For over 50 years the DCA’s Art Lecture Series has provided the local community with a focused, in-depth look at a topic or artist in four weekly lectures through the month of October. Speakers are curators from major museums, scholars from universities and independent art historians — all noted specialists within their respected fields. Attendance at the lectures gives participants foundational insights to support their Close Looking while experiencing direct engagement with art in both galleries and outdoor installations of sculpture. For more detail on the 2019 series or others, please see the links below.
Our last DCA Art Lecture Series – The Art of Looking – Four Lectures by Lance Esplund
Lance Esplund is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and author of The Art of Looking: How to Read Modern and Contemporary Art (Basic Books). We explored how art is in dialogue with other art; how the art of the past can open us up to the art of the present — and vice-versa. Fine tuning our eyes, hearts, and minds will empower us to trust our own taste, guts, and common sense.
(Left sculpture: Growth (1938) Jean Arp (French German 1886-1966). Marble. 31 5/8 in. tall. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY. Right sculpture: Dying Slave (1513-16) Michelangelo(Italian 1475-1564). Marble. 84 41/64 in. tall. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France.)
The DCA Art Lecture Series is sponsored by DR Bank.
(formerly Laurel Road Bank)
The Language of Art*
Art is an evolving language. Like any language, it takes time and effort to learn — to be able to read and to appreciate what, exactly, an artwork is saying. Each artist learns the language from other artists; and then, in turn, through the expression of his or her own unique voice, adds to and extends that language by making new art. Art, then, is an ongoing story of growth, change, reinvention, and recycling. Although, over tens of thousands of years, art has taken on an almost infinite range of subjects, materials, and forms, the elements, and language of art remain basically unchanged. Contemporary artists today use the same elements and vocabulary (form, tension, rhythm, line, movement, space, color, metaphor) as ancient artists. Gaining some fluency in the universal language of art — the aim of this lecture —grants viewers access not only to one artwork but to the whole world of art.
*Barrett Bookstore will offer The Art of Looking at a 10% discount at this first lecture only.
(The Crucifixion, with the Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist Mourning (c. 1460-64). Rogier van der Weyden (Early Netherlandish c.1399-1464). Oil on oak panels. 71 x 72 2/5 in.)
The subject of the nude is as ancient as art itself. Personal and universal, it arouses a range of feelings and associations: eroticism, shame, beauty, vanity, exposure, and the classical ideal. In his book The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, Kenneth Clark distinguished between the naked and the nude: “To be naked is to be deprived of our clothes, and the word implies some of the embarrassment most of us feel in that condition. The word ‘nude’…carries… no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenseless body, but of a balanced, prosperous, and confident body; the body reformed.” Looking at a variety of artworks, both representational and abstract, we will consider the notion of “the body reformed” — how artists explore the subject of the nude associatively and metaphorically; how they have not only reframed and reformed the body in art, but how, through a wide range of approaches, they have reformed the very subject of the nude.
(The Cat with a Mirror I (1977-80). Balthus (French Polish 1908-2001). Casein and tempera on canvas. 71 x 76 in. Private collection.)
Abstraction is often considered a Modern invention — and certainly, abstraction was reborn in the early twentieth century — and yet abstract art existed alongside representational art in Paleolithic caves. Throughout history, representation and abstraction have generally alternated as modes of artistic expression, based on how a society felt toward its environment: When we are comfortable with the outside world (as in ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance), we empathize — making art that re-creates the look, and especially the three-dimensional space, of our world. When we feel uncomfortable and anxious (as in ancient Egypt, the European Middle Ages, and during the Modernist era), we tend toward a will to abstract — to create artworks that suppress the outside world’s look and space; we honor our inner unrest and sense of alienation. In this lecture, we will explore a variety of abstract artworks from different periods and cultures.
(Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43). Piet Mondrian (Dutch 1872-1944). Oil on canvas. 50 x 50 in. Museum of Modern Art, NY.)
Navigating Contemporary Art
Walking through contemporary exhibitions in galleries and museums recently, you might have encountered a giant dirt hole where the gallery floor once had been; a fully function-ing solid-gold toilet in a museum bathroom; a nude woman, completely exposed, living temporarily in a lifesize dollhouse; or a film of another artist voluntarily being shot in the arm with a .22 caliber rifle. Ever since Marcel Duchamp, in 1915, created the first Readymade (the most famous of which is Fountain, 1917, a hand-signed porcelain urinal), anything — anything whatsoever, as long as it came from an artist —could be designated as art. This does not mean, however, that viewers must accept or even like every new artwork, simply because it’s being celebrated or exhibited. Exploring the precedents for a range of contemporary works that at first might seem difficult, strange, and unfamiliar will help to make those artworks more approachable — grounded in the larger tradition of art.
(Installation view of sculptures by Richard Serra at Dia:Beacon, New York. Richard Serra (American b. 1938).
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Past Art Lecture Series brochures – click below to view
2018 Art Lecture Series – “Human Form in Space: Sculpture”
2017 Art Lecture Series — “Winslow Homer: Four Perspectives”
2016 Art Lecture Series – “Between Modernity and Tradition: Impressionism”
2015 Art Lecture Series – “America is Hard to See” – Whitney Museum of American Art
Art Lecture Series Committee
Chair: Patricia Hedlund
Committee: Leslie Aloian, Marian Castell, Barbara Conrad, June Foster, Judy Rodriguez, Martha Yaney