PULLMAN, Wash. — The Washington State University Museum of Art opens
an exhibit entitled “Morris Graves: Instruments for A New Navigation,”
Monday, Sept. 11, at the museum on the Pullman campus.
WSU is the only eastern Washington venue to host the traveling exhibition,
organized through the Schmidt-Bingham Gallery in New York and featuring
previously unexhibited work from the artist’s private collection and from the
collections of the Bank of America, the University of Oregon and the Tacoma
Art Museum. The exhibition will run concurrently with “The American Vision:
A Collection Survey” through Oct. 15.
An opening reception for both exhibitions is set for Thursday, Sept. 14, from
6-7:30 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center atrium. Immediately following the reception,
Barbara Johns, former chief curator of the Tacoma Art Museum, will present a
lecture, “Shoot for the Moon,” in the Fine Arts auditorium. Johns will discuss
the iconic imagery in Graves’ painting, his exploration of three-dimensional
form in architectural spaces, and his work in contemporary drawing and
Graves was born in Oregon and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. In an essay
from the exhibition catalog, Alvin E. Friedman-Kien states that Graves moved
to Ireland in 1954 in an attempt to escape the intrusion of “Machine Age
Noise” that had begun to pervade the quiet of the Pacific Northwest. Now in
his early 90s, he resides in a secluded home in the redwood forests of northern
The works featured in “Instruments for a New Navigation” were started in the
early 1960s while Graves was living in Ireland. These instruments were his
response to the emerging technology of the times, particularly as it related to
America’s growing space program. Before this time, Graves had been a recluse
who wanted to disassociate himself from human technology; but by 1959, he
felt that he could not continue being “a solitary romantic.” In 1964, he was
invited to join NASA’s public policy initiative as part of an attempt by a group
of NASA scientists to humanize the space program by including works of art
in early lunar missions. This collaboration between artists, scientists and
engineers was eventually abandoned.
In 1998, Graves uncovered the early 1960’s fragments of these instruments
from storage and began the work of revitalizing them. Most of the completed
pieces are comprised of vertical cylindrical bronze or stainless steel shafts
supporting circular and rectangular glazed metal frames containing flat,
luminous elements suggestive of a lens mounted on precisely cut and polished
marble bases. The exhibit contains a number of sculptures as well as related
works on paper from the 1940s through the 1990s. The exhibition previously
appeared at the Schmidt-Bingham Gallery in New York, the Museum of
Northwest Art at LaConner and the Tacoma Art Museum. It will travel to the
Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, and the
Hearst Art Gallery at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga after it
closes at the WSU Museum of Art.
The Museum of Art is open Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Thursday, 10
a.m.-9 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 1-5 p.m., with extended hours for football
Saturdays and some other special events. All events are free and open to the
public. The gallery is wheelchair accessible. Parking permits for weekday
visitors may be purchased at the Cougar Depot at Davis Way (Highway 270)
and State Street, or at WSU Parking Services on Wilson Road, directly uphill
from the Fine Arts Center. On weekday evenings, parking is available in the
Fine Arts parking structure, off Stadium Way at Grimes Way, for an hourly fee.
Weekend parking is free. Call 509/335-1910 for more information.
Funding for museum exhibitions and programs is provided by Washington
State University, the Friends of the Museum of Art, and private donors.
Special support for the Graves exhibit has been provided by the Washington
State University Visual, Performing and Literary Arts Committee as part of its
2000-2001 series, “Future Visions: Art as a Way of Looking at the Future.”
Additional support has been provided by Papa John’s Pizza, the Pullman
Community Foundation/Foundation Northwest, the Pullman Kiwanis Club,
Tri-State Distributors, the US West Foundation, the Washington Mutual
Foundation, the Washington State Arts Commission, and private donors.