A new exhibition at the Yale University Art Gallery pays tribute to the keen "eye" of Honolulu-born art collector and Yale alumnus Thurston Twigg-Smith.
Titled "Hawaiian Eye," the exhibit will feature some of the paintings, prints and sculptures by both modern masters and emerging artists that have been collected by Mr. Twigg-Smith during the past two decades. It opens on Friday, Feb. 14.
"Thurston Twigg-Smith has long been an enthusiastic patron of both artists and art museums," says Susan Vogel, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the gallery. "Since 1991, when he joined the Yale Art Gallery's governing board, he has given us 38 important contemporary works, among them such masterpieces as Diebenkorn's 'Ocean Park No. 24' and Wayne Thiebaud's 'Drink Syrups.' And 80 more are promised. It gives us great pleasure to share with our visitors the spirited and often witty works of art that have charmed this collector's 'Hawaiian Eye.'"
Most of the artists represented in the show are based in California. In fact, all but a few of the 30 or so objects in the exhibition were created on the West Coast. Although these are mainly figurative and narrative works, there is great diversity of media, content, and technique. The paintings range from Robert Colescott's intentionally crude depiction of an amorous encounter in "Sequoia Sonata" to Nic Nicosia's image of fierce fisticuffs at a social gathering in "Violence." The techniques represented range from Charles Arnoldi's wall sculpture, part of which was created with a chainsaw, to Viola Frey's eight-and-a-half-foot long ceramic odalisque, "Resting Woman No. 2," formed from 11 interlocking fired pieces. Many of the pieces are humorous, including Tony Berlant's assemblage "Chubby Talks to God" and William Wegman's familiar weimaraner, Man Ray, portrayed as a frog. Other "creatures" featured in the exhibition include Deborah Butterfield's life-size aluminum sculpture of a horse, Roy De Forest's colorful painting of anthropomorphic animals, "Big Foot, Black Dog," and David Hockney's lithograph "Hotel Acatlan."
Thurston Twigg-Smith, who was born in Honolulu in 1921, is the son of artist William Twigg-Smith. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering at Yale in 1942. He founded the Persis Corporation, a Honolulu-based investment company, and is now its chair and chief executive officer. He is also chair of the daily newspaper The Honolulu Advertiser and director of Atalanta/Sosnoff Capital Corp., New York.
In addition to his active involvement in the Yale Art Gallery, Mr. Twigg-Smith is a trustee of several other arts institutions including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Mr. Twigg-Smith's business, arts, and philanthropic interests came together in his development of The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu from a corporate gallery to a fully-fledged public museum on its own site.
"One of the great pleasures of the curatorial role is working with an enthusiastic collector," says Daphne A. Deeds, curator of exhibitions and programs, who organized the exhibition. "'Hawaiian Eye' reveals not only an exceptional collection of contemporary art, but the spirit of a generous and supportive personality.
"We are particularly grateful," she adds, "for Mr. Twigg-Smith's extraordinary gift of works of art from the 1980s which brilliantly fills a specific gap in the Yale Art Gallery's rich holdings."
A full-color illustrated catalogue, including an interview with the collector by Ms. Deeds, will be published in May, in celebration of Mr. Twigg-Smith's 55th reunion at Yale.
"Hawaiian Eye: Collecting Contemporary Art with Thurston Twigg-Smith" will be on view through June 8. The Yale University Art Gallery is located at the corner of College and York streets. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 2-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free. A museum entrance for persons using wheelchairs is located at 201 York St. For further information about access, call 432-0601; for general information, call 432-0600.