As a collecting institution, with a cadre of dedicated and supportive donors, Intuit has the express benefit of showcasing its recent acquisitions. Occasionally, Intuit will mount exhibitions of works from the permanent collection; this practice serves to highlight new works and emphasize how they come into dialogue with choice older pieces. 2014 was an exceptional year for donations, and many were handsomely featured in Intuit’s summer 2015 exhibition. That exhibit was a wonderful opportunity to share new pieces that complement and enrich the permanent collection in disparate and surprising ways.
In 2014, Intuit acquired a charming birdhouse titled Single Tower Cathedral, created in 1960 by the Italian artist Aldo Piacenza (1888-1976). It is a painted white church-like structure with a rough-hewn metal roof, its windows filled in with red paint and outlined with light blue frames. A gift of Paula Giannini, the work is now one of two whimsical birdhouse cathedrals in Intuit’s collection. Piacenza, a resident of Highwood, Illinois, before his death in 1976, crafted his birdhouses from scrap wood and found objects, modeling them after Italy’s famous architectural tradition.
Included in the summer exhibition was a work by Derek Webster (1934-2009) that was added to the permanent collection in 2014. An untitled work, it is a wooden assemblage constructed in a shape reminiscent of a life-sized candelabra. It is painted white with red, yellow, green and black shapes dotting its structure. It was donated to Intuit by Charles and Cain Baum, and it had also been featured in Intuit’s exhibition Vibrant Spirits: The Art of Derek Webster in 2004, a show that brought together Webster’s elaborate and energetic figurative sculpture. Webster’s work, like Piacenza’s, illuminates the potential magic of found objects when they make it into the right hands. As Derek put it: “I make art out of junk. I think they call that recycling now.”
Even for those relatively new to outsider art, the name Joseph Yoakum (1889-1972) might be familiar. His nearly abstracted imaginary landscapes are a welcome addition to the permanent collection. Yoakum’s consistent approach emphasized curved lines, repeated shapes and a muted, earthy palette. Yoakum also had a Chicagoland connection. With the help of a few Chicago artist friends, including some in the Chicago Imagists group and the Hairy Who, Yoakum’s work was exhibited at the Whitney Museum in 1972, just before his death. Thanks to donor Martha Griffin, Intuit can continue to promote this distinctive and popular artist.
From Selig and Angela Sacks, Intuit acquired six paintings created by Purvis Young (1943-2010). Most are abstract and expressionistic, with dark, muddy colors competing in an all-over style on found material. But Untitled (Sailboat), created in 1989, is a small, melancholy seascape featuring a black boat holding three tiny figures. Young’s Monet-like brushstrokes suggest movement, as the craft drifts towards an orange and smoky sunset. These pieces aren’t yet ready for exhibition, but, with a little conservation, they will be prepared for viewing. Like Yoakum’s work, Young’s images are widely celebrated and can now be found in the collections of many major museums.
Not only does board member Cleo F. Wilson contribute her time, energy and great enthusiasm to Intuit’s goals, she also facilitates the donation of spectacular pieces to the permanent collection. This time, Intuit is especially pleased that the donation is a rare, double-sided work by Consuelo ‘Chelo’ Gonzalez Amezcua (1903-1975), the first piece by this virtually unknown artist to be added to Intuit’s collection. Amezcua created ball-point pen and ink drawings on paper, often featuring images of Mexican myths and Pre-Columbian culture. Amezcua’s Filigree Bush (1974) is a tiny composition—only 8 by 12 inches—that includes birds, flowers and a lady’s profile portrait, meticulously depicted among busy, repetitive lines, all of which are enclosed by a drawn, ornamental frame.
Lastly, a special thanks goes to Judy Saslow, who recently closed her eponymous gallery after 20 years in Chicago promoting unheralded contemporary and outsider art. Saslow is also a dedicated member of Intuit’s board and generously gave Intuit a Purvis Young sketchbook, a unique addition to the permanent collection. The book features pages covered in active and repetitive lines, painted or collaged over what once were elementary school lesson plan pages. The book is in excellent condition and will be of great interest to any fan of Young’s work.
Intuit’s staff, board and audiences welcome all of these pieces into its permanent collection. Intuit’s growing collection is almost entirely made up of donations, and every gift is greatly appreciated. These acquisitions inform decisions for showing the exquisite gifts we receive, such as the recent capsule exhibition Palimpsest, featuring the works of Betty Zakoian, donated by the artist’s family. This small, yet riveting show highlighted not only Zakoian’s vibrant creations but also her dramatic personal story (see the accompanying story in this issue). If you would like to contribute and be counted as one of Intuit’s most valued donors, please consider sharing a gift of art. Your generous donation will serve to strengthen not only our burgeoning collection but also our educational programming and mission.
-Jane Elizabeth Ross