Museum to Host Multifaceted Exhibit
The centerpiece of the exhibit is Simon Dinnerstein’s monumental work, The Fulbright Triptych, which New York Times art critic Roberta Smith called a “crackling, obsessive showboat of a painting, dreamed up during a decade when the medium supposedly teetered on the brink of death.”
The picture will tell you what it wants—you just have to listen really hard and channel what that picture is telling you and try to follow it, and that’s what I’m trying to do. - Simon Dinnerstein
Early in his artistic career, Brooklyn native Simon Dinnerstein received a Fulbright Fellowship to study printmaking in Germany. In 1971, while still in Germany, Dinnerstein began work on what would become his signature piece, The Fulbright Triptych, which he completed in 1974 after returning to New York. Considered a masterpiece of 1970s realism, The Fulbright Triptych is the marquee attraction of a new exhibition of Dinnerstein’s work debuting at the Museum of Art and Archaeology this week.
“One of the things we do at the museum is to get people to learn how to look at art,” says museum Director Alex Barker. “You can walk through and think of the paintings as simply pretty pictures, or you can look at them very carefully and start pulling them apart and trying to see what makes sense, what doesn’t, and ask yourself what the artist is trying to do.” Barker says Dinnerstein’s paintings, many of which feature multiple perspectives, draw the viewer in and compel him or her to reflect upon what the artist is trying to convey. “Simon’s work, especially the early works, look very realistic, and yet, when you start teasing it apart, there are things that don’t make sense, and that helps you see things in a clearer way,” Barker says. “Once you start looking at his work, it draws you in, and you just keep looking and finding things.”
Barker says the new exhibit, The Lasting World: Simon Dinnerstein and the Fulbright Triptych, will have a soft opening July 25, followed by the July 27 world premiere of Robert Sirota’s composition Three Nocturnes, which is inspired by three of Dinnerstein’s most dreamlike and evocative drawings: Night, Night Scene 1, and Purple Haze. The concert will be held at the Missouri Theatre and will feature the chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound, conducted by Alan Pierson. Both Dinnerstein and Sirota will be present for the concert, which is part of the 2017 Mizzou International Composer’s Festival taking place throughout Columbia this week.
Inspired by Kahlo
Dinnerstein says he derives part of his inspiration from an exhibit he once saw featuring Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
“There were a few paintings in which she had multiple realities, and they were very realistic and very figurative, but they were out of time and space or irrational or illogical, though they still dealt with the human condition, and that struck me as incredible,” Dinnerstein says. “I guess there is a part of life that seems to me to be mysterious and mystical, even life amongst the commonplace things. Many of the pictures in the exhibit are kind of the visual equivalent of a short story or a novel that deals with that theme.”
Barker says the exhibit’s official opening will be held in September, when students are back on campus, although the museum will host a meet and greet with Dinnerstein on July 28 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. An interdisciplinary symposium will be held Sept. 22–23 at MU to investigate Dinnerstein’s aesthetic choices and intellectual context, touching upon art, art history, film studies, music, literature, poetry, history, psychology, religious studies, and women’s and gender studies. The exhibition, which runs through December 24, also will include a film festival featuring a number of Dinnerstein’s favorite films and a book club discussion based on one of Dinnerstein’s favorite books, Stoner, John Williams’ story of a poor farm kid from Boonville who attends MU to study agriculture but falls in love with literature. A catalog has been produced to accompany the exhibit, and Barker plans to organize a scholarly volume composed of interpretations of Dinnerstein’s work by various MU scholars. After closing here, the Museum will take the exhibit to additional venues in New York and Nevada. One of the paintings in the exhibit, The Sink, is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Art and Archaeology.
Dinnerstein says this will be the first exhibit of his work in the Midwest, although he did show a single work in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While he was in Arkansas, Dinnerstein was asked by a University of Arkansas publicist what advice he would give to students.
“As far as I can see, it’s one time around, so you should try to find the passion and fulfillment that you want in that one time, and you should give it a shot,” Dinnerstein recalls telling her. “If you’ve given it a shot and it doesn’t work out, that’s the most you can do.”