Colby College Museum of Art to Present Bernard Langlais Retrospective in Summer 2014

May 20, 2014

Summer Exhibitions Also Will Include Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision and the Re-Installation of the Permanent Collection

WATERVILLE, ME, MAY 1, 2014 – This summer, the Colby College Museum of Art will present the first scholarly retrospective of the work of the artist Bernard Langlais, whose estate Colby College received as a bequest in 2010. Bernard Langlais, on view July 19, 2014 through January 4, 2015, will explore in full the major themes and diverse stylistic experiments that run through the artist’s career. Following its 2013 expansion, which added 10,000 square feet of exhibition space for its substantial and important American art collection, the Colby Museum also will present Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision (June 7–August 31, 2014) and will re-envision its installation of highlights from the permanent collection.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer three powerful exhibitions this summer,” said Sharon Corwin, Carolyn Muzzy Director and Chief Curator of the Colby College Museum of Art. “As the beneficiary and steward of the Bernard Langlais Collection, we feel especially honored to present the first major retrospective exhibition of this original and prolific artist, enabling audiences to appreciate for the first time the fierce independence that characterizes his remarkable work.”

Bernard Langlais

Bernard Langlais will feature more than 120 sculptures and reliefs, oil paintings on panel and canvas, and works on paper. Curated by Langlais Curator for Special Projects Hannah W. Blunt, the exhibition is organized by period and medium and features many works that have not been shown in more than half a century.

Langlais (1921—1977, b. Old Town, Maine) created art driven by a deep sense of place and a search for materials and subjects that would reconcile his rural roots with postwar artistic movements. As a student in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he explored both figuration and abstraction in painting. Subsequently, interested in a more physically engaging practice, Langlais began to work in wood. He caught the attention of the New York art world with his first works in this medium: abstract reliefs that were included in the watershed exhibition New Forms, New Media at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1960, a solo exhibition at Leo Castelli Gallery in 1961, and at the Whitney Museum’s 1962 Drawing and Sculpture Annual. 

Disenchanted with New York gallery culture, Langlais returned permanently to Maine in 1966. In the barns and fields of his property in the rural, coastal town of Cushing, he began to create large-scale sculptures and reliefs in wood. Constructing what he called an “environmental complex,” Langlais completely integrated his life and work in the last decade of his career.

Highlights of Bernard Langlais will include the artist’s early paintings, such as The Town(195657), which he reworked several times, depicting his hometown of Old Town, Maine. Critically acclaimed works in wood from the middle of his career will include the iconic Around Four (c. 195962), a richly tactile counterpoint to the era’s hard-edge Pop painting, and figurative reliefs that reveal an interest in the wild and domestic animals of coastal Maine: shore birds, awe-inspiring raptors such as Eagle (circa 1964), horses, cows, and bulls.

The exhibition’s dynamic installation of Langlais’s late works features expressive representations of the animal kingdom, many of which were deeply connected to his immediate environment. In the last nine years of his life, Langlais populated his Cushing property with well over 100 wood reliefs and three-dimensional pieces, including more than 65 monumental sculptures. Many of these works will be represented in the exhibition in a display of working models, photographs, and archival video footage of his Cushing property.

A portion of Langlais’s Cushing property is being made into a public sculpture park thanks to a partnership among the Colby Museum, the Kohler Foundation, and the Georges River Land Trust to preserve the artist’s work and legacy. As part of this partnership, the Kohler Foundation has gifted nearly 3,000 Langlais artworks to nonprofit institutions. The Langlais Preserve will open to the public in fall of 2014.

Bernard Langlais is accompanied by a richly illustrated monograph, published by Charta, with essays by exhibition curator Hannah W. Blunt as well as Diana Tuite, Vincent Katz, and Leslie Umberger.

Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision

Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision celebrates the gift of drawings that the artist gave to the Colby Museum in 2010. Featuring more than 50 works on paper–drawings, watercolors, and prints—the exhibition will shed light on the results of Dodd’s drawing practice as finished works in their own right.

Growing up in the Tri-State area, Dodd was influenced both by her studies at Cooper Union in New York City and by her summers spent on Penobscot Bay on Maine’s mid-coast. The themes she represents are often specific to her location, such as Maine landscapes peppered with old farmhouses, gardens, and verdant fields, as seen in Green Landscape with Seated Figure (1957), orglimpses of buildings and cityscapes through windows, as depicted in From 85th Floor, Looking East (1998). The exhibition will join a selection of paintings from the artist’s studio, made in the 1950s and 1960s and exhibited for the first time in 50 years, with drawings from Colby’s collection that have never before been shown publicly, to demonstrate the relationship in Dodd’s use of these mediums.


Lois Dodd: Cultivating Vision is curated by the Colby’s Museum’s Anne Lunder Leland Curatorial Fellow Ramey Mize.


Reinstallation of the Permanent Collection

In addition to presenting the temporary summer exhibitions, the Museum will re-install itspermanent collection galleries, integrating works from the recently gifted Lunder Collection with the Museum’s core holdings, including recent gifts from the Alex Katz Foundation, and select loans. Supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, this display will reflect the Museum’s ongoing commitment to a deep representation of American art from the 19th century through the present.

Highlights will include David Smith’s steel sculpture Voltri Bolton II (1962), Maya Lin’smonumental marble sculpture Disappearing Bodies of Water (2013), a meter box by Donald Judd (1977), and Robert Mangold’s 18 acrylic and pencil drawings (1991) given by the Alex Katz Foundation. Cherished cornerstones of the collection, such as Albert Bierstadt’s View of Chimney Rock (1860) and Winslow Homer’s The Trapper (1870) will be featured, as well as recently acquired works by Jacob LawrenceHelen TorrFrederic Edwin Church,William Matthew Prior, and Joshua Johnson.


Media Contacts:

Ruth Jacobs, Colby College
207-859-4350 / [email protected]
Julia Esposito, Polskin Arts & Communications Counselors212-715-1643 / [email protected]


Image Caption:

Bernard Langlais, Around Four (ca. 1959−62), painted wood, 72 x 48 x 2 inches. The Bernard Langlais Collection