Jules Chéret, ask “Pippermint,” 1899.

Posters of Paris: Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries
Dallas Museum of Art
October 14, 2012–January 20, 2013

A new exhibition exploring the earliest days of the affiche artistique (artistic poster) and its flowering in Paris, first under Jules Chéret in the 1870s and 1880s, and then with a new generation of artists including Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Pierre Bonnard. These artists brought the poster to new heights in the 1890s. On view October 14, 2012, through January 20, 2013, the exhibition brings together the finest French examples from the golden age of the poster.

“The Dallas Museum of Art is pleased to be one of only two venues to present these bold and captivating posters from Paris at the the turn of the 19th century,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “The exhibition presents a vast range of the best examples of the artistic posters that defined the city during the Belle Époque.”

Advertising everything from theater productions to the debaucherous cancan, and from bicycles to champagne, brightly hued, larger-than-life-size posters with bold typography and playful imagery adorned the streets of turn-of-the-century Paris. Posters of Paris features more than one hundred of these posters loaned from museums and private collections by artists hailed as masters of the medium. These artists drew from an array of styles including Byzantine, rococo, and art nouveau. The exhibition is organized into thematic groupings highlighting major themes, as well as prominent artists, in the medium. It opens with works by the “father of the poster,” Jules Chéret, showcasing the early designs of the artistic poster, followed by a series of iconic images from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and closes with the end of the era with work by Leonetto Cappiello. Galleries will also be dedicated to the entertainment industry, including posters promoting performers Loïe Fuller and Sarah Bernhardt as well as popular cabarets and dance halls such as the Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir. Additional galleries will highlight the advertisement of periodicals, books, and newspapers; Salon des Cent exhibitions; and a number of consumer products, including an entire gallery dedicated to a popular new invention of the late 19th century, the bicycle.

“Art critics praised the artistic posters for giving Paris a free ‘museum for the masses’ that changed daily as new posters were pasted up,” said Heather MacDonald, The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, and curator of the Dallas presentation. “Vibrant, colorful posters covered the boulevards throughout Paris by the 1890s, transforming the way the public experienced advertising images during a shift in consumer culture after the birth of the department store. The content of Posters of Paris is surprisingly relevant to today’s viewers, who are living through a comparable transformation of the media landscape.”

Posters were so popular that collectors stole them from billboards almost as soon as they were pasted up. The term affichomanie (poster mania) was invented to describe the craze. New markets emerged to meet the demand; posters were both collectors’ items and fashionable home décor. Print dealers began selling posters, and publishers offered subscriptions to portfolios with the most popular images of the day in more manageable, reduced sizes. The public also sought posters for their collections that were originally censored and their altered designs approved for distribution; a few examples are presented in the exhibition. Posters that found their way into private homes eventually entered the collections of museums all over the world.

Gary Simmons, “Four Corner Burst,” 2007.

On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce
Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas
September 1, 2012–January 27, 2013

A new exhibit organized by the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida, examines why Chinese ceramics were such prized commodities, both at home and abroad. Examples of proto-porcelain appeared in China about 3,000 years ago and hard-paste porcelain began to be made around 1,800 years ago. This precious product was sometimes called “white gold,” especially in the West. Foreign trade and changing domestic markets played a role in stimulating Chinese potters to continually reinvent their repertoire of shapes and decorative techniques. These exchanges also illuminate important episodes in cultural history.

The earliest era of Chinese trade with lands to the west began over 2,000 years ago. Before there was a Silk Road, Chinese records refer to a Jade Road where traders from the East and West met at the oasis of Khotan in Central Asia.  There the Chinese acquired the type of gemstone they valued most. From the 1st through the 14th century overland and maritime exchanges of ideas and goods between China, the Mediterranean world, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia were never controlled by a single political power. The overland road for much of its length was a fragile chain stretched across inhospitable desert and mountain terrain. Ships sailed unpredictable seas from one small city-state to another. Many were swept off course and sank, such as two recently discovered cargos of 9th- and 14th-century Chinese ceramics.

During the 18th century a flourishing shipping business, known as the “China Trade,” developed between Western nations and the Chinese port of Canton in the upper reaches of the Pearl River Delta. Trade concentrated on tea, silk, and inexpensive porcelain. “Fancy” goods and special orders, like the armorial porcelain and large decorative pieces — particularly punch bowls — were privately traded by ships’ officers. At this time, the European porcelain industry was in its infancy and production of large pieces of porcelain was problematic there.

Throughout history, the exchange of goods and ideas was never one-sided. Novel ideas from the West fascinated the emperors of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) inspiring the creation of imperial wares, such as the pattern known in the West as mille-fleur and in China as wanhuajin. Jesuits working in Chinese imperial workshops were a conduit for European imagery and thoughts, such as the mille-fleur design often depicted in easily transportable 18th-century European engravings. The Chinese version of the mille-fleur motif found favor as a pattern on Yongzheng imperial porcelain (1723–1735) and continues to be admired in China to this day.  On such wares, flowers of the four seasons miraculously bloom at the same time. One reason for the appeal of this design is its association with a pre-existing Chinese proverb foretelling prosperity: “May one hundred flowers bloom.” Comprised of over 60 objects, On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce explores these and other tales, revealing why Chinese ceramics were so desirable at home and abroad.

Into the Sacred City: Tibetan Buddhist Deities from the Theos Bernard Collection
The Blanton Museum of Art, Austin
September 16, 2012–January 13, 2013

In a presentation exclusive to the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, eight rare and never-before publicly exhibited Tibetan works from the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) will be on view September 16, 2012 through January 13, 2013. Into the Sacred City: Tibetan Buddhist Deities from the Theos Bernard Collection explores the rich art and religion of this fascinating region through five mandalas and three thangkas dating from the fifteenth to twentieth centuries.

Originally used to explain Buddhist teachings to early nomadic Tibetans, thangkas are meticulously detailed hanging scroll paintings on silk that also serve as meditation aids in Buddhist ritual practice. The works in the Blanton’s presentation feature fierce and sublime deities such as Mahakala, a protector of monasteries, and Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. Mandalas are elaborate, intricate circular diagrams reflecting a sacred, idealized universe. They are created as a spiritual exercise and are used in meditation to guide individuals along the path to enlightenment. As a special program accompanying the exhibition, the Blanton has invited ten monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta to create a five-foot sand mandala in the museum’s Rapoport Atrium. The sand mandala project will begin on November 14 and run for five days. The public is invited to view the active creation of the piece and its associated sacred ceremonies.

“This exhibition provides the community the unique opportunity to engage with centuries-old Tibetan art,” said Blanton director Simone Wicha. “Many of the pieces were restored for this exhibition and have never been seen before by the public. These beautiful objects offer an enlightening view into the ancient culture of this important part of the world.”

All of the works in the exhibition come to The Blanton from the Theos Bernard Collection of BAM/PFA. In 1937, after spending a year in India studying yoga and Tibetan language, the adventurer and scholar Theos Bernard was among the first westerners given permission to enter the legendary city of Lhasa in central Tibet. Granted unprecedented access to study Tibetan culture and beliefs firsthand, he became the first American ever initiated into the rites of Tibetan Buddhism. He documented his journey extensively through film and photographs, capturing Tibet at a pivotal moment in its history.

Ewan Gibbs: Arlington National Cemetery
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
November 11, 2012–February 10, 2013

British artist Ewan Gibbs has achieved international acclaim for his drawings that re-create photographic imagery. For this exhibition, Gibbs trained his expert eye on Arlington National Cemetery to create a series of 16 drawings based on photographs he took while visiting the iconic site. Since the early 1990s, Gibbs (born 1973) has used a unique pictorial language based on knitting and crochet patterns to transform photographs into drawings. First he makes a black-and-white copy of a photograph, and then he overlays a grid on the copy. Working from unit to unit (bottom to top, left to right), he transfers the imagery to another gridded sheet of paper by making marks approximating the tonal values. Gibbs created the Arlington series with “x” shaped marks in pencil. Over the last five years, his work has reflected a growing interest in U.S. subjects such as Arlington, America’s most celebrated military cemetery.

In addition to the drawings, this presentation includes 36 images from the MFAH photography collection by artists who have inspired Gibbs. Together, the drawings and photographs underscore Gibbs’s interest in visual perception, specifically the role the human eye plays in viewing and processing visual material.

Perspectives 180-Unfinished Country: New Video from China
The Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
November 2, 2012–February 17, 2013

Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1978, China has become the world’s fastest growing economy.  Parallel to this economic growth has been the unprecedented production of art. While the majority of contemporary art practices have centered upon the traditional genres of painting and sculpture, the expansion of work in video and new media has been rapidly evolving.  Perspectives 180-Unfinished Country: New Video from China presents a cross-section of work by a new generation of artists from China working in video and video installation.  A separate program of cinematic work by emerging artists will also accompany the exhibition.

Luo Brothers, “Welcome the Famous Brands to China,” 2002-2008.

Not long ago works in new media were unavailable and, depending on content, even illegal in China. But now the medium is at the forefront of a new generation of young artists. Formerly a curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, curator James Elaine moved to China to experience first-hand the country’s rapidly evolving culture and its impact upon the production of contemporary art. What he has chronicled, first in an exhibition and later in a blog for the Hammer, is work by a new generation of artists emerging from China who are increasingly inventive, thoughtful, and masterful in their use of the medium.

“The title Unfinished Country comes from a video of the same name by Yu Ying, a recent graduate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. His video is based on an unfinished painting from the Cultural Revolution era in China. I borrowed his title intending it to portray contemporary China in a broader sense — the country is in transition in every respect. Unfinished Country provides us a small window through which to view what is going on in the minds and lives of these artists and to look at the ancient country of China as it rises to a new position in the twenty-first century,” says Elaine.

East/ West: Visually Speaking
Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi
September 14-November 25, 2012

This exhibition of Chinese Contemporary art features a wide array of paintings, sculpture, photography and works on paper. The exhibition shows how Chinese artists have adapted Eastern ideas and art forms to create new styles of art using references to stylistic history in Western art. In each of the two-and three-dimensional works exhibited, there is an obvious merging of Eastern and Western visual languages. While in some works the reference to Western culture seems adoring, in other works it appears to parody the West and its cultural symbols and values. Each participating artist presents a multi-faceted view of contemporary China as it struggles to define itself and find its place on the world stage.