February 24, 2013

In the Arts: Amsterdam artist's first U.S. show a rare opportunity


Bates College Museum of Art in Lewiston is offering three shows; two of which I would call traditional. The third is so nontraditional that it challenges my expectations.

click image to enlarge

“Figures,” 2008, at the Bates College Museum of Art, by Fransje Killaars.

© 2013 Fransje Killaars/Photographs by James Aaron Helms/Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

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“Maine Mills Figures,” 2013, at Museum L-A.

© 2013 Fransje Killaars/Photographs by James Aaron Helms/Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

Additional Photos Below



WHERE: Bates College Museum of Art, 75 Russell St., Lewiston; bates.edu

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday; until 7 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Museum L-A, 35 Canal St., Lewiston; 333-3881

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday

CLOSES: March 22


WHERE: Bates College Museum of Art, 75 Russell St., Lewiston; bates.edu

HOURS: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday; until 7 p.m. Wednesday

CLOSES: March 22

To add weight to its novelty, a portion of that third -- "Color at the Center" by Fransje Killaars -- is not presented in the museum itself, but is instead sited on the second floor of Mill #1, a great chamber in the historic Bates Mill Complex in another part of Lewiston.

Killaars works in Amsterdam, and is widely recognized in Europe as a premier installation artist. Her textiles have a soft visual elegance, but serve primarily as vehicles for the colors that infuse them.

Those colors are often raised to the broiling point. Some are superintended by simple geometric grids; others inhabit the grids themselves and, when fluorescent, are barely under control. The juxtaposition between intensities may be so violent that a piece can drift toward surrealism (except perhaps in India). These textiles are not resting places for the eye.

While Killaars is an installation artist, a textile hung on a wall and presented as a painting has an apologetic quality. It is not a painting; it was made for another purpose and looks awkward.

Killaars, on the other hand, presents her textiles as components in large forms. As such, they interact with one another within the form. They do not appear for their own values; they are not individual performers and they offer no narrative meaning. They don't in themselves tell stories.

There are three principal installations in that great mill room. Relieved of the once endless lines of looms, the flow of space in the now vacant chamber is interrupted solely by a march of thin columns. Space is allowed to enter as an element.

Tucked amongt that embrace of space are the site-specific "24 Hours No. 2" and "Maine Mill Figures," as well as "Figure," a sculpture that has appeared in other venues

"24 Hours No. 2" is an abstraction of a textile-covered bed attended by a lone draped figure. "Maine Mill Figures" combines a number of draped figures attending horizontal forms that have been covered by old Bates bedspreads. The chamber in which this takes place is the room in which the bedspreads were woven.

The interaction between the extravagance of Killaars' draped figures and the birthplace of the very sedate spreads is almost shattering. The figures seem elegiacally involved in the material culture of the community. They mourn for the days of its textiles.

Killaars does not assign a narrative meaning to her work. It is non-specific. Each piece and the place in which it stands will have the meaning that the viewer brings to it. I wouldn't expect viewers from textile communities to bring with them the same thoughts as those from communities that had no mills.

In entering that magnificent building, climbing the heavy staircase to the second floor and then being confronted by the vastness of the chamber and Killaars' installations in spatially distant locations within it, you sense that space and the objects Killaars has provided have combined to create the work. It takes a place such as Mill #1 to make the point a reality.

My instincts tell me you will never have an opportunity like this again. This portion of the event was jointly achieved by the Bates Museum and Museum L-A, a remarkably vital Lewiston-Auburn museum that charts the work and life in Maine's second-largest community.

Its premises adjoin that of the show, and its combining with Bates in an event of this size is a significant community effort. I dare not say that a partnership such as this is unique in Maine, but considering its scale, it might be.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

“Amor, God und Jenseits” (“Cupid, Death and the Beyond”), 1881, etching and aquatint by Max Klinger.

Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art

click image to enlarge

Robert Neuman’s “Ship to Paradise – Paradise Found,” 1983.

Currier Museum of Art image/Courtesy of Bates College Museum of Art


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