The Eyes

The Eyes

Friday, January 31, 2014

Detroit Institute of Arts Secures the Museum's Collection

Once at risk of losing its collection to save the failing City of Detroit, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) confirmed its participation in a plan being facilitated to help bring an end to the City’s bankruptcy, expand support for the City’s pensioners, and protect the museum’s collection for the public in perpetuity. Its Board of Directors approved a commitment by DIA to raise $100 million from corporate and individual donors toward these efforts. 

None of the funds raised by DIA will directly benefit the museum. The funds will be directed to a third party, which will disburse the funds for pension payments. As part of the agreement, the City of Detroit will transfer to DIA free and clear legal title to the museum building, the art collection and all related assets. DIA will continue to operate the museum with funds raised from its current donor base and from the tri-county millage. 

DIA will focus its initial fundraising efforts on Detroit’s corporate community. DIA leadership has compiled a list of initial prospects, finalized support materials, and held several preliminary conversations with interested donors. Details of the overall agreement are still in negotiation, but DIA is moving forward with fundraising as those talks continue. 

One of the premier art museums in the United States, DIA is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range, and depth. Its mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.

Detroit Industry murals by Diego Rivera
Detroit Institute of Arts

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Human Form in Art

Whether portraiture or abstraction, artists have portrayed the human form for thousands of years on cave walls, papyrus, marble, and canvas. Some figures were used to illustrate a story or an historical event, others to sculpt or paint the magnificence of the human body. 

An artist may struggle with a particular facial feature, a hand, a foot, or bodily proportions, working and reworking, sometimes agonizing until achieving their vision; and a finished work of art will not likely ever reveal the tumultuous exercise required to reach that perfection. Models have sat frozen in position for hours on end to allow the artist to capture the curvature of a bicep, the graceful bend of a finger, or the spiral of an ear.

Artist James Brock has a terrific grasp of the male form. His masterful use of color and brush strokes on canvas and execution of pastel on paper show us that he has a vision—a revelation that is both portrait and abstract. You want to reach out and touch them, but be careful, you might get burned! 

Male | 2007
Acrylic on Canvas | 14 in. x 11 in.
Male | 2011
Acrylic on Canvas | 16 in. x 20 in.
Man | 2014
Mixed Media on Canvas | 10 in. x 10 in.
See more of James Brock's art at

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Art of Robert De Niro, Sr.

Father and Son | Actor Robert De Niro and Artist Robert De Niro, Sr.

Poet, sculptor and artist Robert De Niro, Sr. became known during the post World War II era for his dynamic, richly-colored paintings that gracefully synthesized modernist abstraction with more traditional compositions and formal themes. 

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1922, De Niro was passionate about art from an early age. While still in high school, he attended art classes at the Syracuse Museum, where he was provided with a private room where he could paint independently. De Niro studied under two of the 20th century’s leading colorists: first with Joseph Albers at Black Mountain College (1940), and later with Hans Hofmann (1941-42). A perfectionist, De Niro painted and repainted his canvases again and again. He would do hundreds of studies before he decided to paint the subject. 

At Hofmann's summer school, he met fellow student Virginia Admiral, whom he married in 1942. The couple moved into a large loft in New York's Greenwich Village, where they were able to paint and surrounded themselves with a circle of friends, which included writers Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller and playwright Tennessee Williams. Admiral and De Niro, Sr. separated shortly after their son, Robert, was born in August 1943.

In 1945, he was included in the Fall exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's The Art of This Century gallery on 57th Street in New York. Reviews of the exhibition praised the work of De Niro as well as that of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. He had his first solo exhibition at The Art of This Century the following year.

De Niro had a series of solo exhibitions in the 1950s at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York, which also exhibited the work of Willem de Kooning and Knox Martin. By the mid-1950s, De Niro was regularly included in important group exhibitions such as the Whitney Annual, the Stable Annual, and the Jewish Museum.

From 1961-1964, De Niro traveled to France to paint in Paris and in the surrounding countryside. Collector Joseph Hirshhorn purchased a number of the artist's paintings and works on paper, which are now in the permanent collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. 

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, De Niro continued to exhibit in museums and galleries throughout the United States and taught at several art schools and colleges. His work is included in several museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art, Mint Museum, Hirshhorn Museum, Kansas City Art Institute, and the Yellowstone Museum Art Center.

De Niro, Sr., died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 71 in New York City. The film "A Bronx Tale" was dedicated to him after his death; it was the directorial debut of his son, Robert De Niro.

Actor/director Robert De Niro has painstakingly preserved
his father's studio and his legacy. In 2010, he launched 
an annual $25,000 award for an outstanding mid-career
American artist for achievements in painting. The award
is administered by De Niro's Tribeca Film Institute.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Native American Themes in New Deal-Era Post Office Murals

The National Museum of the American Indian and the National Postal Museum are co-sponsoring a digital exhibit on post office murals focused on the American Indian.

From 1934 to 1943, the U.S. Treasury Department, through its Section of Painting and Sculpture, commissioned over 1,600 murals and sculptures to be installed in post offices throughout the United States. It was a major endeavor, intended to signify the breadth and range of the country to the American people. The post office murals project was in the grand design of public works launched during President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Four hundred of these murals contained Native American images.

Many of the artists were unfamiliar with the region connected to the post office they were assigned, and most were unfamiliar with American Indian culture. While some mural images succeeded in capturing the importance of Native peoples in the American historic tableau as a result of an increased national consciousness, others were based on rumor, legend, and stereotype resulting in dramatic and sometimes bizarre inaccuracy. Only 24 Native-themed murals were painted by American Indian artists.

Artists were provided guidelines and themes for executing their mural studies. They engaged in often lengthy negotiations between the Post Office Department, the town, and other interested parties before paintings could begin. Many local communities deemed the approved designs unacceptable due to theme, content, design elements and/or method of expression. Artists were constantly reminded the communities were their patrons, and they must go to great lengths to satisfy the desires of everyone involved in the project in order to save their commissions. 

The long-range goal of this project titled Indians at the Post Office: Native Themes in New Deal-Era Murals, is to critique, from a contemporary vantage point, all 400 of the Native American-themed murals. The purpose is to address both the virtues and the inaccuracies in these historic depictions, and to launch and continue to populate a web-based virtual exhibition on the Smithsonian National Postal Museum website.

The Scene Changes 
by Ila McAfee Turner
Cordell, Oklahoma Post Office
United States Postal Service®