Category Archives: Contemporary

“Reclining Connected Form” by Henry Moore

Where: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.

Photo: Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Nestled on the south side of the Bloch Building, Henry Moore’s “Reclining Connected Form” explores the protective relationship between mother and child in this monumental bronze sculpture in the museum’s sculpture garden.

“The siting is so apropos,” says Jan Schall, Sanders Sosland curator of modern and contemporary art.  They actually created a bowl in the ground to create a womb-like experience.  It is almost like Mother Earth.”

Landscape architects Daniel Kiley and Jaquelin Robertson designed the outdoor space.  Though out of frame in this photo, there is a small stone wall in the bowl for sitting and contemplation.

“Visitors feel a sense of solace and solitude in the space,” says Schall.  “They love the idea of maternity and the magic of creation.  It is a universal experience – being born.”

The Henry Moore Sculpture Garden opened at the Nelson in 1989 but the name was changed to the Kansas City Sculpture Park in 1996 after the addition of Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Shuttlecocks and other non-Moore sculptures.

There are 32 works in the Sculpture Park, including 13 bronze sculptures by Moore and the new, 56-foot, stainless steel, tree-like sculpture, Ferment, by Roxy Paine.


“Violet Persian Set with Red Lip Wraps” by Dale Chihuly

Photo: Spencer Museum of Contemporary Art

Where: Spencer Museum of Contemporary Art, Lawrence, Kansas

Its “exuberant extravagance” is why it’s so popular, says Susan Earle, Spencer curator of European and American art, and it would be difficult to disagree.

Dale Chihuly’s Violet Persian with Red Lip Wraps is composed of 20 individual pieces that have to be carefully set together each time the object is displayed.  It was crafted in Chihuly’s Seattle studio in 1990 by his regular team of glassblowers.  After its debut at the Leedy Voulkos Gallery in Kansas City, the Spencer Museum purchased it for its permanent collection – its first Chihuly.

“Violet” is part of the “Persian” series, which was inspired by a painting he had seen in Venice.  Chihuly has said that the Persian series was developed from Roman, Byzantine and Islamic glass-making traditions.  Design-wise, they are usually marked by stripes and a contrasting border the artist calls a “lip wrap.”

“It uses color in wonderful ways, drawing you in to the complexity of its form and ideas,” says Earle.  “I like the piece because it is so rich and exuberant.”

Chihuly was educated at the Rhode Island School of Design and was awarded a Fulbright grant to study glass in Venice.  A pioneer in the studio glass movement, he founded the Pilchuck School of Glassmaking near Seattle in 1970.

“Water Taxi, Mount Desert” by Richard Estes

~ photo courtesy of the Kemper Museum

Where: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

Is it a painting or is it a photograph?  The giveaway is to notice that this work is by Richard Estes, a leading American artist and photorealist.

In photorealism, artists work from a photograph and then must possess the technical capability to translate that image into a painting.

Water Taxi, Mount Desert is oil on canvas and quite large – nearly 3  x 5 ½ feet. Estes paints frequently from photographs taken in Maine, where he resides part of the year.  Water and water transport are major themes of his works.

Learn more about the Kemper Museum here.

“Soundsuit” by Nick Cave

Nick Cave Soundsuit

Photo: Nerman Museum

Where: Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, Kansas.  

“I enjoy working with this sculpture because it challenges people’s preconceptions and stereotypes,” says Karen Gerety Folk, curator of education at the Nerman.  “It is a colorful, textile sculpture that has a human presence.”

Artist Nick Cave has created more than 100 “soundsuit” sculptures, so-named because of the rattles and other audible sounds they make when worn by a performer.  The multi-layered garments are uniquely individual and constructed of thousands of sequins, beads and other found materials.

The back of the soundsuit at the Nerman is mostly black and white with bold, geometric designs; the front of the sculpture is colorful and organic, all hand-sewn into fabric into a cape-like armature.  This soundsuit, like most of his works, is completely wearable.

“People have a strong, aesthetic attraction to it,” says Folk.  “This work definitely draws people into it.”

Nick Cave has Kansas City roots, having graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1982.  He is currently the chairman of the Fashion Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Soundsuit was a gift to the Nerman from Marti and Tony Oppenheimer and the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation in 2006.

Contact the Nerman for more information.

“Anne Geht Baden (Anne Goes Swimming)” by Susanne Kuhn

Photo: Kemper Museum

Where: Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri.  

An acquisition by the Kemper arrived just in time for summer.

Anne Goes Swimming by German painter Susanne Kuhn is large — more than 7 feet high and 5 feet wide – and hangs in the museum’s atrium.

The subject of the painting begins to undress in a pine forest in this surrealistic artwork.  A lake beckons behind her; stylized splashes of water sit on the painting’s surface.  Like many of Kuhn’s artworks, elements of Japanese art are also woven into the design —  a towel with a geisha motif and Japan’s “rising sun” emblem in the background.  As in this painting, most of Kuhn’s works combine elements of landscape, architecture, abstraction and reality.

Kuhn was born in 1969 in Leipzig in the former East Germany where she earned her MFA in Painting and Graphic Arts.  She came to the United States in 1995, completing postgraduate studies at the School for Visual Arts at Hunter College in New York.  She returned, ultimately, to Frieburg, Germany where she now lives and works.

Anne Goes Swimming was a gift of Dean Valentine and Amy Adelson in 2009.  It is the only publicly displayed Kuhn in a museum in the United States.

Learn more about the Kemper here.

“Avanim Vetseiadim” by Ilan Averbuch

Photo: April Bishop

Where: 133rd and Mission Rd., Leawood, Kansas.

Dedicated in October 2009, this sculptural addition to Leawood’s Gezer Park is turning heads.

The Art in Public Places Initiative of the Leawood Arts Council commissioned sculptor Ilan Averbuch to create a focal point for Gezer Park, which honors Leawood’s sister city relationship with the Gezer region of Israel.

The sculpture, titled Avanim Vetseiadim, is a 29’ granite ladder placed vertically within the boundaries of the small reflecting pool that surrounds it.  Avanim Vestseiadim is Hebrew for “Steps and Stones.”

“It is visually stunning,” says April  Bishop, cultural arts coordinator for the city of Leawood.  “It’s actually 44 feet when you see it together with its reflection in the water.”

Avanim Vetseiadim is constructed of recycled granite with a steel core, keeping with Averbuch’s preference for using different combinations of common building materials, many of which are repurposed.

Averbuch balances whimsy with architecture in his characteristically large, public monuments.  Born in Tel Aviv, his resume includes commissions in public spaces all over the world.  He works and resides in New York.

“Dinner Conversation with Nancy” by Roger Shimomura

Where: Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.  

~ photo courtesy of the Spencer Museum

Nancy must have been some kind of woman to have inspired Roger Shimomura to have painted and named this painting for her. By all accounts, she was.

Shimomura painted “Dinner Conversation With Nancy” in 1983 as an untitled work, but later re-named it after the death of his good friend and Lawrence arts patron, Nancy Anne Zimmerman.  He donated it in her memory to the Spencer Museum of Art in 1988.

The painting portrays a jumble of images that seem to tumble together and float on top of each other.  And while there are figures peeking through in several places, there does not seem to be any ground plane or standard “figure/ground” relationship that would make the elements cohere into a narrative, or even into a readable space, says Susan Earle, Spencer curator.

“Normal concepts of space are defied,” she says.

Visitors are drawn to the painting because of the density of the images, the colors and the fact that many of the images are recognizable in pop culture, she says.

“It is a great example of the ways in which the artist works with existing styles and idioms, such as pop art from the 1960s,” says Earle.  “He incorporates elements of pop art, but also goes beyond it.”

Shimomura is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of KU’s Visual Arts Department.  His paintings and prints address sociopolitical issues of ethnicity and have often been inspired by the diaries kept by his late immigrant grandmother. He was born in Seattle, Washington and spent two early years away from his home in Minidoka, Idaho, one of 10 concentration camps for Japanese Americans during WWII.

Learn more about the Spencer Museum of Art.