Focus Gallery

The Focus Gallery of the Loeb Art Center features small-scale exhibitions that explore a wide variety of themes and topics, often serving as a complement to the college’s curriculum. The exhibitions are regularly co-organized with faculty members, whose expertise is brought to bear on the Loeb’s collection. These efforts, supported by the input and contributions of students, provide in-depth investigations of less-examined areas of the collection. Frequently, this gallery showcases paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and other objects from the museum's holdings that are not regularly on view in the galleries. These collaborations exemplify the Loeb’s committed engagement with the dynamic research, scholarship, and pedagogical approaches occurring across campus and disciplines.

EXHIBITION SELECTION

The Great Wonder: Violet Oakley and the Gothic Revival at Vassar

Curated by Professor Christopher Platts and the class Art 218: The Museum in History, Theory, and Practice in spring 2020, this currently on view exhibition explores the pathbreaking American artist and social activist Violet Oakley (1874–1961). Between 1922 and 1924, Oakley executed a monumental, Gothic-revival painting called “The Great Wonder: A Vision of the Apocalypse” for the living room of Vassar College’s newly built Alumnae House. The artist also designed and furnished the living room in a medieval style, creating a peaceful yet visually stimulating environment which the Vassar community and visitors enjoy to this day.

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Monumental Misrememberings: Photographs and Statues of Contested Histories

This recently closed exhibition featured two small versions of larger statues that called into question the authority and validity of monuments that celebrate imperialism and was meant to promote dialogue around past events as well as current political aspirations. What would it look like to create public monuments that reckon with our past but also celebrate the diversity of our present?

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Embodying Compassion in Buddhist Art

This exhibition was the first transcultural exhibition in America solely devoted to the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who emerged in India two thousand years ago to become a venerated deity throughout Asia. Presenting over 30 outstanding examples of Indian, Nepalese, Chinese, and Japanese art from prominent institutions, this exhibition was held April 23 – June 28, 2015.

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ART, SCIENCE, & TECHNOLOGY at the Loeb

To celebrate the opening of Vassar’s Bridge for Laboratory Sciences in spring 2016, the Loeb presented a series of installations of works from the permanent collection that mark the longstanding and multi-faceted relationship of Art, Science and Technology. Themes explored included botany, anatomy, zoology, optics, and technology. The selection of works, diverse in date and subject matter, illuminate the rich common ground that exists among artistic expression, scientific inquiry, and modernizing discoveries as we relentlessly attempt to understand and interpret the world around us, an enduring source of human curiosity and awe.

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Menagerie in the Museum: Highlights from the Loeb

Assembled in spring 2017 for Art 218: The Museum in History, Theory, and Practice taught by Susan Donahue Kuretsky, this exhibition celebrates the range and quality of a college art collection, expanding ever since 1864 to provide support for class instruction and the pleasure of a wider public.

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Silver in the Attic: Historical Archeology at Vassar

This exhibition was an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Loeb, Kelly Bernatzky ’19, Emma Wiley ’20, and April M. Beisaw, Associate Professor of Anthropology. Held in spring, 2019, the silver bowls, cutlery, and coffee sets on view were found in the attic of a Vassar building constructed in 1896. Their provenance is largely unknown, a mystery which motivated their study: how did this collection come to be? To answer this question, and learn more about the life-story of each object’s use and discard, they were examined using the techniques of historical archaeology.

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Metal, Acid, Line: Etchings from the Loeb

Curated in spring 2020 in conjunction with Art 209 (a studio course that teaches the fundamentals of intaglio printmaking including the techniques of etching and drypoint as well as aquatint, engraving, embossing, and stippling), this exhibition showcases both the complexity achieved by master etchers as well as the accessibility of the medium to those new to the print shop and artist’s studio.

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Movement Captured: Dance in Art from the Loeb

Organized by the Loeb and Miriam Mahdaviani, Vassar College Dance Department, with the assistance of Eleanor McClure-Chute, class of 2020, this exhibition explores the many rich exchanges between dance and fine art, best represented in the pivotal figures in twentieth-century ballet and modern dance, the latter dominated by influential American women.

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Haunting Legacies: Photography and the Invisible

With the rise of social media, combined with the cellular phone’s retooling as a camera, photography has a new political role with photographs mobilizing grass root movements of resistance against violence and oppression. But what is it that these photographs convey and that no text can possibly tell us? “Haunting Legacies”, curated by Professor Giovanna Borradori and the class Philosophy 240: Philosophy of Art and Aesthetics in spring 2015, explores photography’s unique ability to point to that invisible flow, which silently regulates what is represented.

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Accessorizing Paris: Fashion and Art in the Nineteenth Century

Organized by the Loeb and Susan Hiner, Professor of French & Francophone Studies, with the assistance of Emily Chancey ’18, this exhibition explores women’s fashion accessories Through the eyes of artists that served as keen observers of the trends and regularly incorporated them into their work – often harnessing or critiquing corresponding social associations.

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India in Miniature: Paintings from the Loeb

Organized by the Loeb with Julie E. Hughes, Assistant Professor of History with thanks to Marika Sardar; Divya Cherian; Hamid Reza Ghelichkhani; Lars Odland ’17; and Irfan Badruddin ’20, this exhibition presented a microcosm of miniature painting from India that were selected works from Matthew Vassar’s founding gifts and later alumnae donations.

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Fluid Ecologies: Hispanic Caribbean Art from the Loeb

Organized by the Loeb and Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert, Professor of Hispanic Studies on the Sarah Tod Fitz Randolph Distinguished Professor Chair “Fluid Ecologies” investigates a cross-section of the Caribbean region’s most celebrated Hispanic Caribbean artists of the last five decades, and their links through the sea’s historical role as a crossroads of the world.

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