Visualizing Time: Narrative Prints from the National Academy


Robert Birmelin, Selective-Attention, 1986

Before starting I need to say,  Visualizing Time: Narrative Prints from the National Academy closes on September 8th, which gives you little over two weeks to go see it (for those of you who live close to the National Academy Museum of Art in New York, stop reading this and run over there.)

This extra-ordinary exhibition was curated by Andrew Raftery, a rare artist who engages with critical projects with just as much poise as he brings to his impressive body of creative artwork. For this exhibition, Raftery selected 35 works from the Academy’s permanent collection, representing prints by previous National Academicians from 183o to the present.

Paul Cadmus, Polo Spill,1935, NA diploma presentation, October 6

Excerpt from Paul Cadmus, Polo Spill, 1935

By approaching the topic of narrative with a focus on the tactical depiction of time, Raftery was able to deftly systematize his engagement with this broad collection of historic work. Specifically, the art is organized into the following categories, Narrative Sequence, Anticipation, Aftermath, Characteristic Activity, Share Stories, Direct Address, and Layered Narrative. In approaching the organization in this way, he complicates our emotive reading of the work by placing it within the analytic grid of the whole exhibition, creating interesting unexpected connections between artists across time.

Warrington Colescott, The Last Judgement: Journey, 1987, ANA dip

Colescott Warrington, The Last Judgement Journey, 1987

From commentary by Raftery’s on his curatorial process:

“In planning Visualizing Time, I selected thirty-five narrative prints by National Academicians, ranging in date from 1830 to the present. I categorized them according to the strategies or techniques the artist employed to imply the passage of time and thereby create narrative. This suggested many connections between prints from disparate eras, despite the contrasting visual and political worlds of their subjects and settings. Even if we acknowledge that the formalist and theoretical tendencies of the twentieth century and beyond have led most of us to decrease the emphasis on understanding works of art primarily in terms of a story the artist intends to tell, we nevertheless retain the intellectual and emotional tools required to comprehend and enjoy what is actually “happening” within a narrative work of art.”

If you can go see this great show. If you can’t check out the Academy Museum’s website, which offers hi-res selection of many of the great prints on view. This kind of exciting artist/institution collaborations create opportunities for unexpected outcomes, and we look forward to seeing more.

All images courtesy of the National Academy Museum.

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Categories: Exhibitions

2 Responses to “Visualizing Time: Narrative Prints from the National Academy”

  1. Sage Dawson says:

    Thanks for sharing this Amze!

  2. Alison Dell says:

    This is fantastic. Can’t wait to see the show. Thanks, Amze.