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Taking A Deeper Look at “Surface Beauty“


Online Colloquium Explores Charles Lang Freer's Aesthetic Vision

Media only: Elizabeth Bridgforth 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000

April 23, 2010

The Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art will present an online interactive colloquium for national and international artists, scholars, art historians and the general public May 12 from 8:30 to 10 p.m. EDT.

The colloquium will use the Freer's exhibition "Surface Beauty: American Art and Freer's Aesthetic Vision" as a catalyst for exploring the intricate cross-cultural connections that lie beneath the surface harmonies of collector Charles Lang Freer's aesthetic vision.

Freer was the founder of the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art, and his 1906 gift provided the United States with the world's largest collection of the art of James McNeill Whistler and one of the first and most important American collections of Asian art.

The exhibition "Surface Beauty" brings together a group of decorative paintings by, Thomas Dewing and Dwight William Tryon, juxtaposed with a selection of ceramics from the Detroit Pewabic Pottery, to highlight the importance of surface beauty to Freer's aesthetic philosophy. Freer's focus eventually shifted away from American art and towards Asian art, but his interest in tonal, textured surfaces remained constant, allowing him to establish a connection between his Asian and American collections.

"The exhibition looks at a formative moment in Freer's aesthetic development, exploring how the subtle tones and rich surfaces of his American art collection would inform his approach to collecting Asian art as well," said Lee Glazer, curator of American Art for the Freer and organizer of "Surface Beauty." "The webinar gives us an opportunity to go beyond the surface—to explore the cosmopolitan contexts and cross-cultural, cross-disciplinary resonances of Freer's aesthetic vision. By using the accessibility of the Web and engaging an array of international, interdisciplinary presenters and participants, we are hoping to broaden access to and understanding of our American collection."

Following an exhibition overview, Glazer will discuss how the objects in the exhibition relate to "The Story of the Beautiful," a Web resource being developed by the Freer and Wayne State University in Detroit, that will further explore the dialogue between European and Asian interpretive communities. Other presenters within the colloquium include Linda Merrill, "Capturing Aestheticism through Photography"; Susan Key, "Sympathetic Vibrations: Musical Resonances of Surface Beauty"; and Eunyoung Cho, "Crossing Boundaries for the Beautiful: Asia and America at the turn of the Century." The discussion will highlight the following topics: decorative arts, photography, music and intercultural exchanges between Asia and America.

The colloquium is free and open to the public. Participants must register at  www.smithsonianconference.org/surfacebeauty. Live translations in Korean and Japanese will also be available throughout the webinar. This event is organized by the Freer and Sackler galleries with a generous grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art, and it is free and open to the public. For registration information, go to www.smithsonianconference.org/surfacebeauty.

The Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public is welcome to visit www.asia.si.edu. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.

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