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Maxine Frankel and Joseph Rosa: A Conversation
A conversation between UMMA Director Joe Rosa and philanthropist, collector, and UMMA lead benefactor Maxine Frankel on the occasion of the Museum’s special exhibition Mark di Suvero: Tabletops, on view through February 26, 2012, which features works from the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation for Art.
Joe Rosa: Why were you and your husband drawn to di Suvero's work in the first place, and how has his work sustained your interest over time? What was it about the tabletops, in particular, that you responded to?
Maxine Frankel: In 1995, we visited Storm King Art Center in Mountainville, New York, to see their jaw dropping, memorable di Suvero exhibition. Stuart couldn't stop whistling and I had the chills for days. Within a very short time, we began collecting Mark's work. The first piece, we acquired was Ganesha's Word, a "mini" di Suvero, very playful, yet it speaks volumes about his practice. It sits on Stuart's desk where it has been since the day it arrived. While Stuart works, he turns and rotates the work giving him time to rest, think, look, and enjoy.
JR: The breadth of your collection is one of its many strengths—merging diverse artists, materiality, and storylines to create visual impact and surprise. How does di Suvero’s work fit in with your collecting practices, framework, and philosophy?
MF: Stuart and I believe, first and foremost, in responding to the work. We spend a great deal of time looking; looking through magazines, going to galleries, art museums and artists' studios. Our goal has always been to educate our "eye." We have not sought out artists, but have looked to "discover" and respond to their work. In building our collection the goal has been to collect across materials and to collect a broad range of an artist's practice.
JR: di Suvero works in numerous scales and media, including monumental landscape works, tabletops, and color-saturated paintings. In your view, what kind of ideas can di Suvero work out through his smaller-scale work as opposed to his monumental pieces?
MF: We don't distinguish between Mark's smaller works and his monumental sculptures. Each is part of his practice and the different scale allows him to accomplish different "things." Regardless of scale, for us the work speaks for itself and allows the viewer to respond to this constantly moving, graceful, light and airy sculpture made from one of the heaviest materials known to man. As we look at much of his work it reminds us of calligraphy in motion and sometimes twisted rolls of fiber. Mark is influenced by music and as the works move you can almost hear the sounds. There is one work in the collection, I believe, that might be considered a study: Landscape is a sculpture that is made to look as if it spans a body of water; it is the only one that seems to be about working through an idea that could/should be realized at a monumental scale.
JR: This work is installed the Museum’s glass-walled Stenn Gallery—one of the most prominent spaces in the Frankel Wing, named in your honor, and located on the main campus pedestrian thoroughfare drawing passersby to the Museum. What do you hope visitors, particularly students, will take away from their first-hand experience of di Suvero’s smaller-scale work and his adjacent monumental pieces on the Museum’s grounds?
MF: Mark has said, "My sculpture has an element of motion or pivoting which invites the viewer to participate." Stuart and I have definitely responded to that invitation and hope the viewers do as well.