Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers Celebrates Water as Inspiration in World Art

New Brunswick, NJ — Water is the subject and title of a far-reaching exhibition at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University from September 1, 2010 through January 2, 2011.

Water explores the force of nature as element, purifier, place, allegory, and spectacle. Ranging from a 17th-century Chinese landscape to Bill Viola’s visceral video work, Ablutions (2005), works will be drawn from the museum’s own collections of French, American, Russian and Soviet Nonconformist art, photographs, prints, and children’s book illustrations, as well as from other public and private collections.

“Water’s precious nature, beauty, and power to nurture and destroy are recurring subjects in poetry, music, dance, and the visual arts throughout history,” says Suzanne Delehanty, director of the Zimmerli.  “This exhibition contributes to an understanding of how humankind has imagined and visualized water over the last four centuries.”

Featured in the exhibition are more than 90 works of art spanning cultures and a variety of media. Highlights from the Zimmerli’s collection include John Kensett’s lapidary View of the Shrewsbury River, New Jersey (1859); Milton Avery’s serene Inner Harbor (1945); other works include Haitian artist Amena Simeon’s brightly beaded flags portraying Mami Wata (a divinity of the water) (2000); a rare Yoruban ritual vessel; Lynn Davis’s magisterial selenium toned photograph Iceberg II, Disko Bay, Greenland (2004) and Atul Bhalla’s 20-part photographic installation grid of New Delhi’s historic public water spigots, Piaus (2006).

Edward Ruscha’s Sea of Desire (1983), a three-color etching and aquatint, Geoffrey Hendricks’s Waiting (1998), a performance work in which a watercolor is immersed in water, Maya Lin’s Dew Point (2004), a floor installation of glass orbs, and Wangechi Mutu’s video piece Amazing Grace (2005) are among the contemporary works featured.

Still other works of art, drawn from the museum’s collections, include prints by Vija Celmins, Honoré Daumier, Paul Gauguin, Hiroshige, and Whistler; paintings by Albert Bierstadt, Johan Barthold Jongkind, and Nikolai Dubovskoi; and photographs by Sally Gall, Francisco Infante, Edward Steichen, and George Tice.

“This exhibition also may be viewed as a showcase of the Zimmerli’s holdings.   We have cut across specializations and selected many seldom seen works, including many drawn from the museum’s unusually strong holdings of prints, and works on paper from fin de siècle France,” says Ms. Delehanty.

Water has been organized by Donna Gustafson, Mellon Liaison for Academic Programs and Curator at the Zimmerli, with assistance from Gail Aaron, formerly Assistant Curator for Original Children’s Book Illustration; Christine Giviskos, Associate Curator of European Art; Julia Tulovsky, Assistant Curator of Russian and Soviet Art; Marilyn Symmes, Director of the Morse Research Center and Curator of Prints and Drawings; and Jeffrey Wechsler, Senior Curator, Zimmerli Art Museum.

“Water is an issue of great importance today in the sciences and the humanities,” says Dr. Gustafson. “Biologists have studied water as the source of life, and have recently been investigating how measurable climate shifts will affect life on our planet. Too much water or too little water are threats to human civilization and to many land-based life-forms.”

Dr. Gustafson continues, “The management of water for the benefit of all is another aspect of Rutgers’ interdisciplinary exploration of the theme of ‘ecologies in the balance’ which is a focus of the university’s academic program for 2009- 2010.”  

In conjunction with the exhibition, Water, River, Raritan will be the 2010-2011 theme of the Byrne Seminars at Rutgers, the new undergraduate program that brings senior faculty and first-year students together in small classes to explore the exciting world of research. From September 1, 2010 to early November, the Mason Gross School of Art will explore the theme of water in an exhibition in its Project Space with Jim Toia as guest artist.

Internet & Cell Phone Guides

To provide information about water in a global context, the museum will create a resource room including Internet hook ups to international online sites that discuss issues relevant to the study of water as a global issue.  This resource room also will provide a wide range of published and digital materials, from poetry to articles about current political and scientific investigations, including information about the Raritan River Initiative, which is associated with Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and projects underway by marine biologists at Rutgers, and Engineers without Borders, also a Rutgers-affiliated group.  

The Zimmerli will produce an interdisciplinary cell-phone audio guide for the exhibition with descriptions and comments by artists, art historians, biologists, ecologists, geographers, and poets who will discuss individual works of art from their own perspectives. Many of the participants are faculty at Rutgers whose research or interests include water and the ways in which cultures incorporate water into their systems.

Selected Public Programs

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

 Art After Hours: First Wednesdays, 6 to 9 p.m. 

Campus opening reception of this semester-long exhibition on the theme of water.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Film screening:  Experiments on Film

An experimental documentary by Hanna Rose Shell (Assistant Professor, Science, Technology, and Society, MIT) about seeing movement, doing science and filming fish in Naples, Italy.  Screening and discussion of “Locomotion in Water” and other works on video presented by the director. Co-organized with the Program in History of Science, Technology, Environment and Health, Rutgers University. Support for this program has been provided from an endowment established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Outdoor Performances on the Banks of the Raritan River, 3 p.m.

Outdoor performances of Handel’s Water Music, Duke Ellington’s Water Suite, and other works celebrating water on the banks of the Raritan River, featuring the New Brunswick Chamber Orchestra with music director Jan Reinhart. Concert will begin at 3:00 PM. Admission is free. (For location, the public may check the Zimmerli’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.)

Saturday and Sunday, October 23 to 24, 2010

12 noon to 12 noon

Reading Water –The Big Read 

A 24-hour reading at the Zimmerli Art Museum of water themed texts of a literary, scientific, and philosophical nature in a multitude of languages. Co-organized by the Zimmerli Art Museum, the Department of English, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Language Institute at Rutgers. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Poetry and Politics of Water in Africa, South Asia, Middle East and the Americas, 1 to 5 p.m.

A symposium at the Zimmerli Art Museum co-organized by the Department of African, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Languages and Literature, Center for African Studies, and the Zimmerli Art Museum.  Informal reception to follow.  Support for this program has been provided from an endowment established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


Support for this exhibition and related programs has been provided by the Zimmerli Annual Exhibition Fund; an endowment fund established by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; and an anonymous donor. 

The Zimmerli’s operations, exhibitions, and programs are funded in part by Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; Johnson & Johnson; and the donors, members, and friends of the museum.

Zimmerli Art Museum

The Zimmerli Art Museum’s permanent collection comprises more than 60,000 works, ranging from ancient to contemporary art and featuring particularly rich holdings in the areas of French art of the 19th century, Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art, and works on paper, including prints, rare books, drawings, photographs, and original illustrations for children’s books.

The Zimmerli is midway between New York City and Philadelphia and a short walk from the New Jersey Transit station in New Brunswick.

Location and Hours

The Zimmerli Art Museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street (corner of George Street) on the College Avenue campus of Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4:30 pm, and Saturday -- Sunday, noon to 5 pm; first Wednesdays of each month September through July, 10 am to 9 pm. Current admission is $6.00 for adults, $5.00 for citizens over 65, and free for museum members, Rutgers students, faculty and staff (with ID), and children under 18. Admission is free on the first Sunday of every month. For more information, call 732.932.7237, ext. 610 or visit the museum’s website: www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.


Who to contact: