Romare Bearden (1914-1988)
Three Women, 1979
Lithograph, 81/100, 28.25 x 21 in. Gift of Raymond Dubrowski, 1982, Bruce Museum Collection

Imperial Embroidered Silk Dragon Robe. Chinese, Qing Dynasty, 1796-1820. Bruce Museum Collection, Gift of Mrs. Horton O'Neil 78.06.01

Carol Anthony
New Mexico Envelope, 1979. Craypas enamel on paper, 13 x 12 in. Bruce Museum Collection

Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel, and Modernity in the Collection of the Bruce Museum

January 23, 2010 - April 25, 2010

The Bruce Museum demonstrates the powerful relationship between traveling and art-making in a major exhibition drawn from highlights of its own collection. Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel, and Modernity in the Collection of the Bruce Museum is curated by adjunct curator Kenneth Silver and supported by Ray and Barbara Dalio and the Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund.

With extraordinary works of art from Europe and the Americas, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East, the exhibition will illuminate a little-recognized but key aspect of modern aesthetics: the drive to preserve the sensation of exotic encounter that might otherwise vanish into thin air. For the artist and collector, the physical displacement of the journey is a thrilling yet frustratingly evanescent experience. Depicting what one has seen or felt abroad and collecting objects that evoke far-away places and people are ways to recollect the excitement of travel.

Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel, and Modernity in the Collection of the Bruce Museum includes a vast array of painting, sculpture, and photography, as well as decorative and utilitarian objects, made by artists ranging from Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux and Romare Bearden to myriad anonymous craftsmen-and-women.

The lure of European culture for American artists and travelers in the late-19th and early 20th centuries are amply demonstrated in works depicting the canals of Venice, the British countryside, and French Gothic architecture.

The “orientalist” fascination with Islamic and Middle-Eastern culture is seen not only in exquisite depictions of Arab costume but also in rare vintage photographs from the 1860s of Egyptian temples and funerary sculpture (some still half-buried in sand).

Also on display in the exhibition are: 

  • Examples of the decorative arts of China and Japan with which well-to-do American tourists at the turn of the century
  • Paintings of the Pacific islands and the Caribbean made by artists in search of well-earned escape
  • Carved objects from Africa that testified to the western search for extreme foreign experience (often in the context of colonial exploitation.
  • Works of art and objects related to travels throughout the Americas conclude the exhibition—from Mexican crafts and pre-Columbian sculpture to the arts of Native North Americans, including basketry, beadwork, painting and sculpture.

Exotic Encounters: Art, Travel, and Modernity in the Collection of the Bruce Museum reshuffles the deck of cherished art and artifacts, uncovering the complex and surprising connections between the extraordinary places we visit and the remarkable things we bring back.

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