UMA Professor’s Exhibition Evokes Tumultuous Moment in Ink Drawings
Exhibition Dates: August 30 – September 30, 2021
Opening: September 9, 2021 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Lunchtime Artist’s Talk: September 29, 2021 Noon – 1:00 p.m.
AUGUSTA – The Charles Danforth at UMA begins its 2021-22 year of exhibitions with Professor Peter Precourt’s exhibition of works created during his 2020-21 Trustee Professorship and Sabbatical. Titled “Things Fall Apart” for a line in the 1919 William Butler Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming,” with many more lines serving as titles for works in the show, Precourt’s exhibition of fifteen large-scale Sumi-e in drawings render the tumultuous emotional landscape of the COVID-19 era through the extended metaphor of Yeats’ poem, and the visual iconography of carnival rides.
Painted on suspended semi-transparent surfaces, Precourt’s striking black and white painted drawings of rollercoasters and orbiting swings works emerge from the time and focus that his Trustee Professorship and Sabbatical afforded him during the frightening and unsettled days of the first Pandemic fall and winter. While the artist had intended to continue his renowned “Katrina Chronicles,” he explained, “I found that the instability and destabilization of normal life took its toll on me, and I could not continue the structure of the Katrina Chronicles.” Working in his Winthrop studio on delicate mulberry rice paper and a semi-transparent commercially-produced photo diffuser film used in photography studios, Precourt transformed a visual language of the carnival attractions he has been exploring for fifteen years into increasingly abstract and groundless compositions that transmute the controlled groundlessness and anxiety of rollercoasters into paintings that fly from the rails of their tracking into new visual and emotional territory.
“This work is, on some level, impacted by my interests in many things,” Precourt wrote in a statement, “doubt and uncertainty, the vibration between abstraction and representation, questions of permanence and unrest, community and isolation, COVID and fracture, light and dark, traditional materials and contemporary processes.” Finding his footing in the slow, mindful work of painting, Precourt, as he wrote, “recorded and reordered not only what I saw and felt, but what is tangible and what is elusive.” Precourt’s resulting immersive exhibition meditates on uncertainty through the graphic clarity of the painted mark, offering viewers a visual meditation that is a balm in our uneasy times. As Precourt reflected, “A commitment to doubt can sometimes be reborn as reassurance.”
Things Fall Apart: Peter Precourt is on view in the Danforth Gallery in UMA’s Jewett Hall from August 30 – September 30, 2021.
The gallery is open, with face masking required, from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
An opening reception September 9 from 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., and a lunchtime artist’s talk September 29 from noon to 1:00 p.m. are open to UMA and the wider community.
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