’s choices, which include works by Thomas Cole and Frederic E. Church, establish the visual foundation for, as well as a counterpoint to, her own large-scale landscapes—paintings that are informed by both tradition and imagination. The exhibition is supported by The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company.

Telfair approaches landscape through color, creating epic canvases that balance illusionism against abstraction. Her poetic works, some over 9 by 6 feet, seem strangely familiar, their grandeur recalling the picturesque panoramas captured in the nineteenth century by artists of the Hudson River School. Yet unlike painters who record what they see in front of them, Telfair composes her romantic scenes from memory, drawing upon her travels around the world and the vistas of her youth in West Africa. Telfair often positions the viewer above or at a distance from the landscapes, leaving tantalizingly indistinct details like roads or houses that might acknowledge a human presence in the scenes. An appreciation for the history of art also permeates Telfair’s work. Her embrace of ideal landscapes recalls the painters of the Renaissance, as does her use of glazes to impart translucence to her paintings.

At the same time, Telfair’s absorption in the formal qualities of her work is undeniably modern. Her landscapes are, in essence, bands of colors, a concept she at times makes more explicit by surrounding the panoramas with strips of solid pigment. The noticeable brushwork in these colored edges contrasts with the glossy illusionism of the landscapes, reminding us that in the end, these glorious panoramas are paint rather than windows onto another reality. Using titles such as Order is a Necessary Counterpart to Sensuality (2010) also distances her paintings from association with any particular place, affording the viewer the opportunity to recall their own personal experience. “I am interested in the subjectivity of perception and the power of memory,” states Telfair. “These illusions of epic moments in nature generally facilitate an emotional response and trigger recollections of things past.”

For this exhibition Telfair acted as both featured artist and “curator,” selecting nearly three dozen landscape paintings from the Florence Griswold Museum’s permanent holdings, notably from the Hartford Steam Boiler Collection. Inspired by an installation she saw at the National Museum of Denmark, Telfair opts for unconventional groupings of pictures that call attention to the often-overlooked formal properties of historic paintings. For one wall of the gallery, she selected works based on the artists’ tactile handling of paint and clusters them from floor to ceiling with an eye to color harmonies. On another wall, she hangs paintings by John Frederick Kensett, Emil Carlsen, and Childe Hassam that made an impact on her through their dramatic lighting and the artists’ attention to atmosphere and detail. According to Telfair, the Hudson River School and Impressionist paintings in this group are “transportive and embody the Romantic landscape tradition echoed in my own work.” Each of her three “compositions” of a dozen or more canvases expresses a mood as well as creating a new way in which to experience paintings usually viewed in isolation.

Telfair says, “As a contemporary artist, my work deals simultaneously with both illusionism and modernism or abstraction. But this exhibition is allowing me to consider in greater depth how my paintings relate to the landscape tradition.“ “We’re thrilled that the artist is not only creating new work for exhibition but engaging herself with our collections. By playing the role of both artist and curator, Tula Telfair poses questions that will provoke audiences to consider the nature of landscape painting,” states Amy Kurtz Lansing, curator of the Florence Griswold Museum.

Exhibition related events

MOTHER’S DAY
LECTURE & TEA
Sunday, May 9
2pm
Influences and Reactions:
A Lecture by Tula

$7 (members $5)
Register Online

Join contemporary artist Tula Telfair for a visual presentation on the history of her creative development. Telfair approaches landscape through color, creating epic canvases that balance illusionism against abstraction. Her grand, romantic vistas evoke imagined places informed by her travels. A light tea reception in honor of Mother’s Day will follow the event.

Tuesday, May 25
8am-7pm
Tula's New York
Trip Fee: $135 (members $125); refund date: May 11th
Register Online

A Day Trip to
Chelsea Market High Line Park,
and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Read more...

Tula Telfair, The Structure of Matter, 2010. Oil on canvas, 74h x 100w inches. Courtesy of Forum Gallery.

Tula Telfair, Order is a Necessary Counterpart to Sensuality, 2010. Oil on canvas, 74h x 95 1/4 w inches. Courtesy of Forum Gallery.

Tula Telfair, Pleasure Was Considered Decadent, 2010. Oil on canvas, 70h x 80w inches. Courtesy of Forum Gallery.

Tula Telfair, Most Approaches suffer from the Predictable Isolation of Schools, 2010. Oil on canvas, 72h x 108w inches. Courtesy of Forum Gallery.

Tula in Studio