It’s been a little more than a year since Jonathan Binstock left Citibank’s Art Advisory services and took over as director of the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery.
He’s already rehung the gallery’s collection and acquired works by Mickalene Thomas, Nick Cave, Grayson Perry and Beauford Delaney:
Key acquisitions showing in the Hawks and Wilson galleries include a portrait of postwar jazz paragon Charlie Parker by painter Beauford Delaney—confidant and mentor to writer James Baldwin; another is a painted portrait on a vase by transgender artist Grayson Perry, exploring the idealizations of the “heterosexual couple” with a twist. Perry’s portrait is of a divorced English family who share in each other’s lives through their love of ballroom dancing. Binstock says that the vase is about “a family that’s divided, but in some respects, it’s a family that’s more tightly knit than many families,”—even those without parental separation.
An evocative, self-illuminated work by African-American sculptor and performance artist Nick Cave features a found object of vernacular furniture—a wooden piano stool depicting the buckling figure of a young African-American man—raised from the ground by a modern stool, as if displayed on its own pedestal. Above the piano stool, the artist built a tangle of chandelier crystals and rosary beads festooned with ceramic birds, flowers, and decorative floral ephemera. The piece in its entirely invites the viewer to consider the new veneration of the contorted figure, once crushed beneath the weight of someone else’s musical pastime. Binstock envisions a museum for visitors to see themselves and their lives reflected on the walls. “We want for everyone to feel welcome, to feel a part of this place,” he says.