Travis Nygard, Art Historian >Malvina Hoffman Exhibition > Press Release

Malvina Hoffman in her studio.
Malvina Hoffman in her studio.

Malvina and Mortality


Introduction | Normative Death | Violent Death | Ideal Death

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PRESS RELEASE

University Art Gallery
104 Frick Fine Arts Building
University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA  15260

May 10, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The exhibition Malvina and Mortality will be on display in the lobby area and library in the Frick Fine Arts Building at the University of Pittsburgh from April 5-August 12, 2006.

Hours are:
Monday through Thursday 11 AM-7 PM
Friday 11AM-5PM
Saturday 12 noon-5 PM

For more information please contact:
Josienne Piller, Director
Phone: (412) 648-2423
Fax: (412) 648-2792
Email: jpiller@pitt.edu
Website: http://vrcoll.fa.pitt.edu/uag

Although largely forgotten today, during the 1920s and 30s the American artist Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) was a national celebrity, as is evident in numerous ways.  Her exhibitions, travels, and social life was recounted in national newspapers.  Indeed, the New York Times mentioned her 196 times during those decades.  She wrote a best selling autobiography, Heads and Tales, and she enjoyed numerous commissions both in America and abroad.  Today she is best-remembered for creating 120 anthropological sculptures for the Hall of Races at the Field Museum in Chicago during the late 1920s and early 30s, and hence is most often discussed in terms of the history of anthropology.  In contrast, this exhibit focuses on a pervasive undercurrent in her work: disparate ways that Americans understand death. 

Frick Fine Arts Building, University of Pittsburgh.
Frick Fine Arts Building, University of Pittsburgh.
Permanently installed above the doorway is
Malvina Hoffman, Henry Clay Frick, 1965, Sandstone.
Photograph by Travis Nygard.

This exhibition focuses in-depth on three examples of Hoffman’s work that span the length of her career.  The earliest work, a bust of the poet John Keats from 1923, was based on a vision Hoffman had of his ghost.  Her work for the Hall of Races is represented through widely disseminated ephemera, such as the Encyclopedia Americana and a Map of Mankind.  While acknowledging the anthropological ideas embedded in the Hall, the exhibition focuses on the Hall as a reaction to the violence of World War I.  Indeed, Hoffman was inspired to study human cultures while volunteering for the Red Cross feeding war orphans.  The latest work, a relief sculpture of Henry Clay Frick, was created in 1965—one year before Hoffman’s death.  It is permanently embedded in the façade of the Fine Arts Building at the University of Pittsburgh, and is interpreted using the history of etiquette as a proper way to remember the dead.

The exhibition was curated by Travis Nygard.

The University Art Gallery is located in the Frick Fine Arts Building on Schenley Drive, across from the entrance to the Carnegie Library and Music Hall.


Introduction | Normative Death | Violent Death | Ideal Death

Chronology | Checklist | Sources | Press Release