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  • Worcester Art Museum Exhibition Features New Work by Richard Yarde

    (WORCESTER, Mass.) - Renowned New England artist Richard Yarde premiers Ringshout, a new installation of his signature large-scale watercolors surrounding a central sculptural project, at the Worcester Art Museum June 7 through September 21.

    The Worcester Art Museum welcomes Yarde for an artist talk at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 12. The event is free and open to the public. Carol Scollans, professor of art history at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, is guest curator of the exhibition.

    Throughout his career, Yarde has worked to create a range of cultural symbols, from historical portraits of African-American heroes to dance as an expression of his culture. Yarde's recent personal struggle with illness has marked a significant change in the direction of his work. Issues of mortality, vulnerability, healing and rebirth have become as important as those of art and identity.

    Ringshout takes its name and inspiration from a religious ceremony performed by African Americans during the slave era. As part of this forbidden yet healing ritual, worshipers moved in a counterclockwise direction around a central space while they clapped hands, chanted, shuffled, and stomped creating a sense of spiritual transformation and community solidarity. The circular form of the Ringshout traces the cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth.

    Yarde sees the Ringshout installation as a potential healing space, and he draws upon the esoteric traditions of North and South America, Africa, China and India, and including imagery as diverse as Tibetan medical charts, Braille, acupuncture diagrams, constellations, X-rays, DNA, and shoes.

    The installation consists of nine large-scale watercolors encircling a floor sculpture. The mosaic-like compositions of Yarde's watercolors simplify the human form to a series of fragmented body parts such as handprints, mouths, X-ray and ultrasound images, and DNA patterns. His masterful handling of the watercolor medium is demonstrated in his freehand technique, done without pentimento, or under painting.

    The central sculpture creates a ring of plaster-cast shoes, evoking the sounds and rhythms of feet as they move and shuffle across the surface, as they would in a Ringshout ceremony. Impressions of hands and mouths at the center suggest the shouts and clapping of the participants and reiterate the theme of implied human presence established in the paintings.

    A box-like canopy with paneled layers of translucent scrim both conceals and reveals the Ringshout floor sculpture. These panels are stenciled with a repetitive Braille translation of the lyrics from Robert Johnsons' “Crossroads Blues.”

    This program is supported by the Don and Mary Melville Contemporary Art Fund and is funded in part by the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional support has been provided by Worcester Magazine.

    About the Artist
    Richard Yarde was born in Boston and lives in Northampton Massachusetts. He is a Professor of Fine Art at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He received a B.F.A. cum laude and a M.F.A. from Boston University. His many awards include the Commonwealth Award for Fine Art (2002) and an Academy Award in Art from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1995). Solo exhibitions include Richard Yarde: Recent Works on Paper, Fuller Art Museum, Brockton (2001); MoJo Hand, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, traveled to Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1996-7); The Savoy Installation, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (1982). Recent group exhibitions include Pulse: Art, Healing, and Transformation, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2003); The Time of Our Lives, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1999); and Locating the Spirit in African American Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C. (1999). His works are included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C.; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

    Museum History

    The Worcester Art Museum first opened to the public in 1898. Its world-renowned 35,000-piece collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, photography, prints and drawings is displayed in 36 galleries and spans 5,000 years of art and culture, ranging from Egyptian antiquities and Roman mosaics to Impressionist paintings and contemporary art. Its extensive year-round studio art and art appreciation program enrolls over 6,000 adult and youth students each year. Public tours are offered Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., September through May. Audio tours are available.

    Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. (evening hours sponsored by Commerce Bank), and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and full-time college students with current ID, and FREE for Members and all youth 17 and under. Admission is also FREE for everyone on Saturday mornings, 10 a.m.-noon (sponsored by The TJX Companies, Inc. and Massachusetts Electric, a National Grid Company). The Museum is located at 55 Salisbury St., Worcester, Mass., easily accessible from the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90), Route 290 and Route 9. Free parking is available near entrances on Salisbury, Lancaster and Tuckerman streets. For more information, call (508) 799-4406.

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