"1964" -- the show, and the year -- at the Walker
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"1964" -- the show, and the year -- at the Walker

1964 — the exhibition — recently opened in the Friedman gallery (named after director emeritus Martin Friedman, who was four years into his 30-year tenure at the Walker in 1964), with a basic idea that has produced many surprises.  Curator Siri Engberg, mined the Walker’s permanent collection to find works from 1964 that show, an array of developments in art underway at the time — some nascent, some in full flower.

Given the historical nature of the show, the Walker’s archives provided a wealth of material leading up to the opening of the exhibition. Some of the images, posted here, give a sense of 1964 at the Walker, just as the exhibition 1964 gives a vivid sense of that year in the art world.

Walker Art Center and Guthrie Theater, 1964 (Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)

The image above, taken in the winter of 1964, is a view from what is now the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and what was then the Parade Grounds.  It shows the Walker’s 1927 building and the Guthrie Theater‘s  Ralph Rapson-designed building, which had just opened the year before.  At this time the Walker and the Guthrie had a symbiotic relationship.  Literally joined at the hip, the two institutions shared a physical plant,  a wall, and a sculpture court (see below), as well as a vision for presenting the arts in the Twin Cities.

While the Guthrie focused its efforts on the theater company, the Walker utilized the Guthrie stage for performing arts presentations, including the first season of the fledgling Center Opera Company.  Center Opera, now the Minnesota Opera,  was a chamber opera group started under the Walker’s volunteer organization, the Center Arts Council.

Sculpture Court between Walker Art Center (left) and the Guthrie Theater (right), 1964 (Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)

Celebrating a new trend in the contemporary art world, the Walker hosted several exhibitions throughout 1964 featuring Brazilian and Mexican printmakers, Mexican muralists, Portuguese sculptors, and Argentine artists in a wide range of disciplines. It was a time of new perspectives and new forms of international collaboration, as the Walker-organized Ten American Sculptors premiered at the seventh Bienal de Sao Paulo in 1963, followed in 1964 by an enormously successful tour in the U.S., including  Minneapolis, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Dayton.  Among the artists represented in Ten American Sculptors were Chryssa and George Segal (see below),  now on display in 1964.

Chryssa’s “Time Square Sky,” right, in “Ten American Sculptors,” 1964, now on view in “1964”; Courtesy Walker Art Center Archives
George Segal installation in “Ten American Sculptors,” Sao Paulo Bienal, 1963; Courtesy Walker Art Center Archives

The Argentine Ambassador and his wife visited the Walker that year as honored guests in celebration of the New Art of Argentina exhibition, which brought to Minneapolis Argentine artistic trends in geometric, abstract, and collage painting, constructivism, and other developments.

“New Art of Argentina” Brochure   Courtesy Walker Art Center Archives
Ambassador Norberto M. Barrenechea (center) and his wife with Walker Art Center’s Board of Directors President, Louis Zelle (Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)

Early the next year, the international collaboration would continue with London: The New Scene, exploring the explosion of art and culture in that city in the early ’60s, which included, among others, Joe Tilson and David Hockney (see below)  in their first exhibition at the Walker Art Center.  A highlight was Tilson’s Look, which the Walker added to its collection, and is now featured in 1964.

“London: The New Scene” at the Walker in 1965, with Tilson’s “Look” visible at upper center (Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)
Richard Smith (left), John Kazmin (center), David Hockney (right), standing in front of Richard Smith’s  “Quartet,” during the exhibition “London: The New Scene,” 1965 (Eric Sutherland for Walker Art Center)

Come on down and see Andy Warhol collaborating with Roy Lichtenstein, Yoko Ono sharing space with Claes Oldenburg, and other fantastic celebrations of the pop art, geometry, consumerism, film, and graphics that took hold of art in 1964.  It is well worth the trip into the not-so-distant past.

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