The Arlington Museum of Art has reopened with a one-man show spotlighting women.
Knox Martin: Living Legend is scheduled to run through Oct. 11 at the downtown venue, which typically presents pre-curated shows. However, AMA’s marketing coordinator, Lily Williams, says this exhibit is unique.
“We got to have this really incredible collaborative experience with the artist to work out what we wanted the story of this exhibit to be and what we wanted the focus to be,” she says. “We’ve curated the whole show together, and we’ve decided which pieces we wanted here. It’s been a really interesting experience.”
In all, about 50 pieces of Martin’s work is on display throughout the main, mezzanine and rooftop galleries, including selections from two different series celebrating women.
“Knox Martin’s artwork generally focuses on the female form,” Williams says. “I know that’s one source of big inspiration for him.”
While the museum’s main gallery consists of the “Woman” and “She” series, on the mezzanine level, the tone is what Williams calls “a bit more retrospective with works dating back to the 1950s along with some works as new as 2010.”
“Everything is very vibrant and colorful,” she says. “As an art historian, I would be drawn to words like abstract expressionism, maybe even reminiscent of pop, but I know the artist himself doesn’t tend to like being identified with any of those artistic genres, so we’ve just been saying he’s somewhere in between.”
At age 98, Martin still works in New York.
“The man has lived through the creation of many very relevant artistic movements,” she says. “He’s been in New York City where many of those artistic movements were born.”
Martin was born in 1923 in Barranquilla, Colombia. From 1946-1950, after serving in World War ll, he attended the Arts Students League of New York where he has since mentored generations of aspiring artists. According to an introduction near AMA’s entrance, the artist has also had a distinguished teaching career, having taught at the Yale Graduate School of the Arts, New York University and the University of Minnesota as well as in India and Italy.
While Martin’s work is hard to define, it can be summed up as large scale and bringing the vast number of pieces from New York required “practically an act of God,” says Williams, who also credits Donray, a local artist mentored by Martin, as being instrumental in making sure the show came to town.
“[Donray] has been trying to get an exhibit of Knox in Arlington for ages now,” she says. “And the stars just aligned for the summer of 2020. He happened to have an opening in his exhibition schedule, and we happened to need a big summer exhibit.”
During the museum’s nearly four-month closure, many changes have taken place out of precaution for visitor health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. For instance, there’s now a 50% occupancy limit, mask requirements and temperature checks. Patrons may also notice sanitizing stations throughout the museum and museum staff sanitizing high touch areas every half an hour.
Gary Schwartz, AMA’s office manager, also pointed out the QR code that quests can scan for virtual guidance. The technology, he says, allows visitors to obtain information in smaller groups rather than crowding around a docent.
“At a certain point, we decided, you know, I think it’s time [to reopen],” says Williams, adding that apprehensiveness looms because of the virus for some, yet the overall public response to AMA’s reopening has been positive.
“Art brings a sense of normalcy and calm to people,” she says. “And we’re hoping to be, you know, a small escape from all of the stresses of our new reality.”
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