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Bechtler goes back to future with contemporary exhibit
Past and present links past on display
Published Monday, October 17, 2016 11:01 am
by Ashley Mahoney

Politics penetrates every corner of society, even a modern art museum.

While the Bechtler family was not overly political, the works in their collection tell tales of oppression, triumph, love, loss and hope, which “Bechtler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered” illustrates.

“How do you negotiate this environment that’s been your home, but is trying to erase you?” Jennifer Sudul Edwards said of how artists such as Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) dealt with the dictatorship of Spain’s Francisco Franco and other oppressive regimes throughout history.

The exhibit, which is on display through April 23, 2017, expands on the works from the museum’s collection of modern and contemporary artists, the exhibit reexamines artists, context and how it relates to contemporary society.

“It’s a reappraisal and a new level of understanding of the collection itself,” Bechtler President John Boyer said. “When we opened back in January of 2010, we didn’t know the collection very well. As I’ve said many times, when we did open it was a great deal of ‘ready, fire, aim,’ and now we’re very much at the point where it’s ‘ready, aim, fire.’”

Through color-coordinated rooms, such as blue to reflect the San Sebastian home of Chillida, the exhibit connects the tone of their work through the message it sent.
“Politics work into the collection because of the time period,” Edwards said. “Artists had to choose a side because of their circumstances.”

In the pink room, Maud Gatewood’s 1989 piece “Absolution: Victims Becoming a Monument” takes a bold stance on race, death, sex, drugs and disease. People took great offense to her piece, which depicts people of all ethnicities, genders and ages falling to AIDS.

“This disease could affect anybody,” Edwards said. “It was not racist or bigoted in who it attacked.”

Born and raised in North Carolina, Gatewood challenged polite society through “Absolution.”

“It is very aggressive, and very in your face,” Edwards said. “People were too afraid to face the reality of what was happening.”

Throughout the five rooms (blue, pink, purple, green and yellow) the collection challenges the audience to see things differently, but the biggest challenge can be summed up by the first thing you sees when you step off the elevator—the words of Andreas Bechtler: “When you see an object and you engage your mind to define it, you start to think, and that’s not the best thing if you want to have a great experience with art. It’s much easier to shut off your brain and just try to be.”


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