Figured/In: Representing the Human Form - Works from the Permanent Collection

  • Jul 9, 2006 – Nov 5, 2006
Installation view: Weatherspoon Art Museum, 2006.

Three years ago, the Weatherspoon began showing highlights from its permanent collection in two parts: art from the first half of the twentieth century was shown in the Fall, and the second half in the Spring. This two-part survey attempted to show examples of important art movements from Social Realism, Abstract Expression-ism and Pop through more contemporary art dealing with such issues as gender and identity.

In an effort to keep our exhibition schedule and programming fresh and challenging, the museum has reconceived our two-part survey in a way that continues to allow us to present a wide variety of art, as well as to bring out rarely seen items from the vaults. In the fall, the museum presents Figured/In: Representing the Human Form. This show will demonstrate the ongoing interest in representing people. In the spring, the second half of this project will be called Figured/Out and will present art that is made independently of any reference to representation at all. The two shows together show how artists work with both objects and ideas, sometimes emphasizing one over the other.

Figured/In is based on approaches to representing the figure, approaches used in the past and still today. For example, numerous twentieth-century artists believed and still do that a carefully observed body, whether drawn, painted, or sculpted, can reveal something about human nature and the human condition. Included among the more traditional examples in the show are Martha Mayer Erlebacher's Female Torso, Peter Agostini's Woman with Pearls, and Daniel Huntington's Study for a Man's Back, which explores the specifics of anatomy.

Another way to use the figure, and one that likewise has a long tradition, is to manipulate it for expressive purposes. Artists bend, exaggerate and distort the figure in infinite ways in order to evoke an equally infinite number of possible states of mind. For Willem de Kooning, the body was a point of reference and a point of departure. That is, one sees a woman at the center of his wildly painted image, but it is not a body closely observed as much as it is an explosion of color and brushstroke. De Kooning's Woman can be seen as a metaphor for intensity, drama and passion.

Along with all the new non-representational art forms that have arisen in our time, artists continue to create figures. Figured/In presents examples from the permanent collection that show how artists continue to explore ideas, feelings and possibilities using the human form, and to critique, debate and honor the human phenomenon.


We have six galleries located on the first and second levels of the museum, view our gallery map.