Thursday, July 31, 2014

Grounds for Sculpture

Last summer after years of debating, we became members of Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton,NJ (or as they advertise "minutes from Princeton"). Boy did we time that one right! Not long after we joined we heard they were planning a retrospective of J. Seward Johnson's works for the summer of 2014.

J. Seward Johnson has been our favorite sculptor for decades. The retrospective is a collection of his works spanning five decades -- since he was let go from Johnson & Johnson (otherwise known as the family business). About a decade ago we went to Washington, DC and saw his work on display with Wendy and Dave. We were already fans before we took that trip.

Johnson is famous for creating life-like statues. I'm sure you have seen some of them someplace. The most famous might be the one of the businessman that stood outside the World Trade Center and became a memorial following 9/11. The first one I saw was the man eating a hamburger in Princeton. In 1992, he took the old fairgrounds in Hamilton and converted them into a sculpture garden. In the beginning the grounds were free. Then they started to charge admission.

A docent described this exhibit as "all the kids coming home for dad's birthday." Johnson is 83, but this marks his 50th year as a sculptor. Nearly 300 of his works are on currently on display in Hamilton. This will probably never happen again.

Personally, I've enjoyed watching his progression as an artist. It is most evident in the paint used on the "skin."

A quick lesson, then onto my favorite pictures. His works can be divided into three categories:
1) Celebrating the Familiar -- i.e., images such as the man eating the hamburger, the businessman, people reading newspapers, etc.

See what I mean about adding a twist to a classic piece of art?
2) Beyond the Frame -- famous paintings brought to 3-D life with a twist added to them. These include Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Boathouse, Mona Lisa, etc.

3) Revising Icons -- such as the 30 foot tall statue of Marilyn Monroe or Unconditional Surrender (the sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square on V-Day).

Here is a sampling of my pictures taken this spring and summer. A few were in the days leading up to the exhibit. All are part of the current exhibit. The retrospective runs through September 21. Let me know if you go and I'll try to join you. We do have a couple of guest passes, so we might be able to get you in for free.

Johnson is the man in the background wearing a hat.

You can be in the frame with the Girl with a Pearl Earring.

A close up of "Were you invited?"
It is fun, and highly encouraged, to become part of the sculpture.
This is one of his newest sculptures. The newspaper article he is "reading" talks about Marilyn Monroe being installed. 
This one is in two place -- gigantic in the far corner of the grounds, and normal sized near Marilyn.
He has a bit of a sense of humor about it all.
This is one of his most realistic sculptures.
He added himself to this party scene

This one, along with others, is off the beaten path

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