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Exhibition of Fine Wood Art from the Renowned Bohlen Collection
On View at UMMA June12 through October 3, 2004

April 10, 2004—The University of Michigan Museum of Art presents Nature Transformed: Wood Art from the Bohlen Collection, an exhibition that highlights the extraordinary collection of fine wood art recently given to UMMA by Brighton, Michigan residents Robert M. and Lillian Montalto Bohlen. Organized by Sean Ulmer, the Museum of Art’s University Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, this survey of approximately 82 works by 71 North American, European, and Australian artists provides a compelling reconsideration of this bold and dynamic aspect of contemporary art making. The exhibition, which is accompanied by a comprehensive and lavishly illustrated catalogue, will be on view at UMMA from June 12 through October 3, 2004. It subsequently travels to the Mobile Museum of Art in Alabama and the Museum of Arts and Design, New York.

Nature Transformed marks the first public display of some of Bob and Lillian Montalto Bohlen’s generous gift to UMMA in 2002 of 68 exemplary objects of fine wood art. Several pieces from the Bohlens’ current wood art collection will also be included.

“Bob and Lillian approached the collecting of fine wood art in a remarkably focused, intelligent, and committed manner that resulted in one of the finest collections of wood art in the United States,” said UMMA director James Steward. “They had a vision of bringing together the most engaging work by the finest artists in the field, and of tracking the work of these artists as it developed over time. The Bohlens are remarkable for their profound commitment to this compelling medium, and for their desire to share the collection with the public. UMMA and our regional and national audiences are the richer for the Bohlens’ vision and generosity.”

The exhibition is divided into three sections: “The Vessel Unleashed,” which presents objects that retain some semblance of the vessel form but are more sculptural than functional; “Sculptural Tendencies” includes works by artists who continue the time-honored tradition of producing purely sculptural forms in wood by taking advantage of the medium’s special properties and creative opportunities; and “Allusions to Nature,” which links pieces that take inspiration from or otherwise embody nature in all its diversity.

Like sculptors working in stone, wood artists envision their forms within the material itself, taking into consideration the characteristics of wood grain, tone, color, and texture. Some artists embrace and celebrate the color and texture of the wood, while others use it as a point of departure—adding pigment, inlay, gilding, and other materials and techniques—often achieving effects that suspend or challenge our expectations about the look and feel of wood.

Although turned and carved wood has enjoyed a long and rich craft heritage, an increasing number of tremendously talented contemporary fine artists are working in the medium. The strong and potent sculptural objects they create represent an exhilarating level of technical sophistication merged with new forms and ideas that are as inventive and bold as anything happening in contemporary art today.

Nowhere are these developments in wood art more evident than in the superb Bohlen collection. Begun as recently as 1997, the Bohlen collection reflects an enduring commitment to the artists they collect, tracking the developing styles of these artists and nurturing what have frequently become close, direct friendships with the artists. The Bohlens’ recent purchase of key wood pieces from the Irving Lipton collection has added historical depth to this magnificent group of objects, and given the collection an international as well as national stature.

The accompanying publication, produced for UMMA by Marquand Books, Seattle, in association with Hudson Hills Press, contains three insightful essays by major figures in the field: David Revere McFadden, chief curator and vice president for programs, Museum of Arts and Design (formerly American Craft Museum), New York; Terry Martin, wood artist, writer, and lecturer from Brisbane, Australia; and Janice Blackburn, writer and specialist in contemporary art for Sotheby’s, London.

Nature Transformed has been made possible by foundation and individual sponsors who wish to remain anonymous and by the Friends of the Museum of Art.

The University of Michigan Museum of Art is located on the University’s central campus at the corner of South State Street and South University in Ann Arbor.

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For more information: (734) 763-UMMA