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American Vistas - The Sculpture of John Van Alstine

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American Vistas - The Sculpture of John Van Alstine
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For nearly 40 years, John Van Alstine has made more than 700 stone and steel sculptures exploring nature and the built environment. The NYFA fiscal sponsorship will create a conduit for fundraising to research and publish a comprehensive catalogue/book on his oeuvre with the ultimate goal of mounting a major exhibit. The project will develop in stages starting with research and writing of the catalogue/book as a way to interest exhibit venues to partner with us.


For nearly forty years, John Van Alstine has created abstract sculptures forged with stone and steel. His landscapes explore natural forces and man-made elements, conveying the American experience as the confluence/conflict between wilderness / industrialization.
Given the longevity, vitality and the influence of his oeuvre on American visual culture in the past decades - his sculptures and drawings are in numerous private and public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden at the Smithsonian Institution, Olympic Park in Beijing, and the Philips Collection in Washington D.C. - a major retrospective with a catalogue raisonne- is planned for 2017 or 2018, with the possibility of it traveling. Although no dates have been set, museums under consideration are the Albany Institute of History & Art, the Everson Museum of Art, Stone Hill Center at the Clark Institute, the Delaware Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art and the Denver Museum of Art.

Through multiple phases of his career, Van Alstine's sculptures and drawings connect viewers with a deeper understanding of landscape in American culture that was foundation for the first truly American Art developed in the 19th century. At the same time, Van Alstine's use of abstraction interacts with dialogue about non-representational art and the American experience played out in the 20th century, particularly his use of fabricated steel, expressing modern life in the machine age, an ongoing conversation throughout modern art in America.

Using unaltered stone from various locations as a base for his compositions, their natural grains and indentions resemble vast plains, rivers, canyons, angular escarpments, rolling hills, or jutting mountain peaks in America's expansive scenery. In contrast, the steel is man-made culled from scrap yards dotting the countryside, seemingly temporal and discarded elements from industrialization. Left for the taking, they are refashioned into angular and swooping lines making expressive statements about mass production, waste and recycling. 

The exhibition/book project, "American Vistas" we are proposing for your consideration began in 2012 as a cataloguing project organizing Van Alstine's sculptures over a 35-year-period completed by Tim Kane, an independent curator and critic. In recent months, Kane has completed a 4,312-word working draft of a research essay framing Van Alstine's work in the context of the American landscape and urban industrialization along with a chapter-based outline setting forth the general parameters of the book.
In order to fund the continued development of the project with an estimated budget of $80,000, more than 80 works, and a full-color, 250 to 300 page catalogue, the exhibit coordinator, Tim Kane, along with Van Alstine, are applying for a fiscal opportunity grant through your organization's ARTSPIRE program. As indicated by the Letters of Support included in the application package, the keen interest in Van Alstine's art, the number of exhibitions and public commissions he has completed, the project will prove successful in raising funds from a diversified pool of supporters in stages during the next two years, especially when utilizing the platform NYFA provides.

Further, we believe the retrospective and book will deliver a wide range of experiences for the museum visitor and community as a whole and offer numerous educational opportunities for many, including, but not limited to, an understanding of astronomy, navigation, physics, geometry, geology, metallurgy, mythology, wilderness, the built environment and, ultimately, sustainability.

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