Hannah Reeves possesses a keen appreciation of the often subtle — and sometimes not-so-subtle — ways that advance the myth that visiting an art gallery requires a heightened sense of culture and a high education about the finer things in society.
If that description sounds, well, kind of stuffy — Reeves calls it “snobby” —then you’re not alone. If you wonder how someone can stand in prolonged if not reverent silence in front of an abstractionism painting, gazing at the disjointed lines, imagining the artist’s mood based on the distinctive harsh or light strokes, Reeves has your back. (She’s also ponders the wonder of standing in front of those works, imagining the artist’s emotions and energy based on the length and fullness of the strokes.)
Reeves also sees the curious but reluctant interest on the faces of people who pass by the Sager Reeves Gallery at 1025 E. Walnut St. She gets it. And she’ll be the first to welcome a new visitor to Sager Reeves Gallery without an air of scholarly or artistic pretense.
If you’re ready to pierce that mythical veil and discover what artistic styles speak to or move you, December has just what you need with Sager Reeves Gallery’s 10th Annual Masters Exhibit. Local art afficionados will recognize the works of Ben Cameron, and art-lovers of all backgrounds are likely familiar with Perle Fine, Leonor Fini, and Leonora Carrington. (Just a quick FYI: the women artists have a special place in Reeves’s heart.)
But even those without more refined knowledge of art history or deep connections to particular artists and styles will recognize the names of Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, and Pablo Picasso. Each of those masters, in addition to nine others, are represented in works on display — and for sale — at the gallery through the end of January. As an artist, Reeves embraces taking risks with creativity and exploring curiosity, and occasionally with business. While gallery exhibits typically have a lifespan of one month, the Masters Exhibit has already been extended by one month.
And it all starts with First Friday, with dozens of vendors, galleries, and restaurants open throughout the North Village Arts District, as well as the entirety of downtown. Reeves loves the more casual feeling that embodies the celebration of art and artists.
“There will be people in athletic shorts and tennis shoes and there will be people in cocktail dresses,” Reeves explains. “You literally can wear anything you want. You will not be an outlier in any way. I like that.”
The extended show schedule will also accommodate busy holiday schedules. There will be opportunities to see the show once those hectic days subside. It’s also opening up another facet of Columbia for out-of-town visitors who come here for part of the holiday season.
“I think as soon as someone gets over the hump and comes to a First Friday, they see that there’s a lot and community connections,” Reeves adds. “Free drinks, free music, and there’s no obligation but lots of folks just coming together and an opportunity to talk.”
Reeves also gets a charge out of the day after First Friday – she calls it “slower Saturday” – when she can offer a guided tour of the exhibit. (Oh, and you can have a Bloody Mary while you browse.)
“That’s when I tell people a little bit about the biographies of the artists and tell them the stories behind what brings them together,” she adds. For instance, the Carrington works were influenced and inspired the Suarez family that she spent time with in Mexico. Her drawings reflect that experience, and she gifted the folio to the family along with a letter to the Suarez grandfather, thanking them for being supporters and friends.
When the gallery had a chance to acquire and display the drawings, the Carrington letter was included. Naturally, it is part of the Masters Exhibit show.
“Maybe that shows people that you didn’t have to know who Lenora Carrington was. But now you know. So I hope that as an individual experience, I can enhance it,” Reeves says. The letter that accompanies the drawings is one story among the many stories and connections that gallery guests will be part of.
The Masters Exhibit is a journey back through history, but it’s recent history – the last one hundred years. The show catalogue describes the evolution of 20th century art, with two world wars, cultural upheaval “and a loss of the assumption that human achievement is always and automatically toward something good” was a modern constellation of circumstances — a zenith of discovery — that led artists to new understandings of their roles.
The show catalog continues, “Abstractionists paved the way for artists to compose and express without pictures; surrealists wielded the power of imagined and dreamt scenes to reveal the human psyche; expressionists used their very marks to convey energy and feeling and guide an emotional experience for the viewer.”
Those are among the concepts and ideals the exhibit explores, with viewers participating with the energy and experience in a variety of ways. The experience can be abstract or ethereal; measured or predictable. But it can be unique for everyone, Reeves says, regardless of someone’s background or knowledge of the masters.
The show schedule, from First Friday to private events and viewings to the end of January, gives ample time for those reluctant passers-by to enter and not pass by.
“You know, as much advertising as we do here, I still hear, ‘There is a gallery downtown?’ Reeves concedes. “There’s a lot of people in town who maybe don’t venture downtown for whatever reason.”
Her goal for fashioning a warm, welcoming experience is borne out of her own experience.
“We travel, find art and see dealers on both coasts, and we’re Midwesterners, you know, and it never ceases to amaze me — and we’re legitimate, potential buyers of this work — but it’s almost like there’s an extra effort to make people feel like they don’t belong. It’s like a pretense of snobbery that’s supposed to be there.”
Reeves wants to embody warmth. “You can’t be snooty here,” she adds. “I want to counter that here. We just want it to be warm and welcoming.”
The 10th Annual Masters Exhibit features the works of Norman Bluhm, James Brooks, Max Brunner, Ben Cameron, Nicolas Carone, Leonora Carrington, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Perle Fine, Leonor Fini, Arthur Kraft, Pablo Picasso, Rolph Scarlett, and Emerson Woelffer.
See the Sager Reeves Gallery website for more details about the show and for pricing information.