For Robert La France, director of the David Owsley Museum of Art (DOMA), pop art represents hope during difficult times.
The exhibition “POP Power from Warhol to Koons: Masterworks from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation” is a show La France thought could bring some joy to people as they feel safer visiting museums during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The theme was so good and I thought it would appeal to a lot of students and teachers,” La France said. “It’s very much about our contemporary life today and it has a very clear thesis that demonstrates how current generation artists are connected to a previous generation.”
Collection works are separated between DOMA’s two floors, with pop artists on the first floor and mostly neo-pop artists — whose work was created between the 1980s to present day — upstairs. The show has a total of 114 pieces.
Deciding on what special exhibitions to host is often limited by budget, La France said, but Oregon-based collector Jordan Schnitzer didn’t charge DOMA exhibition fees because it is an educational institution.
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Saturday: 1:30 – 4:30 p.m.
DOMA will be open noon – 5 p.m. May 15 and 16.
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Admission for the museum is free. The POP Power exhibition will close May 16, the same weekend as DOMA’s event “Art in Bloom.”
Find some of DOMA’s exhibitions online.
Source: David Owsley Museum of Art
In a March 18 online lecture about his collection, Schnitzer said he is happy to encourage more people to learn about contemporary pop art.
“The art from World War II on is art of my time and your time — it’s the art of our lives,” Schnitzer said. “I love getting the amazing post-World War II American master artists to all different communities across the country.”
Schnitzer said he hopes visitors of the special exhibition leave DOMA with a better understanding of artists’ messages and a broader worldview.
“Art is one of the ways that helps me reflect better on the challenges facing me and facing society,” he said. “I think for all of us who get to go into [DOMA’s] galleries and see this work, [we will] all come out feeling a little bit better about our perspective on the world around us.”
While La France said, “nothing is appropriate for a pandemic,” the “POP Power” show hosts artwork that people recognize, and allows them to reflect on themes of loss.
“That’s something people don’t think about a lot is with [Andy] Warhol and pop art, the theme of death goes through all of it,” he said. “It’s a reminder of our future death and our short existence on this planet.”
One piece La France said showcased themes of vanity and death is Damien Hirst’s “For The Love Of God,” a photograph of a skull sculpture plastered with diamonds.
“It’s a real reflection of … all the wealth in the world, what does it get you in the end?” La France asked.
Negative black-and-white images of Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy are also in the room dedicated to the theme of death. La France said he organized this room to be a reflective space for visitors.
“This was a nice little space that I was hoping people could learn something from and use it as a contemplative space because we have lost more than 500,000 people in the last year from [COVID-19],” he said. “I haven’t experienced anything like that in my lifetime and I hope I never do again.”
Besides the small space dedicated to reflecting on death, “POP Power” is mostly organized according to individuals’ work, with sections of wall space dedicated to one artist. La France said he talked with Schnitzer on how to organize the pieces in DOMA’s relatively small space.
“I like the way that you come in and you’re kind of confronted by these sculptures,” La France said, “but at the same time, we’re able to group things in a logical way where people can understand more about the artists.”
La France said DOMA staff always aims to teach visitors something new, and hopefully allows students to recognize artists when they see other collections.
“I thought this is the kind of show that — as we came out of COVID and people started going to museums again — would be perfect,” he said. “It’s going to get a lot of attention from the public.”
DOMA’s attendance is down because it is limited to 30 people at a time in the museum’s space. While visitors don’t usually have to wait more than five minutes to come inside, he said, the museum is not able to host larger classroom groups as it usually would.
La France said the museum will be able to host 50 people at a time beginning May 15 and he hopes some students and family visiting for the 2020 graduation ceremonies that day will also stop by DOMA before the special exhibition closes.
“Museums are a great place to contemplate and think, and there’s few people here, so it’s pretty safe,” he said. “If I can show some things that are really popular, interesting and brightly colored, that will hopefully pull in students and get a lot of public interest at a time when people are just able to go back out again.”
Contact Grace McCormick with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @graceMc564.