Hunterian Gallery, University of Glasgow until January 12, 2020
If every picture tells a story, this first instalment of a major donation to the Hunterian by New York based curator and collector Phillip A. Bruno has anecdotes immortalised in every frame. For over sixty years, the Paris-born former co-director of the Staempfli and Marlborough galleries in New York has amassed a personal treasure trove of largely American contemporary artists, many of whom he’s curated various shows.
With his ninetieth birthday looming, Bruno has now brought some 74 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints to his second home in Glasgow. While only a quarter of the gifted works feature in this initial showcase, the selection becomes a trailer of sorts for those still in boxes waiting to be unwrapped.
In the meantime, there are stories aplenty by Japanese artist Masayuki Nagare, who made works that sat beside the World Trade Centre, and whose granite sculpture, Bachi (1974), now looks like an accidental survivor. Tom Otterness’s Maquette for Crying Giant (2002) is a response to 9/11 that also sired a much bigger version that currently sits in Kansas.
The oldest work on show is Jacques Villon’s George Braque inspired aqua-tint, Still Life (1923), which nestles next to the most recent, Alan Magee’s Pebbles and Pencil (2006). Inbetween, Jose Luis Cuevos’ Portrait of David Siquerios (1953) captures the Mexican artist’s mentor, with Red Grooms’ Portrait of Francis Bacon (1999) doing something similar.
Joseph Glasco’s Head (1956) is more abstract, while the watercolour sunbather in Coney Island (1969) by some-time New York Review of Books illustrator David Levine, and the shadow-dancers at play in Bill Jacklin’s Bathers, Coney Island (1991) show two sides of the same landscape. Vincent Desiderio moves things indoors into the anticipation-heavy scarlet room of Study for Romance and Reunion (1991)
More abstractions come in Night Court (1954) by Lee Gatch, the collages of newspaper small ads in William Dole’s Untitled (1970) and the Coleridge inspired Pleasure Dome (1952) by Robert Andrew Parker, who was the hand double for Kirk Douglas in Vincente Minelli’s 1956 Vincent Van Gogh bio-pic, Lust for Life. In the centre of the room, Leroy Lamie’s light-box based Construction 108 (1965) beams out a voguishly plastic blue and green glow.
Many of the works are etched with hand-written dedications to Bruno, while a small selection of ephemera includes a signed poster by Red Grooms, a ticket to Lust for Life and an Andy Warhol Campbell’s Soup rosette and badge. All of which sums up a gift that is just part of the story of Bruno’s life in art. With so much more to come, it is a gift that looks set to keep on giving.
Scottish Art News, November / Autumn 2019