Historical Journal

Journal Archives,Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Archives,Reviews

Brian Meunier: Anxious Toys

September 14, 1984
Judith Stein

A writer and curator, studied at Barnard College, and has a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Eye of the Sixties, Richard Bellamy and the Transformation of Modern Art, (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016). Her curatorial projects include Red Grooms, A Retrospective, for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and The Figurative Fifties, New York School Figurative Expressionism, co-curated with Paul Schimmel. Her exhibition, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin, traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1995, and earned a best catalogue award from AICA/USA. Her articles, interviews and reviews have appeared in Art in America, Art News, and The New York Times Book Review, as well as on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air and Morning Edition. Among her honors is a Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant; a Pew Fellowship for literary non-fiction; and a Lannan Foundation writing residency in Marfa, Texas.

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"Brian Meunier was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1954. He attended the University of Massachusetts where he earned the B.F.A. in 1976."

September 14 through October 28, 1984
There is something about this [see above] early twentieth-century illustration and the structure and scale of this improbable bathysphere which appeals to Brian Meunier. Serving as a metaphor of search, the compact observation cage is itself the object of scrutiny. The romance of the ocean inspires many of his sculptures. Often when he is working in his studio, Meunier imagines himself to be living back at the turn of the century a sailor In the Sargasso Sea.
Anxious Toys, the animistic title Meunier chose for his Morris Gallery exhibition, conveys the tension between the hand-held, cherished quality of the sculptures’ painted surfaces and the unexpected element of their wale. Meunier’s preferred medium is wood. He grew up in Gardner, Massachusetts, the self-proclaimed “Chair City of the World,” a town that abounds with monumentally scaled chairs erected in public places. As a child in this mill town, Meunier constructed elaborate tree houses and van fashioned huge slingshots out of tress and boulders. Like most of the town’s inhabitants, Meunier’s forebears were French Canadians. Out of what he regards as an ethnic memory of another time and country, Meunier fashions objects which imply a function but whose use is long forgotten. One of his nearby haunts was the Hadley Farm Museum, which at that time had hundreds of unlabeled tools on view. Even today, he is as likely to visit the Mercer Museum as the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Meunier’s images playfully build on such recognizable subjects as a ship’s helm, a squid, and a crustacean, His scrubbed-down surfaces emphasizes the texture of the wood and allude to wear and past use. Color is used for its associative content. Found wood often is the trigger for new pieces, although it may be barely apparent in the finished work. A wooden barn guttter is at the heart of Crustacean, and an abandoned telephone pole is the core of Gentle Whirlwind. Meunier’s whimsical visual intelligence is combined with an impressive and fresh formal vocabulary in the work on view in the Morris Gallery.

Judith Stein
Morris Gallery Coordinator
All dimensions are in inches.
Brian Meunier’s work is shown through the courtesy of the listed collectors, the artist, and the Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia.
1. Gentle Whirlwind, 1982
wood, enamel, 102 x 21 x 21
2. Crustacean, 1983
wood, enamel, 89 x 15 x 15
3. True North, 1983
wood, enamel, 96 x 26 x 16
4. The Vial, 1983
wood, enamel, 120 x 28 x 40
5. Squid, 1983
wood, enamel, 86 x 10 x 12
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. B. Herbert Lee
6. Prehistory, 1983
wood, enamel, 84 x 26 x 15
Collection of Matthew and Anne Hall
7. Lower Lumbar, 1982
wood, enamel, 92 x 19 x 17
Collection of Drs. Vincent and Suzanne Zarro
8. Marina, 1984
wood, casein, copper, 51 x 13 x 13
9. Gnat, 1984
wood, casein, 44 x 21 x 19
10. Kernel, 1984
wood, casein, copper, 58 x 15 x 14
Brian Meunier was born in Gardner, Massachusetts, in 1954. He attended the University of Massachusetts where he earned the B.F.A. in 1976. As an undergraduate he received a Ford Foundation Grant for the Humanities and a scholarship from the Trinque Fund. Meunier worked as a teaching assistant while studying for the M.F.A. at Tyler School of Art between 1976 and 1978. Subsequent teaching experience includes an Artist in Residence post at Mount Wachusett Community College, 1978, and the position of Instructor of Art held the following year at Washington University School of Fine Arts. Currently he is Assistant Professor of Art on the faculty of Swarthmore College. Awards recently received include: Mellon Grant, 1982-1983; Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Fellowship, 1983; a grant from the Franklin Town Corporation, 1983; and a National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowship, 1984-85.

Bibliography (selected)
Cohen , Margi, “Reviews,” The New Art Examiner, November 1978
Donohoe, Victoria, “Art,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 26.1982.
____, “Art,” Philadelphia Inquirer, Match 25,1983
King, Mary, “Constructs: New Art Form,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 20,1978
____, “Art ” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 12,1979.
Pentak, Stephen, “Reviews,” The New Art Examiner, July 1980.
Rim, Nancy N., “Reviews,” The New Art Examiner, Summer 1979.
Sachs, Sid, “Reviews,” The New Art Examiner, October 1980.

Solo Exhibitions
McCabe Library, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, 1984
Janet Fleisher Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1983
Fleisher Art Memorial (Philadelphia Museum of Art), Philadelphia, PA, 1982
Wilcox Gallery Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, 1979
Barbara Okun Gallery, St. Louis, MO, 1979
Terry Moore Gallery, St. Louis, MO, 1978
Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1978
Fine Arts Center Gallery, Mount Wachusett Community College, Gardiner, MA, 1976
Herter Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 1975

Group Exhibitions
Janet Fleisher Gallery Philadelphia, PA, 1984,1982
Five Years of Fleisher Challenge, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA, 1983
Third Annual Franklin Town Sculpture Invitational, Philadelphia, PA, 1983
Greater Harrisburg Arts Council invitational, William Penn Memorial Museum, Harrisburg, PA, 1983
Karen Lennox Gallery, Chicago, IL, 1983
Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA, 1982
Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA, 1980
Painted Structures, Jeffrey Fuller Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 1980
Eric Makler Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, 1979
Faculty Exhibition, Steinberg Gallery, Washington University, St. Louis, MO, 1978
Constructs Plus, Barbara Okun Gallery, St. Louis, MO, 1978
21st Annual Juried Exhibition Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA, 1978
Nexus Gallery, Philaidelphia, PA, 1978
Old York Road Center for the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 1978
Mainline Center for the Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 1977
Student Center Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 1976
Herter Gallery, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, 1976

Collections (selected)
Matthew and Anne Hall
Brad and Margery Lee
Ronald and Maxine Line
Joseph and Emily Pulitzer
Vincent and Suzanne Zarro
Morris Gallery exhibitions are partially and generously funded by a grant from the Philadelphia Foundation.
The Morris Gallery displays the work of outstanding contemporary artists with a connection to Philadelphia, determined by birth. schooling or residence. The exhibitions are chosen by a committee composed of area artists, museum personnel and collectors and the curatorial staff of the Academy. Currently serving on the Morris Gallery Exhibition Committee are Cynthia Carlson, Ofelia Garcia, Jennie Q. Dietrich, Dr. Helen Hedrick, Harold Jacobs, Jay Richardson, Massey Charles Mather III, Cheryl McClenney, John Moore, Mark Rosenthal; and Academy staff Frank Goodyear, Linda Bartel, Betty Romanella, and Judith Stein, Mortis Gallery coordinator.
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