Apr 3, 2014
11:12 AM
Arts & Entertainment

Aldrich Museum Marks 50th Anniversary with New Exhibits, Open House

Aldrich Museum Marks 50th Anniversary with New Exhibits, Open House

Michael Joo, "Drift." 
Marble Strata Room (digital rendering), 2014 
Rendering by Triplet 3D 
Courtesy of the artist.

In 1981, the board at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield made what for a museum was a radical decision—from that point on it  would no longer be a collecting museum and would remove all the permanent items currently in the collection.

The decision was made so the museum could better fulfill its mission of presenting contemporary art. The move also made the museum more unique; it is the only museum in Connecticut, and one of only a handful in the country, without a permanent collection.

As a result of the decision, celebrating the museum’s 50th anniversary, which is taking place this year, is more of a challenge.

“How does an institution focused on the present talk about it’s past?” asks Richard Klein, the museum’s longtime exhibitions director.

Klein and other staff members decided on  a series of exhibitions that would examine the museum’s legacy through  its formative decade, 1964 to 1974, by looking at that decade’s relationship to the current cultural landscape.

To that end, the museum is featuring three distinct types of exhibits. There will be solo exhibitions of current work by established artists who were included in significant exhibitions during the museum’s first decade. There will also be historical works displayed that are representative of The Aldrich’s early collection. And finally the museum will show the work of contemporary artists who have been inspired by artists whose work was featured at the Aldrich in that first decade.

The 50th anniversary exhibitions will open Sunday, April 6, with a free reception that will run from 12 to 5 p.m. The event will feature a tented café on the museum grounds, art-making workshops and other festivities. The majority of the shows opening Sunday will run through September, at which point the museum’s current shows will be replaced by other works that honor the museum’s history and celebrate its 50th anniversary in a similar manner.

Above: Jack Whitten: Evolver
Jack Whitten, b. 1939 
Warped Circle (For Alan Shields), 2013

Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Gray Associates, New York

Visitors to the Aldrich will be able to see the work of artists featured in the museum’s early days, such as Robert Indiana, whose iconic work of pop art, “Love,” was inspired by a piece first displayed at the Aldrich. That piece is being shown alongside new pop art created by Taylor Davis, a contemporary artist whose work has been influence by Indiana. Similarly, the work of Robert Smithson, a pioneer of the land art or Earth art movement in the ‘60s, is being juxtaposed with the work of modern artist Michael Joo, whose dramatic installation features a laser display and a life size monolith-like chamber made from giant slabs of Vermont marble. Guests are able to walk inside the chamber, where the idea is they’ll be entering an internal time machine.

“This chamber is made out of Vermont marble and in some ways will work as kind of a time machine,” explains Klein. “You’ll go in and time is kind of frozen inside of it.”

Standing in the Shadows of Love: The Aldrich Collection 1964–1974 Part 1
Robert Smithson, (1938–1977)
Robert Smithson © VAGA, NY. Three Mirror Vortex, 1965 
Stainless steel and 3 mirrors. 35 x 28 x 28 inches 
Gift of Larry Aldrich, 1981 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, U.S.A. 
Image copyright © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

The Aldrich was founded in 1964 by Larry Aldrich, a native of Manhattan who made his mark as a successful fashion designer and art collector. Aldrich was particularly passionate about new and interesting works of art, and when his museum opened it was one of the country's first devoted exclusively to exhibiting contemporary art.

Alyson Baker, the museum’s executive director, says another unique aspect of the museum is its rural Connecticut setting in Ridgefield, where historic buildings line Main Street.

“There’s something wonderful about that contrast between the history and the timeframe that this town represents and having this museum here that is so much about the present,” she says. “That’s something that artists really enjoy, and it’s also something that people who follow contemporary art enjoy because they are used to seeing work in crowded urban centers where they have to wait in line and stand and look at art with a whole group of people around them. Here you can have a much more in depth and much more intimate experience with the art.”

For more about the Aldrich, its 50th anniversary and the related exhibits and events, see the museum's website.

Contact me by email eofgang@connecticutmag.com and follow me on Twitter, and connect with Connecticut Magazine on Twitter, on Facebook and on Google +

Aldrich Museum Marks 50th Anniversary with New Exhibits, Open House

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