“The Warren J. and Margot Coville Photography Collection at the John and Mable Ringling Museum” by Pamela Beck

Recently I attended “In a Conversation with the Collector” at the Historic Asolo Theater. There were two chairs on the stage for Warren Coville and Matthew McLendon, Ringling’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

ARTdart: There are as many ways to think about art as there are to create it. Join Pamela Beck in her new column, ARTdart, as she explores and considers the different perspectives that define the art world.


Pamela Beck

by Pamela Beck

It’s a good thing for visitors to the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art that Warren J. Coville decided to use part of his bar mitzvah money to buy his first camera many years ago. This began a lifelong passion with cameras and photography that would result in an important collection of late 19th to 21st century photographs, more than 1,000 of which have been donated to the Ringling museum by Warren and Margot Coville.

Photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Andre Kertesz, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Berenice Abbott and Robert Capa, among others, comprise the Coville’s gift.

Recently I attended “In a Conversation with the Collector” at the Historic Asolo Theater. There were two chairs on the stage for Warren Coville and Matthew McLendon, Ringling’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. But before they sat down, Mr. Coville came to the front of the stage, turned towards the audience with his camera, and took several shots of us looking at him.

We laughed. He smiled. We connected. This was a perfect introduction to Coville as a photographer and collector, a man who likes to frame life’s moments so they can be caught, observed and enjoyed in perpetuity, rather than disappear into unreliable memory. In fact, the reason he said digital photography didn’t interest him was because of its instability- it doesn’t last like a gelatin silver print does.

I’m glad that images including: Hitler and Mussolini Meeting in Venice; the Eiffel Tower mid-construction; Lee Harvey Oswald being shot; Conchita Citron, the woman bullfighter; hospital workers in the South Bronx and portraits of Martin Luther King and Winston Churchill, along with other photographs, were preserved and are now a permanent part of the Ringling Museum for us to view. It’s both moving and disarming to see such a large collection of extraordinary images that reflect our collective experience of life’s large and small moments.

Robert Capa, Conchita Cintron, Mexico, 1940
Gift of Warren J. and Margot Coville, 2012, TR2011.2907.20

The Covilles not only enjoyed looking at the photographs in their collection, they enjoyed buying them as well. For over twenty years, they traveled from Michigan to attend the biannual Photograph auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in New York. Mr. Coville recalled the buzz that only an auction room can create as buyers bid against each other for the same lot while the public watches.

ARTdart: Going, Going, Gone A Bit Crazy by Pamela Beck

The bidding process can become entertainment itself. Mr. Coville described purchasing a Clarence H. White portfolio of photographs at Christies in the 1980’s, for what was then a record price- $21,000. He recalled with a smile that when the auctioneer’s gavel came down and he was the winner, the entire audience broke into applause.

It’s interesting to develop a photograph collection- for the pleasure of looking at the images; to enjoy the hunt for special ones; to round out the collection to best reflect the goals of the collectors; to leave it for others to share; but Dr. McLendon wanted to know what the Coville’s motivation was for continuing to collect over the years.

Mr. Coville explained that photojournalism, in particular, spoke to him because of his interest in history. Looking at the images was a “learning experience” he said, and that just like any other collector of cars, art or glass, collecting them became a passion. The Covilles also looked forward to the excitement auctions brought and the travel involved to acquire the photographs of interest to them.

Today the Covilles live part time in Sarasota. After listening to him talk with such devotion about his collection, I’m sure we’ll run in to them at the Ringling Museum, when we go to visit the stunning selection of photographs they so generously donated.

The current exhibition of approximately 75 photographs at the Ringling Museum, “The Warren J. and Margot Coville Photography Collection,” is part of the museum’s Art of Our Time initiative, “which features work by artists that are shaping the trends in contemporary visual and performance art” according to the museum. This exhibition runs through February 3, 2013 in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing.


To read more about Pamela, view these links:
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The Goods: Weekend News (12.30.11)

Sarasota Visual Art’s round up of exhibitions and events for Friday, Dec. 30, 2011 through Sunday, January 1, 2012.

Sarasota Visual Art wishes you a safe and happy New Year! Thank you for all your support, we’ll see you next year!


Interview with Ann Albritton
Interview conducted by Jen Nugent

On a dark and rainy late afternoon, Ann Albritton met me for coffee at a small downtown café. Dr. Albritton is an art historian who is currently teaching at Ringling College of Art and Design who focuses in modern and contemporary art. She is my former instructor and one of my academic heroes. Continue Reading…


Exhibitions

Paperwork: Allyn Gallup Contemporary Arthttp://bit.ly/sRiffP
Closes December 31 – Presenting an exhibit featuring photo etchings by Stefan Batista, mixed-media works by Leslie Fry, hand-colored engravings from Ke Francis, and drawings by Tanja Softic.

"Lists Loose," plant stains and residue, collage on paper by Leslie Fry

BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOWS: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF BERENICE ABBOTT AND LARRY SILVER
http://bit.ly/u7G3bX
Closes January 1 – The work of Berenice Abbott and Larry Silver, Between Shadows and Lights focuses on the remarkably similar career and aesthetic choices of these 20th century photographic pioneers. Separated by a generation, each turned her/his camera on the complexity of burgeoning American metropolises.


Featured Artist: Andrew Brehm
If I speak at length about this subject I begin to sound like a high school wrestling coach who has taken to whipping passersby with his “angry towel”. I’ll try to keep it brief. Continue Reading …

Women

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The Goods: Weekend News (12.23.11)

Sarasota Visual Art’s round up of exhibitions and events for Friday, Dec. 23 through Sunday, Dec. 26, 2011.

We wish you happy holidays! Sarasota Visual Art’s round up of exhibitions and events for Friday, Dec. 23 through Sunday, Dec. 26, 2011.


Week in Review

Featured Artist: Andrew Brehm http://bit.ly/sd7ICM
If I speak at length about this subject I begin to sound like a high school wrestling coach who has taken to whipping passersby with his “angry towel”. I’ll try to keep it brief …

The Crescent Club

Featured Gallery: Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art http://bit.ly/svVOT5
Interview with Allyn Gallup to discuss Sarasota, art and the works presented within the gallery.

Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art


Exhibitions

BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOWS: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF BERENICE ABBOTT AND LARRY SILVERhttp://bit.ly/u7G3bX
The work of Berenice Abbott and Larry Silver, Between Shadows and Lights focuses on the remarkably similar career and aesthetic choices of these 20th century photographic pioneers. Separated by a generation, each turned her/his camera on the complexity of burgeoning American metropolises.

USF Exhibit Featuring John Ringling Towers Fund Visual Art Applicantshttp://bit.ly/uBZQCB
Eleven local artists who participated in the Ringling Towers Visual Art grant process are featured in a group exhibit at USF Sarasota Manatee

Urban Canvashttp://bit.ly/ukiPPl
State of the Arts Gallery presents new works by Sarasota’s legacy artists creating art in Sarasota for over 30 years.


FOR ALL OF THE ONGOING VISUAL ART EXHIBITIONS VISIT: http://sarasotavisualart.com/art/exhibitions/current/

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BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOWS: THE PHOTOGRAPHY OF BERENICE ABBOTT AND LARRY SILVER

October 22, 2011 – January 1, 2012
The work of Berenice Abbott and Larry Silver, Between Shadows and Lights focuses on the remarkably similar career and aesthetic choices of these 20th century photographic pioneers. Separated by a generation, each turned her/his camera on the complexity of burgeoning American metropolises.

October 22, 2011 – January 1, 2012
Tampa Museum of Art

With the work of Berenice Abbott and Larry Silver, Between Shadows and Lights focuses on the remarkably similar career and aesthetic choices of these 20th century photographic pioneers. Separated by a generation, each turned her/his camera on the complexity of burgeoning American metropolises.

A native of Ohio, Berenice Abbott (1898 – 1991) began her photographic career in Paris in 1923 as apprentice to her friend Man Ray. Inspired by this connection, she chose to focus her camera at the outset on the Parisian writers and intellectuals of the day. She also became acquainted with the French photographer, Eugene Atget. His photographs attempted to make sense of a Paris in the midst of a transformation, and upon his death, she was instrumental in promoting his work by preserving his prints and negatives and arranging for publications and exhibitions of his photographs.

She returned to the United States in 1929 for a brief stay that resulted instead in a decades-long residence in the U.S. Settling in New York City, she was immediately seduced by the evolving urban landscape of the city: the modern juxtaposed with the traditional; the wealth with the poverty; and the new skyscrapers rising out of the deterioration of old neighborhoods.

She sought to create photographs that would document the interactions of urban life, including the diverse people and the places they lived, worked and played. Her desire was to capture the city in the same manner that Atget had interpreted Paris – imposing her love of facts and belief that “photography, a twentieth-century invention, was the only medium worthy of capturing twentieth-century New York.” Stylistically, her work explored contrasts, such as light and darkness, strength and decay, and present and past.

Larry Silver (born 1934) began exploring the streets and subways of New York at the age of fifteen, two decades years after Abbott had arrived. Born in the Bronx, Silver studied photography at the High School of Industrial Art in Manhattan. The school’s proximity to the Peerless Camera Store connected him to members of the Photo League, including W. Eugene Smith, Arthur Fellig (Weegee) and Lou Bernstein. Influenced by his environment and these other photographers, Silver focused on the relationship between the inhabitants of New York and the physical landscape of an evolving urban environment.