Whimsical, raw art

A leaping frog and flowers in a tea cup are among the 41 works of American folk art on display at LC’s Daura Gallery through March 4, 2011. An opening reception will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19.

Yearning to Breathe Free: Contemporary Self-Taught Art from the Collection of Baron & Ellin Gordon examines both the art – spiritual, whimsical, and raw – and the collectors themselves, whose passion and vision have resulted in a world-class collection.

Check out a feature on the exhibition in Sunday’s News & Advance.

Contemporary American folk art, whether called outsider, naïve, visionary, intuitive, or self-taught, are labels characterizing the work of artists who generally have little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. These unique works of art depict extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, and elaborate fantasy or spiritual worlds.

Baron Gordon, a 1953 graduate of Lynchburg College, and his wife Ellin Gordon, did not plan to build a collection of works by these artists when they first purchased art to furnish and decorate their home in New York. But through the years, contemporary folk art significantly dominated their acquisitions, resulting in the first major exhibition of their work, Flying Free, held at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1997.

In an interview with Barbara Rothermel, director of the Daura Gallery, Ellin Gordon said, “There is no question that we were drawn to twentieth-century work by the boldness and the lack of pretense. We found its vibrancy exciting, along with observing that the field was constantly evolving, stimulating.

“The collection predominately comprises American artists, although a number of the artists were born in other countries and migrated to the United States. … We try to get the best work of a particular artist.”

Two lectures complement the exhibition. “Views of Art Collectors & the Museum” will be presented by Dr. Robert Steele, executive director of the David. C. Driskilly Center at the University of Maryland, on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Daura Gallery.

Ellin Gordon will give a talk on “Reflections on Collecting Contemporary Folk Art in America” at 2 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Daura Gallery.

Also opening on Jan. 19 is Virginia Landscapes: Pierre Daura Watercolors. The twenty-four watercolors comprising this exhibition demonstrate Catalan-American artist Pierre Daura’s deep involvement with the rural scene in all its aspects and the landscape itself – country roads, woodlands, and the majestic presence of Jump and House Mountains in Rockbridge County, Virginia. In summer 1934, Daura and his family moved from France to Rockbridge Baths, Va., where Daura began the first of what would be a lifelong series of oils, watercolors, and temperas depicting the Blue Ridge region of Virginia.

Learn more about Pierre Daura