If Atlanta’s heat has you heading to the mountains, you should put The Bascom, a new visual-arts center in Highlands, NC., on your itinerary. The place is a delightful compound of historic structures (a covered bridge, two weathered barns and a kiln shed) thoughtfully renovated by Highlands firm Dewolf Architecture and Atlanta’s Lord Aeck & Sargent.
The bigger barn, trucked in from Pennsylvania, houses museum-standard galleries, classrooms, offices, a gift shop and a terrace cafe. Its gracious lobby (see above) is a sunlit space that soars to the rafters. The hand-hewn posts and beams and wood floor-planks bring warmth and character to the contemporary glass and steel elements inserted into the shell.
Earl Powell, director of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., who attended a patron reception last Friday, was quite taken by what he called “the authenticity” of the architecture, and by the inaugural exhibition, “Helen Frankenthaler and the Color Field Painters.” He said he was impressed by the quality of the paintings — on loan from public and private regional collections, including the High Museum — and he gave an extemporaneous tour.
In the photo, Powell speaks with the High’s Frankenthaler painting on the left behind him. He and his wife Nancy attended as guests of Washington friends who have a home in Highlands. (I attended as a guest of Atlantans Cathy and Bob Fisher. As the current board chair, Bob was the driving force behind the project.)
The show’s title is somewhat of a misnomer, as it encompasses Abstract Expressionists Hans Hoffman and Robert Motherwell, as well as Morris Louis, Gene Davis, Paul Jenkins and, of course, Frankenthaler. And there’s no real attempt to tease out the aesthetic and historical relationships among them. Adding intellectual content is the next step, says Fisher.
Those who don’t have someone like Powell to connect the dots can still enjoy the paintings, however. The exhibit does the fledgling museum proud. It’s on view through Aug. 15, along with a lively exhibit of regional pottery, which closes July 11.