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Faulconer Gallery exhibit honors alumnus and trustee

Michael Cummings, Staff Writer

Contemporary art can be provocative and mind opening, although at times hard to understand. Faulconer Gallery’s fall exhibition offers a starting point to examining the works displayed in its title: “Start by Asking Questions.”

The exhibit features art from the private collections of Vernon Faulconer ’61 and his wife, Amy Hamamoto Faulconer ’59, for whom the Faulconer Gallery was named, as well as their friends Howard and Cindy Rachofsky.

Mr. Faulconer and Mr. Rachofsky developed a friendship over their love of collecting art and together founded The Warehouse, a private exhibition space to showcase their separate collections, as well as a collection of art purchased jointly by the Faulconers and Rachofskys.

Chris Brodahl’s  “The Yellow Tree” exhbited in  “Start by Asking Questions.” Photo by Matt Kartanata
Chris Brodahl’s “The Yellow Tree” exhbited in “Start by Asking Questions.” Photo by Matt Kartanata

“We had wanted to do an exhibition of their private collection for many years,” said Lesley Wright, director of Faulconer Gallery. “When they opened The Warehouse in 2012, they were then willing to lend [their art] to Grinnell, because they wouldn’t have to take things out of their homes.”

Once the College had received the green light to show some of The Warehouse’s works, however, selecting just 76 pieces to show at Grinnell proved to be a daunting task.

“In choosing I had literally hundreds and hundreds of [pieces] to choose from,” Wright said, “so I attempted to give a selection of the sorts of things that [the Faulconers and Rachofskys] collect individually and together.”

Providing a sample of Mr. Faulconer and Mr. Rachofsky’s collection, however, that wasn’t the only criteria Wright used to select pieces for the exhibit.

“I tried to pick things that I thought would be provocative and interesting for teaching at Grinnell,” she said, adding that many pieces derive inspiration from social issues, women’s issues, economics and geography.

While this exhibition creates a opportunity for members of the Grinnell community to observe and learn from a well-curated collection of contemporary art, its opening also comes at a sobering time. The sudden and unexpected death of Mr. Faulconer this summer weighed heavily on the minds of all those in attendance at the exhibit opening.

Speakers including Wright, Mr. Rachofsky and President Raynard Kington each gave Mr. Faulconer a eulogy of sorts, dedicating the exhibit to him.

Wright noted that while those who had eulogized him at his funeral had given beautiful speeches, they had primarily focused on his business and philanthropy work and missed discussing his art collecting. This hole, she said, would hopefully be filled by their remembrance at his eponymous gallery.

President Kington read the text of a resolution that will be passed at the Grinnell Board of Trustees’ fall meeting remembering Mr. Faulconer and recognizing him for all he has done for the Grinnell Community. Mr. Rachofsky spoke fondly of the years he had spent collecting art with his friend.

Wright and Howard Rachofsky held a talk entitled “Collecting Art with Vernon: A Remembrance” in the gallery dedicated to the art life of Mr. Faulconer and Mr. Rachofsky.

“The Warehouse was a byproduct of an almost anecdotal observation by Vernon. He said, ‘We’ve bought a few things together, and like buying things together … and we’ll need a place to show them!’” Mr. Rachofsky said, speaking about how the two first came upon the idea of opening a private exhibition space together.

“I think in large measure the exhibitions at the Warehouse … [are] exhibitions that would not necessarily be presented at the major museums in the area, and would not necessarily … be presented at museums in the United States,” Mr. Rachofsky said.

He added that he and Mr. Faulconer went through an evolutionary process in choosing which pieces to collect and to display, learning how to select works that complement each other and attempt to tell a larger story.

Now that the exhibit is open to the public, Wright noted that many programs will be held in the gallery during this exhibition.

“We’re trying one new thing called ‘20 minutes at 11,’” Wright said. “We’ve invited three faculty on various Tuesdays to come in for twenty minutes and talk about a single piece of art.”

The Faulconer Gallery is open to the public daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The exhibition runs until Dec. 13.

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