Installation of the new exhibition at the Rochester Art Center entailed more than just hanging some paintings on the walls.
For the new show, “Melba Price: Until the Break of Dawn,” a large, circular room was constructed in the art center’s main gallery, and workers were just putting finishing touches on it earlier this week with Friday’s opening looming on the horizon.
“This is a bit more construction than we usually do,” said Kris Douglas, chief curator. “But we always like to work with the artist’s intentions. So it was very important for us to do this.”
The exhibition will feature 45 paintings by Price, who lives and works in St. Paul. Price requested that 12 of those pieces will be hung in the circular room.
“Until the Break of Dawn” is a major exhibition of Price’s work, spanning the past decade. “I’d call it a survey, rather than a retrospective,” Douglas said. “The majority of the exhibition is from the last three years.”
Price’s paintings consist of portraits of people in a variety of poses, along with a relatively new series of ice skaters who seem to have difficulty keeping their balance. All of the paintings are based on images Price has found on the Internet.
“Melba is taking a non-traditional look at both her subjects and what her subjects are doing,” Douglas said.
Because the subjects come from the Internet, there is automatically an absence of intimacy and familiarity. Yet Price’s technique and vision allows viewers of the pieces to feel a connection.
That despite, as Douglas said of the subjects, “Many have a pensive look. Some almost seem like they’re looking at nothingness.”
Price has presented solo exhibitions at Midway Contemporary Art in Minneapolis, Sherry Leedy Gallery in Kansas City, Mo., the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Soo Visual Arts in Minneapolis. She has been the recipient of Bush and McKnight fellowships.
“I think it’s going to be a fantastic exhibition,” Douglas said. “It’s always a pleasure to organize exhibitions with Minnesota artists who have been living and working in the state for a long time.”
That includes building special gallery rooms to meet with the artists’ expectations.
“I would characterize Melba as being similar to a lot of artists we work with in that they give us a lot of freedom to install their exhibition,” Douglas said. “But she has definite ways she wants her work to be seen. I think if we’re serving the artist to the best of our capacity, we’re also serving the viewers.”
After Friday’s opening, the Price exhibition continues through June 7.