April 2012

Fuller Fabrics

Fashion is in the air at WAM as the museum’s student group, WAM Collective, is preparing for the upcoming No White fashion show and student design competition.

FullerFabrics2.jpgUniversity students and gallery employees were also in a flurry over fashion in February of 1957 when the University Gallery opened an exhibition entitled, “Fuller Fabrics.” An exhibition poster (at left) promoted the exhibit.

The exhibit featured a project titled, “The Fuller Fabrics Modern Master series of Print Fabrics” which displayed paintings by contemporary artists alongside nearly 60 different prints of fabric that were produced as inspirations from their works.

A feature article and photo spread in the November 14, 1955 edition of LIFE magazine titled, “New Fabrics Put Modern Art in Fashion” described Fuller Fabrics – a fabric manufacturer, and their project to reproduce the contemporary works of Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso, Raoul Duffy, and Joan Miro on cotton fabrics which were to be sold commercially by the yard.

A promotional photograph found within the exhibition folder in Box #6 of the University Archives archival collection, shows University Gallery curator Betty Maurstad posing next to a didactic from the exhibit. A gallery notice further described the exhibition:

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*In a collections connection – the Victoria and Albert Museum have amongst their textiles, a yard (or 3 ft. x 3.75ft) of the fabric designed by Joan Miro and produced by Fuller Fabrics, titled, “Woman and Birds.”

Featuring Feininger


Each month, WAM releases a new “art card” – a free, postcard sized print of an object from the museum’s collection. A description of the work is included on the back of the card. For the month of April, the art card (available at the information desk) features Lyonel Feininger’s work, Dröbsdorf I.

Featuring Feininger in the month of April is an appropriate commemoration of the 74th anniversary of the first retrospective exhibition of Feininger’s work to be held in the United States. This exhibition, comprised of 19 oils and 40 watercolors painted by Feininger between the years of 1909 to 1937, opened at the University Gallery in April of 1938.

The Minneapolis Star published a photograph of Feininger on April 12, 1938, as evidenced by a clipping found in the Gallery press books. Another article from March 26, 1938, announced the exhibit and commented upon Feininger’s work,

“His paintings are abstract and suggestive rather than realistic, combining precise structural line and dream-like moods. He is a musician of ability.”

Though American born, Feininger spent nearly 50 years of his life in Germany, where he came to reject the “Nazi dictation on aesthetics” and returned to the United States to continue to produce modern abstractions.

If you live too far away or are otherwise unable to drop in to the museum to pick up the card of the month, WAM’s online resource, Artful Writing, can provide you with additional information about the art and about the artist.

78 Years…

Another year has come and gone in institutional existence for WAM as today marks the 78th anniversary of the “Little Gallery” which opened on April 5, 1934.

How do you celebrate 78 years? Perhaps with a look back to previous commemorations…

Upon the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the museum in 1984, several special exhibitions were held to celebrate the museum’s history and acknowledge the development of the permanent collection.

Special exhibition catalogues were designed as a throw-back to reflect the aesthetic of the catalogues produced during the 1930s.

1984 Exhibition Catalogues:

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1930s Exhibition Catalogues

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For a description of the opening day of the Gallery in 1934, see a previous post, that celebrated the museum’s seventy-seventh year.

The Odyssey for Homer

The Odyssey, written by Homer, described the epic journey of Odysseus and his journey home after the end of the Trojan War. While I wouldn’t describe my recent research pursuits as epic, I did recently embark upon an odyssey of my own – a quest to find Homer… Homer Mitchell.

poster-weaving-thumb-200x123-73021.jpgAt the very beginning of the WAM Files project, my fellow processor Areca encountered a folder full of Gallery posters created to promote exhibits during the 1950s. There are dozens of posters, all neatly contained in a series of folders titled “Posters” that are dated by Academic Year.

Through additional research, we learned that some Gallery publicity posters were designed and created by federal student workers and WPA employees. Yet, there is only one poster that actually credits a designer. If you zoom in closely on the Weaving/General College Poster from 1952, you will see, in the bottom right corner… “Homer Mitch,” the ‘tch’ slightly faded:


I instantly wondered, who was this “Homer Mitch?” Judging by the faded “tch” (and gambling on familiarity with Midwestern names) I guessed that “Mitch” was probably “Mitchell.” And then I started my adventure… with a knee-jerk search on the Digital Conservancy no less.

The search for “Homer Mitchell” offered one result – a University Press Release from May 26, 1952. Titled, “U’ Art Students win prizes in international contest,” the release named Mitchell and four others (all enrolled in an art class taught by University art professor Robert Collins) as recipients of prizes for a poster contest.

Just for curiosity, I proceeded with a general Google search for “Homer Mitchell” AND University of Minnesota. A thumbnail image of a page from the University’s annual yearbook, “The Gopher” surfaced that included an in-text reference to “Homer Mitchell.” For access to the image however, I needed to pay a fee for a subscription to access the site.

Not to be deterred, I turned this minor roadblock into a detour and returned to the resources of the University Libraries. A search of the library collection yielded several collections of The Gopher: annual publication of the student body of the University of Minnesota. Armed with a call number, and the date of the yearbook taken from the digital image, I walked directly to Wilson Library, navigated several flights of stairs to the subbasement, and turned to enter the Annex – where I requested the 1952 Gopher yearbook.

My journey came to an end as I turned page 63 and revealed page 64, which contained a photograph of University student Homer Mitchell, working “at his part-time job doing lettering and silk screen work for art displays.”