By Robin Johnson
In celebration of UCR Sweeney Art Gallery’s 50th Anniversary, “Essential: Selections from the Permanent Collection,” is currently on display. “ESSENTIAL” emphasizes work that the gallery has acquired since joining the UCR ARTSblock, with a focus on their both progressive and evolving permanent collection, while also celebrating the devoted service and enduring philanthropy of Jack and Marilyn Sweeney, the gallery’s main benefactors. This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Marilyn Sweeney, who passed away on May 10, 2013. The university art gallery is named for Marilyn and her husband Jack, who survives her.
Opening in 1963, the University Art Gallery originally located on campus in Olmstead Hall, changed its named to the Sweeney Art Gallery after a generous donation from Jack & Marilyn Sweeney in the late-1990s. Moving to its current location in downtown Riverside in 2006, the Sweeney Gallery became part of the newly established UCR ARTSblock which also includes the California Museum of Photography and the Culver Center of the Arts. Over the course of their involvement, the Sweeney’s generosity and culturally enterprising direction has aided the campus in making a lasting impact in the local community and Southern California through their support of programs which help faculty, students and artists connect more deeply with the world.
A considerable strenght of the permanent colletion—and through the enduring support by Jack and Marilyn Sweeney—are the recently aquired prints by significant artists, such as George Bellows, Marc Chagall, Honoré Daumier, Jean Dubuffet, Francisco Goya, John Paul Jones, Käthe Kollwitz, Rico Lebrun, Pablo Picasso and James Whistler, among others. Additional significant works on paper include a Man Ray portfolio, The Wadsworth Athenaeum: Ten Works by Ten Artists portfolio, along with editions by Susan Rothenberg, Kara Walker, and June Wayne. Also supporting the California Museum of Photography, the Sweeneys were instrumental in aquiring the entire collection of 6,700 Fiat Lux negatives of famed photographer Ansel Adams, marking the university’s centennial anniversary.
“Jack and Marilyn were incredibly proud to have been associated with the Sweeney Art Gallery, ARTSblock and UCR. In particular, they were proud of the great work that the curators and directors of the Sweeney Art Gallery and ARTSblock have done, including assembling such a fine permanent collection. It is an honor for our family name to be associated with such fine work and innovative art,” Steve Sweeney said on behalf of the Sweeney family.
Now housed in a more accommodating and sustainable environment, the Sweeney gallery has afforded the ability to develop a strategic vision and policies for its future development. With a keen eye for the potential in the gallery’s new space, and under the direction of its current director and curator Tyler Stallings, a slew of successful shows are underway. This current exhibition, “ESSENTIAL” takes a reflective gaze at the gallery’s progression over the last 50 years with a specific and in depth look at the recent works acquired, since 2007.
Covering a broad range of works in the permanent collection, the artworks reflect a variety of media ranging from, video installations, drawing, photography, painting, sculpture, books, postcards, posters, and prints.
A beautiful assortment of 2-D and 3-D works, harmonious color palettes and unique curatorial complements in the cohesion of this show give the exhibition a sense of narrative as well as showmanship. Throughout this exhibition a confident and unifying theme emerges highlighting the dedication and progression of Southern California’s burgeoning art movements and the University’s continuing evolution through art and the lifecycles of its surroundings. You get a sense of the history of art as a whole, with this intimate and insightful exhibition of the Sweeney’s past 50 years.
“ESSENTIAL: Selections from the Permanent Collection Celebrates UCR Sweeney Art Gallery’s 50th Anniversary” at Sweeney Art Gallery, 3824 Main St., Riverside, (951) 827-4787; www.artsblock.ucr.edu. Thru Sep. 28. Admission is $3.