Wriston Galleries opens for new school year

Right now, the Wriston Art Galleries are open for viewing by appointment. 

Visitors are welcomed by a collection of plaster casts curated by junior Shania Johnson. The casts are, as Johnson puts it, “reproductions” of work by Islamic calligrapher and translator, Tosun Bayrak, who originally displayed the casts on the Lawrence University campus almost half a century ago. Bayrak’s work stands on its own with incredible attention to detail both in his lettering and his representational work. Those familiar with Arabic calligraphy will appreciate his impeccably styled Kufic script. Johnson, though, encourages the viewer to look a little deeper, and to question what “reproduction” really means. The plaster casts, as she points out, are unique pieces, separate from the original work. Bayrak’s intention in donating the casts was to educate and preserve his work, and that, arguably, adds a level of artistic merit. More information on Bayrak’s work can be found in Shania Johnson’s exhibition in the gallery.

Also featured in the galleries is an exhibition built upon one of the newest additions to the Freshman Studies syllabus, Bernice Abbott’s photograph “Tri-Boro Barber School, 264 Bowery, Manhattan.” Still life paintings in the gallery by Ruth Grotenrath and Schomer Lichtner, along with emotionally resonant etchings and lithographs by John Sloan and Robert von Neumann, help give historical context to the “Tri-Boro” and tell a fascinating story, even for one not studying Abbot’s photograph in class. 

Classics majors may be excited to hear about coins from the Ottilia M. Buerger collection of coins on display, curated by senior McKinley Breen. This particular set has been titled by Breen as “Rule of Four: Ten Coins from the Roman Tetrarchy.” The four coins create an interesting narrative arc, and the specific timeframe for curation allows for a distinctive educational experience.

Another section of the galleries features work by senior studio art students Vivian Magaña, Irma Vazquez Lara and Eliana Whitehouse, as well as fantastically preserved Japanese woodblock prints curated by senior May Li. The prints are part of “The 53 Stations of Tokaido,” created by Utagawa Hiroshige in 1832. Hiroshige, considered to be one of the last masters of the medium, blends both western and traditional Japanese styles in his work. Though 30-some-odd versions of the prints were created, each is unique, and these versions of the prints cannot be seen anywhere outside of Appleton.

Near these prints is a collection curated by students in Art History 320, Seeing Art Now: Critical Issues in Contemporary Prints, taught by Associate Professor of Art History Elizabeth Carlson. This collection is just what it sounds like, with work by more conceptual artists like Adrian Piper who use large contrasting shapes to address social issues like xenophobia, racism and ostracism. 

On the back wall of the gallery is “Denaturing Vision: Four Prints from the Dickens Collection,” curated by senior Matthew Brown. These prints, originally collected by Robert A. Dickens‘63 include neo-expressionist work, like the ethereal “Phosphorescence” by Richard Bosman. 

The Wriston Art Center is open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and appointments can be made on the Lawrence University website.