When Thomas Gilcrease built his art collection through the 1940s and 1950s, he frequently worked with contemporary artists of his day. Woody Crumbo, a Potawatomi artist from Oklahoma, advised Gilcrease and helped guide his acquisitions of Native American art. Mr. Gilcrease established an artist in residence program in the 40s and 50s to support regional artists and add contemporary art to the Gilcrease Museum collection. However, through the late 20th century and early 2000s, Gilcrease Museum had primarily focused on historical material for exhibitions and scholarship.
But a new Gilcrease is on the horizon. Recently, Gilcrease Museum has started to introduce contemporary art to the traveling exhibition schedule and to permanent collection galleries, expanding the overall scope of exhibition offerings. In 2016, Gilcrease presented the exhibition Rick Bartow: Things You Know But Cannot Explain, a retrospective of surreal sculpture and expressionist paintings, drawings and printmaking by Rick Bartow, a contemporary Wiyot artist from the Pacific Northwest. Bartow’s work was followed by exhibitions of contemporary paintings by Kay WalkingStick and T.C. Cannon. Going forward, the museum’s next presentation of contemporary art is an exhibition co-created by Gilcrease and Tulsa Artist Fellowship (TAF).
Recall/Respond is a two-part juried exhibition of work by artists who are part of the TAF. Established in 2015 by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, TAF cultivates Tulsa’s arts scene by recruiting and retaining artists and arts workers to our community where they have the creative freedom to pursue their crafts while contributing to a thriving cultural community. Currently, 60 arts practitioners of diverse disciplines are living and working in Tulsa’s Arts District. For this exhibition, Gilcrease invited current and former fellows to seek inspiration from the Gilcrease collections, architecture and grounds — and from Oklahoma’s distinct history. Fellows proposed artworks and performances responding to Gilcrease and to Oklahoma, and a jury selected the final works to include for two exhibition rotations. The final exhibitions are co-curated by Laura Fry, Gilcrease senior curator, and Carolyn Sickles, executive director of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship.
“This exhibition with TAF at Gilcrease represents the perfect timing: as Gilcrease prepares to modernize its facilities to better embrace its mission, the Tulsa community and its collections, the TAF artists offer us new ways of exploring our past and present,” noted Kirsten Olds, one of the exhibition jurors.
The first iteration of the two-part exhibition runs from June 21 – Oct. 13, 2019, and unites a wide variety of media, styles, and artistic perspectives. The selected works include photography, textile, drawing, painting, video, sculpture, sound installation and a functioning fountain. In addition to the exhibition in Smith Gallery and Helmerich Hall, two works will be installed on the Gilcrease Grounds. The second iteration of the exhibition runs from Nov. 15, 2019 – March 15, 2020 and will feature a new group of jury-selected artworks from the Tulsa Artist Fellowship.
“It is fundamental to our institutional mission that our fellows find a diverse range of presentation platforms within Oklahoma. Partnering with Gilcrease Museum has provided access to one of the most unique regional collections and landscapes in Tulsa. These distinct exhibitions will demonstrate how contemporary art prompts audiences to see through a critical lens,” said Carolyn Sickles, executive director of the Tulsa Artist Fellowship.
Through this exhibition, we hope to connect stories of the past to artists working in the present, showing that the historic artworks and archives at Gilcrease Museum inform ongoing issues and concerns of the present. In addition, we hope to show how contemporary artists provide distinct, critical perspectives which help define and shape our world today.