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Bates exhibits showcase textiles, 19th century prints

Fransje Killaars: Color at the Center opens Jan. 26 at Bates and Museum L-A

LEWISTON — A Maine artist examining humanity's foibles, a German printmaker of the late 19th century and a contemporary Dutch textile installation artist known for her color sense are represented in winter 2013 exhibitions at the Bates College Museum of Art.

Opening with a lecture and reception at 6 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18, is the exhibition "Robert S. Neuman's 'Ship to Paradise,' " consisting of depictions by a Mount Desert Island artist of humankind's vices and worldly conceits. Discussing Neuman's work is Maine author and art critic Carl Little.

Also opening that evening is the "Intermezzi Portfolio," Opus IV, a series of prints by Max Klinger, a German artist active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

A reception at 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, opens "Fransje Killaars: Color at the Center." An artist who approaches textiles in provocative ways that are as much cultural as conceptual statements, Killaars will exhibit several installations at the Bates museum and several at Museum L-A, in the former textile mill on Canal Street in Lewiston where Bates-brand bedspreads were woven.

The reception takes place in both locations, with a shuttle connecting them.

"I am fascinated and deeply affected by the power and effect of color," Amsterdam-based textile artist Killaars said. Born in 1959, she places color at the center of her practice. Her installations exist in a space that merges painting, fashion, architecture and interior design. Her work is imbued with the handmade and functional aspects of craft. Her installations may combine fabrics from Japan, blankets designed by the artist and hand-woven in India, and draped figures evoking contemporary and historic representations of women.

For the Lewiston exhibition, Killaars will create several installations at the Bates College Museum of Art, including "24 Hours" and "Figures" in their first U.S. appearances.

At Museum L-A, she will create several installations, including one created out of materials woven in this Canal Street space.

In 1990, just as Killaars was establishing a strong career as a painter in the Netherlands, she traveled to India, the first of a number of trips there that shaped her practice in profound ways. "Everything in this chaotic world [India] is colourful," she wrote. In India, "I discovered the power of colour as a part of everyday life."

Neuman's "Ship to Paradise," coming to Bates from the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, N.Y., is the artist's personal exploration of a theme that dates back to the Middle Ages: the folly and foibles of man. The exhibition comprises lithographs and etchings, along with preliminary drawings and several etching plates.

Informed by his reflections on the world around him and by a knowledge of seafaring and shipbuilding intrinsic to life in Maine, Neuman's intricate compositions recall the fantastical paintings of the 15th-century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch.

Images of the ship in various stages of its journey, from construction to calamity to repair, serve as both a cautionary tale on the dangers of the quest at hand and a metaphor for the human condition.

Neuman began exploring the theme in 1977, in whimsical sketches, prints and mixed-media works. In 1983, August Heckscher, a fellow summer resident of Mount Desert Island who operated a press called the Printing Office at High Loft, commissioned Neuman to execute a portfolio of prints to accompany a fine facsimile edition of "Shyp of Fooles," a 1494 book by humanist Sebastian Brandt.

Brandt's text is an allegory in 112 chapters outlining the vices and worldly conceits that stand between humankind and salvation in paradise. The book, which became well-known in Europe, featured woodcut illustrations by Albrecht Durer that clearly conveyed Brandt's message to the literate and illiterate alike.

Like Brandt's wayward passengers, Neuman's ship is ill-equipped for its journey. As described by the printer's son, Philip Heckscher, the "ship is not ship-shape ... Even an amateur sailor can see that this ship isn't going anywhere."

There is no captain guiding it through the misfortunes it faces, and in most of the images, there are no passengers to be seen. For Neuman, as for Brandt, the journey is ultimately a metaphor for the human experience.

Born in 1926, Neuman has residences in Winchester, Mass., and Northeast Harbor, Maine. He taught at several New England schools and retired in 1990 as professor and chair of the art department at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

In his "Intermezzi Portfolio," Opus IV, Klinger produced a portfolio of 12 masterful etchings and aquatints that embrace Romanticism, Symbolism and the sublime to explore his favorite themes of desire, fantasy and death.

Klinger (1857–1920) was an important artist in Germany at the turn of the 20th century. First published in 1881, his "Intermezzi Portfolio" addresses diverse subjects, such as Cupid, an elf and the figure of death; the mythological lives of centaurs; and the 17th-century novel "Simplicius Simplicissimus," by H.J.C. von Grimmelshausen.

All three exhibitions run through March 22. The museum at 75 Russell St.is open to the public at no cost from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and until 7 p.m. Wednesday during the academic year. For more information, call 786-6158 or visit bates.edu/museum.