Academies’ largest single art donation provides new exhibit

A number of highlights from the single largest collection of art Culver Academies has received in its more than 100 year history, will be exhibited for the public starting Sunday, Oct. 28, from 1 to 4 p.m.

The exhibit, The Herbert F. Tyler Bequest, will occupy the gallery space at the Crisp Visual Arts Center on the Culver Academies campus from now through March, 2013, with an assortment of dates planned for public exhibition. This according to Bob Nowalk, a Fine Arts instructor at the school and curator of the collection.

The collection was given by L. Herbert Tyler, CMA class of 1948, of LeClaire, Iowa, in memory of his father Herbert F. Tyler. It includes over 190 pieces, with particular emphasis on the ceramic arts through examples of Chinese, Native American, and regional American functional and purely aesthetic forms.

The bequest, according to Nowalk, provides Culver with several media, until now, not present in its collection, including -- through the work of Fr. Edward Catich and Marilyn Wittmer-Etchinson -- Culver’s first examples of calligraphy as an art form and, as seen in four sculptures by Mary Merkel Hess, examples of fiber arts as a sculptural medium.

The calligraphic collection includes an alphabet of letters showcasing styles from the 8th to the 20th centuries, moving backward and forward in time.

Additionally, the bequest provides students with the ability to examine the development of several artists in depth. Of particular note are seven paintings from various periods in the life of the late figurative painter Byron Burford, 26 ceramic works by the late master potter Timothy Langholz, and 27 etchings, including the 21 plate 1974 Time of Malfeasance series, by master printmaker and Guggenheim Fellow Virginia Myers.

Myers, a professor in Iowa whose work is exhibited in the Guggenheim Museum, meant the series as a set of reflections on the post-Watergate era, says Nowalk.

Other highlights include an original Audubon print with intact plate marks, a series of unusual, extra-large Polaroid photographs from Iowa, and printmaking representation including probably the most famous artist -- other than Audubon -- represented, the internationally known Mauricio Lasansky.

"(Tyler) had a fascination with line and form," notes Nowalk. "And there's a certain other degree of magic in the works, in the sense of circus (paintings) -- the wonder and thrill of attending the circus."

The pieces in the collection range in origin from the 17th to the 21st centuries, and enough will be exhibited that those displayed will spill out of the boundaries of the gallery proper.

Nowalk says Tyler "remembered Culver fondly" and approached the school about becoming the home of an art collection he amassed over multiple decades of his life. Nowalk visited Tyler's Iowa home in June and was given a tour of the collection, from which he was then encouraged to mark pieces he hoped could become part of Culver's collection.

"He described each piece to me," recalls Nowalk. "We spent half a day walking around, and he explained why each piece was important, and why he collected them. It blew me away how much love he had put into forming this collection. His original intention was to have nice art in his home -- but when you're 82, you look around and say, 'This is pretty neat.'"

Nowalk chose 130 pieces, but Tyler felt a number of them shouldn't be separated, with the result being 196 in total, all of which arrived in August.
"It's just an amazing, amazing collection," says Nowalk, who adds the exhibit will remain at the Crisp Gallery into March, with more public openings to be announced.