Campus Advisory

Bridgeport's Housatonic Museum hosts traveling Boxer retrospective

By Phyllis A Boros, Staff Writer, CT Post

Published: 04:32 p.m., Friday, February 5, 2010

A major traveling exhibition celebrating the life's work of one of America's most prolific 20th century artists opens in Bridgeport on Thursday, in yet another coup for Housatonic Museum of Art.

The exhibition will feature about 50 works from Stanley R. Boxer (1926-2000), renowned internationally for his spirited, thickly painted abstract works of art.

"Rememberingstanleyboxer: A Retrospective 1946-2000" will open with a free, public reception Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the museum's Burt Chernow Galleries at Housatonic Community College. Instrumental in organizing the show was Boxer's widow, artist Joyce Weinstein, of Ancramdale, N.Y., who is scheduled to attend. Abstract and figurative paintings, as well as examples of his sculpture are included in the show, which runs through March 28.

Organized by the University of Richmond (Va.) Museums, where the tour opened last August, the exhibit travels next to the Boca Raton Museum in Florida, where it will be on exhibit through spring. The exhibit's title references Boxer's penchant for naming many of his works by stringing together words without regard to punctuation, spaces or uppercase letters (an acknowledgement of sorts of his fondness for the German language, which often combines words). Among the highlights, for example, are such paintings as "Plumagesoftempts," "Paleplainswhitechants" and "Gleedtwistofflayeddanknessassunder."

Weinstein, in a telephone chat from the rambling home-studio complex that she shared with her late husband, said she has spent the past decade planning the retrospective exhibition as a way to honor Boxer and promote his legacy. All the works are from Weinstein's personal collection, representing a miniscule percentage of Boxer's professional output.

"He was very prolific," Weinstein pointed out. "After he died, we cataloged all the works -- more than 7,000 paintings, drawings and wood and marble sculpture. And that (figure) doesn't even include the prints!"

The artist explained that Housatonic Museum's inclusion in the tour was important for two reasons dear to her heart:

The late Burt Chernow, the museum's founder and one-time director, "was one of Stanley's earliest collectors" and supporters, she explained. She also wanted each of the participating venues to have Boxer works in their permanent collections that could be used locally to augment the show.

The HMA owns two Boxer's: "Lafayette Night Bloom," 1972, an oil on canvas that's 18.5 inches square, which will be displayed in the Chernow Galleries, and "Beach Figure No. 3," (undated) a wood totem that is 108 inches high by 14 inches wide, which will be on view in the college's atrium.

The museum -- founded in 1967 by Chernow, an artist and former HCC art department chairman -- has one of the largest and most distinguished collections of any two-year college in the country, valued at more than $11 million, assembled through donations from artists, commercial galleries and private collectors, and through gifts by such groups as the college's student government. Among the masters included are Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Christo, Chagall and Mary Cassatt.

Robbin Zella, the HMA director for the past 12 years, "came up (to Ancramdale) and looked at what we had here at the studios . . . She liked what she saw . . . she's been really wonderful to work with," helping to get the project off the ground.

(In recent years, Zella has attracted several exceptional shows to the museum, including those devoted to Rembrandt prints, Ansel Adams photographs, and Frank Warren's "PostSecret" postcards, and organized several innovative shows of her own.)

Works for the Stanley Boxer tour were chosen by Elizabeth Stevens, an independent curator and arts scholar, who had met Boxer in 1996.

In the handsome 56-page color catalog that accompanies the show, Stevens writes:

"Boxer, like my father, was from a generation who grew up with an understanding of sacrifice -- a child of the Depression, Boxer lied about his age, and, at 16, enlisted in the Navy. When boxer returned from (World War II), he was without direction ... (and so) signed up for classes at the Art Students League in New York" where he was born and raised.

"The life of an artist or the art world was not something that he aspired to, but making art and pictures was always something that was part of his psyche. Boxer was a natural draftsman," Stevens notes.

Stevens points out that for Boxer, art was a passion, "a calling -- not ... a career."

"Boxer saw his success as great luck and with this he continued with what he felt he wanted to pursue. Stanley was a man who did what he wanted, not what was in fashion, following his intellect passionately."

The show includes works created over a 54-year period, from his student years in Manhattan to shortly before his death, offering "some of the best examples created by a prolific, focused artist," Stevens points out.

Boxer is represented in scores of museums throughout the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Manhattan's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In Washington, D.C., Boxer's work can be found at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum at the Smithsonian Institution.

His work also is included in many of the most prestigious international museums, among them the National Gallery of Australia, the Museum of the Twentieth Century in Vienna, the Tate collection in London and the Singapore Art Museum.

"This will be such a wonderful opportunity for residents in Bridgeport and throughout the region to see and experience the works of Stanley Boxer, the work of an artist of this caliber and reputation" in an intimate gallery setting, said HMA's Zella.

WHEN YOU GO

Housatonic Community College is at 900 Lafayette Boulevard in downtown Bridgeport. The HMA galleries are open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursdays to 7 p.m.; Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. The galleries are closed on all college holidays, including Monday, Feb. 15, for Presidents' Day. Admission is free. For additional information on the museum, visit www.hctc.commnet.edu/artmuseum/. Additional information on the artist is available at www.stanleyrboxer.com/.