Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Gem in Andover: The Addison Gallery of American Art

On a recent trip to Andover, MA to visit its historical society I also visited the Addison Gallery. This was an unexpected surprise, for it has some current memorable exhibitions, and its collection, which is largely in storage, rivals that of some larger institutions in its quality and quantity of representational works from the eighteenth century through the present. In fact, I anticipate the planned expansion in the coming years and their goal of making more of this collection available for viewing to both the public and the students they serve in their extensive educational outreach.

Until that happens, photographer Dawoud Bey's Class Pictures provides access to the ideas, experiences, and aspirations of American teenagers through large format portraits accompanied by a printed monologue. As part of the Phillips Academy, a preparatory school, it is appropriate that the art of its Gallery has a strong connection with one of its main audiences, school kids. That is not to say that this particular exhibit, or any of the others, will not be a treat for any age. Some of the kids depicted by Dawoud Bey express some saddening realities of being a teenager in America today, for here is neither statistic or thirty second blurb; these are thoughtful narratives that serve as self portraits to accompany this artist's portraits.

A digital C-print of Kevin, who wears a zippered sweatshirt with the letters F-C-U-K emblazoned on it and self styled baseball cap, offers up his own seemingly parent-less life as an example of what has become the norm rather than the exception for many teenagers in America; he sees it as a mixed blessing in which he has "learned to value independence, hard work, and maturity, yet he has been "cursed" too by lost youth and the "burdens" he must carry alone. These are not just urban youth depicted; there are representations from public and private schools alike, including Phillip's Academy.

At the same time that the MFA and Ipswich's own Historical Society are exhibiting work by Arthur Wesley Dow, the Addison's Ipswich Days: Arthur Wesley Dow and His Hometown is being offered. I was especially impressed with the photographs in the exhibit on display, for they include the rare occasion of seeing cyanotypes, a 19th century medium which required a special camera to deliver the strictly blue images. These monotone images exude an otherworldliness in their depiction of Ipwich, Massachusetts; moreover, they mimic Dow's own preferred medium of wood block prints that are also a part of this show. The influence of Japanese print on Dow is undeniable but his use of both a similar technique and color palette for scenery unique to his hometown experience make these something pleasingly unique, and something that exemplifies an American art tradition of adopting the traditions of other cultures for the sake of depicting our uniquely American landscape.

1 comment:

Addison Gallery said...

Thank you for your interest in the Addison. Here is the latest news regarding the Addison's upcoming renovation:

Addison Gallery of American Art Announces “The Campaign for the Addison” - Major Renovation and Expansion Starting July 2008

Growing collection, increased staff, expanded mission all contribute to need for expanded, restored and refurbished space

November 12, 2007 (Andover, MA)…The Addison Gallery of American Art, renowned both for its collection of American art and for its ambitious exhibition, publishing and education programs, first opened its doors on the campus of Phillips Academy Andover in 1931. Since then the Addison’s collection has increased from 600 to more than 16,000 objects, and full-time staff has grown from three to seventeen. This growth, as well as the expansion of the museum’s innovative education programs that engage students from both Phillips Academy and students from the entire surrounding region, has led to the first physical expansion in the Addison’s history, beginning in July 2008 and running through Winter 2010. For more information, including blueprints, please visit

“The Addison has been a place for ideas and teaching, a place for reflection and a jewel among museums for more than 75 years,” remarks Brian T. Allen, Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison. “Over the course of our history, our mission, collection, staff and programming have expanded tremendously. Our exhibitions travel around the world, attracting critical acclaim, and our educational enterprise has grown to include a warm welcome to students from neighboring schools and the general public. Yet our physical space has not grown a single inch. ”

To address the critical need for expansion and renovation of the facilities, the Addison has launched “The Campaign for the Addison,” a $30 million effort providing new spaces, the restoration of the current space and needed endowments to secure the museum’s financial future. Goals of the campaign include:

Create the Addison Gallery Museum Learning Center

The learning center will be the museum’s creative hub for curriculum development and will enhance dramatically the Addison’s outreach to Phillips Academy and to the public by providing new access to one of the world’s greatest American art collections. This space will accommodate Phillips Academy, regional schools, individual scholars, the public and a variety of classes. It will house an arts library and provide computer spaces for online learning.

Provide Appropriate Collection Storage and Art Preservation Space

Due to space constraints, the Addison’s renowned collection is increasingly stored offsite and is inaccessible without substantial effort. The new construction will allow not only housing the entire collection on-site, but will provide greatly improved exhibition preparation facilities, a loading dock for art deliveries and a matting and framing space for the collection and loaned exhibitions.

Construct New Office Space

Over the past 75 years, gallery and storage spaces have been converted to offices to accommodate the Addison’s growth. The expansion would allow the restoration of the galleries to their former elegance while providing appropriate office space for the future.

Renovate and Restore the Existing Platt Building

The Addison building is an architectural treasure. Critical systems such as climate control, lighting and technology capabilities, emergency power generation and security systems must all be upgraded to allow for a seamless retrofitting of the existing space.

Ensure the Addison’s Future Financial Stability

Providing additional endowment funds to support increased expenses and programmatic growth is critical to sustaining the Addison’s endeavors. The viability and vitality of the new Addison will be ensured by the endowment of key staff positions, including a Director of Education and a Contemporary Art and Photography Curator.

“We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of friends advocating for this essential project,” said Maggie Adler, Director of Development. “As we reach for our goal of $30 million – of which more than $20 million has already been committed–we turn to those individuals who understand the importance of this project and who share our vision to advance the Addison as a leader in American art.”

The Addison Gallery of American Art, located on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, is open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Sunday 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. The Gallery is closed on Monday. Admission to all exhibitions and events is free. The Addison Gallery also offers free education programs for teachers and groups. For more information, call 978-749-4015, or visit the website at

## #

About the Addison Gallery of American Art

Devoted exclusively to American Art, the mission of the Addison Gallery of American Art is to acquire, preserve, interpret and exhibit works of art for the education and enjoyment of all. Opened in 1931, the Gallery has one of the most important collections of American art in the country that includes approximately 16,000 works by prominent American artists such as George Bellows, John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe and Jackson Pollock, as well as photographers Eadweard Muybridge, Walker Evans, Robert Frank and many more. The Addison Gallery, located on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, offers a continually rotating series of exhibitions and programs, all of which are free and open to the public. For more information, call 978-749-4015, or visit the website at