Polk Museum of Art Debuts Second Exhibition Showcasing Figurative Art

“Faces in the Crowd,” the second in a series of exhibitions that showcases the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College’s latest acquisitions of figurative American art, has opened.

The museum will host a Point of View Gallery Talk devoted to this exhibition on Oct. 13, noon to 1 p.m. This event is free. Space is limited, and an RSVP is requested.

“Faces in the Crowd” highlights the museum’s new principal collecting focus for its permanent collection – American figurative art in painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture.

Artworks in this collection were donated to the museum by Florida Southern College alumnus J. William Meek III, who spent several decades studiously assembling one of the nation’s largest collections of figurative artworks that illustrate the human form in a myriad of styles and techniques. In addition to donating works from his personal collection, Meek gifted a collection of more than 500 artworks from major American artists and their estates.

Meek, director ameritus of Harmon Meek Gallery in Naples, also continues to organize gifts of American figurative works of art from artists and artists’ estates to the museum.

Notable works in “Faces in the Crowd” include two nearly identical artist’s proofs on display by Robert Vickrey of his lithograph “Sean’s Pulse.”

It is unusual to hang two works like these side-by-side — two apparently identical “faces” — and while at first glance they seem replicas of one another, a closer inspection reveals that they are not, said Alex Rich, curator and director of galleries and exhibitions. Each is from a different stage of the lithographic process and reveals that even works of art made from the same lithographic stone, as is the case in this instance, can be vastly different from each other despite being part of the same series.                                                                                                                              

Other notable works in the show are those featuring anonymous figures in Richard Segalman’s universally-relatable scenes.

“Most prominent in the show are Hunt Slonem’s paintings of well-known sitters like Rudolph Valentino, whose portrait is the largest and most eye-catching work in the show,” Rich said, “and Donald Trump, who in his portrait seems to stare out at you from the salon wall no matter where you stand in the room, perhaps appropriately ever-present in our 2017 lives, even in the solace of a museum.”

The exhibition takes as its jumping-off point the concept of the human figure’s diverse representations in art. The theme plays off of the idea of what it means to be a “face in the crowd,” Rich said.

The arrangement of the show includes one wall done “salon-style,” with works hung floor to ceiling, inspired by the Royal Academy salons that began in the late 17th century.

“These faces in the ‘crowd’ of paintings we have created interact and create a visual dialogue with one other and across the four walls of the gallery space,” Rich said. “Viewers also become part of this experience of looking at faces in a crowded room of paintings or a crowded wall of paintings and realize they are faces in a crowd as well.” 

“Faces in the Crowd” runs through Dec. 17. To RSVP for the Point of View Gallery Talk, please email: Reservations@PolkMuseumofArt.org.