G:Class Professional Development Seminar for Teachers
Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant
Join New Museum staff on Thursday June 7, 2012, for a professional development seminar for high school teachers including a morning gallery tour and lecture on the exhibition “Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant” with New Museum Associate Curator Jenny Moore and the artist. In the afternoon, participate in an interactive workshop that will focus on ways to extend the conversation into your classroom.
G:Class professional development seminars are led by artists, curators, and education professionals to guide teachers in methods that activate contemporary art in the classroom. The seminars expose teachers to contemporary art history and offer tools to encourage critical thinking, focusing on the integration of new art and new ideas with school curricula. The New Museum encourages educators of all disciplines to participate.
9:30 a.m. – Registration
10:00 a.m. – Gallery tour: Join Associate Curator Jenny Moore and artist Ellen Altfest for a tour of the exhibition of paintings, “Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant” 10:30 a.m.–12:00p.m. – Lecture: Jenny Moore and Ellen Altfest in conversation
$5 Members, $10 General Public
1–3 p.m. – Workshop: Take part in an in-depth workshop with New Museum educators focusing on integrating contemporary art with classroom curricula
G:Class (the Global Classroom) is the New Museum’s interdisciplinary education program that encourages visual literacy and critical thinking skills in high school students by integrating contemporary art into the core curricula . It emphasizes inquiry-based education, problem solving, and self-expression by connecting the New Museum's mission, resources, and programs with students' personal, political, and cultural realities.
Generous endowment support is provided by the Keith Haring Foundation School and Youth Programs Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Skadden, Arps Education Programs Fund, and the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for Education Programs at the New Museum. Additional endowment support provided by the JPMorgan Chase Professional Development Workshop Program for Teachers.
Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant
On view May 6 to June 24, 2012
This May in the Lobby Gallery, the New Museum will feature the first solo museum presentation of the work of New York-based artist Ellen Altfest. Altfest is a figurative painter whose intimately scaled works convey a distinct approach to realism and a sustained commitment to looking. Her painstaking depictions result in paintings that expand perception while exposing overlooked or under-appreciated aspects of her subject matter. Painting from life, over a long period of time, she chooses subjects ranging from plants, rocks, logs, and gourds to a more recent fascination with the male figure. The exhibition at the New Museum will present a group of works from this latest series.
Folds of skin, an opened armpit, a tuft of hair, the delicate veins in the hand—discrete elements of ordinary male bodies—are intensely scrutinized and rendered in exquisite detail with immeasurable care. A universe of information lies within the shallow depth of field and thin layers of oil paint that comprise each work. This excess of information renders Altfest’s figures unfamiliar and abstract, as if one were seeing these parts of the body for the first time.
Eschewing traditional compositional formats in favor of unexpected cropping and juxtapositions, Altfest creates a compelling friction in the picture plane. Head and Plant (2010), as the title denotes, is a painting of a male head and a potted cactus. The conventions of portraiture are upended, however, by Altfest’s decision to obstruct the face of the male figure with a plant. Instead of an identifiable visage, one is met with the confounding presence of a cactus, whose intrusion appears as matter of fact as it is absurd. The Back (2008–09) depicts a body on its side, turned away from the viewer. Errant hairs, pink blemishes, and the curve of a shoulder blade serve as landmarks on this vast expanse of corporeality. With a heightened sense of realism and a narrowing of focus, Altfest reveals the extraordinary complexity of ordinary things.
Ellen Altfest was born in 1970 in New York City. She received her MFA from Yale University and attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2002. She has been awarded residencies at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, where she presented a solo exhibition, and the Dorland Mountain Art Colony, Temecula, California. Her work was included in “USA Today” at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the National Academy Museum’s Annual Exhibition in New York and will be featured in “It is what it is. Or is it?” at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. She currently lives and works in New York City.
“Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant” is curated by Jenny Moore, Associate Curator.
“Ellen Altfest: Head and Plant” is made possible through the support of the American Chai Trust. Additional support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund, and the Producers Council of the New Museum.