Should auld acquaintance be forgot

Alumni artwork at the Nash reminds us what we’re doing here

Niels Strandskov

At a large land-grant institution like the University, it can be easy to lose track of everyone who passes through the halls. Unlike the products of the Ivy League or the Seven Sisters, our graduates don’t generally spend the rest of their lives lording their alma mater over anyone in shouting distance.

That’s why it’s both pleasant and surprising to view the new exhibit at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery which collects the work of alumni who have made it big in the art world. University graduates have made important contributions to nearly every field of human endeavor, and this show proves that the visual arts are no exception.

“Looking Back & Moving Forward: Success in the Making” features the art of 22 alumni artists, including such luminaries as muralist Richard Haas, documentarian Peter Lowe, painters Rochelle Feinstein and Steven Sorman and Pop Art godfather James Rosenquist.

Among the many honors won by the alumni are awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation and the McKnight

Foundation, said Nash gallery curator Nick Shank. The artists have work hanging in many prestigious galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Twin Cities’ own Walker Art Center and the Brooklyn Museum.

Some of the work in this exhibition should already look familiar to campus art lovers. Rosenquist’s “World’s Fair Mural,” painted between 1963 and 1964, has dominated a space in the Weisman Art Museum for some time. Much of his other work features the same vibrant colors, allusions to advertising and popular culture and grand scale of that piece.

Even though most of the artists featured attended a University that bears scant resemblance to our current campus, the spirit of innovation expressed in their art is a timeless marker of our commitment to art and culture.

Since we can’t quite bask in the warm Minnesota sun yet, it is good to have an opportunity for basking in the reflected glory of these brilliant sons and daughters of the Maroon and Gold.