VAC to display five Houser sculptures

by Apoorva Dixit | 2/9/14 4:54pm


Louise Bourgeois’s “Crouching Spider,” the giant stainless steel sculpture displayed outside of the Black Family Visual Arts Center, will take leave this spring. After a yearlong loan to the College by the Bourgeois family estate, the nearly 9-foot tall sculpture will be replaced by five sculptures constructed by Allan Houser, one of the best-known Native American artists of the 20th century.

The five sculptures, which will be on loan for a year, include Houser’s Native American artwork and more abstract, modernist pieces.

“We wanted to present a cross-section of the aesthetics that Mr. Houser worked in,” Dave Rettig, curator of collections at Allan Houser Inc., said.

One of the sculptures, “Water Carrier,” is an iconic modernist piece that depicts a figure carrying a water jug. It displays a “universal state,” a subject found in every corner of the world, Rettig said.

“Abstract Crown Dancer I,” another piece coming to campus, is a geometricized portrayal of an Apache dancer.

“You have a sense in his sculptures of people who are very dignified and very connected to nature and their environment,” Hood Museum of Art senior curator of collections Kathy Hart said. “There’s a sense of self-containment and quietude about these sculptures.”

The third sculpture is part of Houser’s abstract work. “Options” is a geometric piece that includes two elements without a set structure. The two pieces can be placed in hundreds of different configurations, depending on the angles. This flexibility is what gives the piece its name, Rettig said.

The fourth piece, “Morning Solitude,” last displayed in the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, uses fluid forms and contrasting shadows to create an abstract depiction of the female form.

“This Was Our Home,” the final sculpture, uses subtle outlines and long, thin slits to depict a mother looking over her daughter.

The five works have been displayed in gardens and museums across the U.S. since their construction, Rettig said. This year, there is a high demand for all of Houser’s pieces due to the centennial.

There are tentative plans to honor these sculptures at Dartmouth’s 42nd Pow-Wow in May, Pow-Wow committee president Zach Cooper ’17 said.

“We hope to have an opening ceremony or a blessing from an Abenaki elder,” Cooper said. “Since we are on their land, it is only right and respectful to ask for their blessing for the project.”

Houser’s “Peaceful Serenity,” a bronze-plated steel sculpture of a mother and child, has been displayed in front of the Sherman House since 2007. The Strauss Gallery will also display an exhibition of Houser’s drawings this fall.

This year, nine major exhibitions of Houser’s work will open in museums across the United States.

The five sculptures will be on display from May 11 through May 10, 2015.