Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Acquisitions: Portrait From The Heartland

Another rummage sale book: Portraits From The Heartland. I probably would have overlooked it, except I noticed was published by the Plains Art Museum, the prominent modern art museum in the area. Sculptor Duane Hanson posthumously had an exhibition at the Plains in 2005, which I didn't visit, sadly, and the book appears to have been produced specifically for the show. The publisher is New Rivers Press, which I just learned is the university press of MSUM.

If you're unfamiliar with Hanson, he's the artist whose expertise are jarring, hyper-natural statues of average people. A few years ago, at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, a group of us encountered his 1975 sculpture, "Museum Guard." The installation was, as you see in the Flikr photo, just standing, off to the side, as a regular museum guard would. It took a good three or four minutes before we realized he was a statue — and fifteen years later, it's about the only thing I remember from that museum. Going to an entire show of his work bordered on causing heebie-jeebies, but now I wish I had gone. The book doesn't do the statues justice. In fact, the photos are too professionally done, too well lit and framed, so the non-real qualities of each piece are too emphasized. They should have been shot in low light on grainy film, and they would have shown off what makes them great art pieces.

The book's cover, in particular, has a poorly-done glossy coating which (you can kind of see in the scan above) is puckering and peeling. No big deal, though; it doesn't affect the interior, and it's for my own enjoyment, not resale. I think I paid fifty cents for it. The previous owner, however, must not have paid anything: inside the front cover is a sticker that reads, "This copy of Duane Hanson: Portraits from the Heartland compliments of the Plains Art Museum."

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