‘A to Z’ and ‘Dis/Guise’ Exhibitions Mark Museum’s Reopening

The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art has reopened with two new exhibitions. A to Z: Highlighting the Berman Collection reconsiders the traditional approach to the display of works of Art. A to Z is a selection of artworks that, by virtue of its arrangement, wryly reflects on the limitations inherent in the traditional chronological presentation of works of art.


Holly Trostle Brigham, Sorella Plautilla Nelli's Lamentation, 2012 watercolor on paper, 29 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches © Holly Trostle Brigham photographed by Ken Ek

On view October 20, 2013, through January 12, 2014, A to Z is the first exhibition under the direction of the Berman Museum’s new Director, Charles Stainback, who joined the Museum in April 2013. Bringing together in the Main Gallery more than two dozen pieces drawn from the Berman Collection of nearly 1,400 works, the exhibition is being organized by Stainback, Ursinus Professor of Art History Matt Shoaf, and an interdisciplinary mix of Ursinus students.

The exhibition highlights a generous gift to Ursinus College by The Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation. Read more here.

Additionally, the exhibition Holly Trostle Brigham: Dis/Guise, the first major museum exhibition for Philadelphia artist Holly Trostle Brigham, will open Oct. 20 in the Upper Gallery and be on display until Dec. 22.

A public opening reception for both shows will be held Saturday, Oct. 19, from 4 to 7 p.m. Brigham will give a public gallery talk on Sunday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m.    

A to Z is organized in alphabetical order of the artist’s last name and will feature works by a range of artists that speak to the breadth and depth of the collection as both an exhibition vehicle and a teaching resource.

Among the featured artists and artworks are:

Lynn Chadwick
The Pair of Sitting
Figures III

The Berman holds the largest private  collection of maquettes and
large-scale sculpture by Lynn Chadwick, dating from 1957-1987 as part of its
Outdoor Sculpture Collection on the grounds of the College.

Françoise Gilot Portrait

Françoise Gilot Portrait of Muriel Berman with Flowers, 1970 Acrylic; Board, 52 x 39 in. n/a / P211

Françoise Gilot
Portrait of Muriel Berman with Flowers, n.d.
Acrylic on board

The collaboration between Gilot and the Berman Museum of Art is a rich one, and she
holds an honorary degree from Ursinus College. Known by many for her relationship with Pablo Picasso, Gilot was an accomplished artist in her own right. This portrait of Museum benefactor Muriel Berman typifies her use of color and line.

Andy Warhol
Birmingham Race Riot, 1964
Screenprint on paper

This notorious and powerful image made following the May 1963 riot in Alabama captures the nation’s racial tensions at the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  Created from a photograph first published in Life magazine, it is an example of Warhol’s use of appropriation and the only photo-based work in the exhibition.

Gilbert Stuart
John Fitzgibbon  (Chancellor of Ireland), ca. 1787-1793

Stuart is widely considered to be one of America’s foremost portraitists and is best known for his painting of George Washington which appears on the U.S. one dollar bill. John Fitzgibbon, Chancellor Ireland (1979 -1802) remains a controversial figure in Irish History. A staunch anti-Catholic, he was an early supporter of Union with England.  This work is a testament to the more than 1000 portraits (six of U.S. presidents) that Stuart painted in his lifetime.

The exhibition is the first in a series of new initiatives Stainback is launching to redefine
the role of the arts on the Ursinus campus, making the Museum a hub for the exchange of ideas between students and faculty, fostering new ideas and connections between objects, and enriching the educational experience of students across fields of study.

A to Z rethinks traditional notions on how to use a museum’s collection to bring about
new ideas and create new entry points for students and visitors to experience the arts,” said Stainback. “This project has not only challenged the student organizers to think differently about the presentation of art, but will engage the larger Ursinus campus and community in an alternative museum experience.”

A to Z is being organized in an art history course taught by Ursinus Professor Matthew Shoaf.  Students whose majors range from psychology to international relations are collaborating on the entire scope of the exhibition process, including the selection of artworks, wall text production, exhibition installation, and programming.

“The students involved in A to Z have drawn on their own areas of study and creativity to make this a truly collaborative presentation,” said Shoaf. “It has been exciting to watch the process unfold in the classroom and to help facilitate the dialogue on what an art exhibition can be and what it can do.”

In the months leading up to the October opening, Stainback has overseen the refurbishment of the Berman Museum, which opened in 1989. The improvements to the building have opened up the gallery space and introduced a new color palette to revitalize the interior of the Museum. The modernization of the facility also includes a redesign of the lobby, which has expanded the area for visitors to gather and serves as an entry point to the Berman.

The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and college holidays. Admission is free. The Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums and is accessible to visitors with disabilities.