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USF Contemporary Art Museum Shows Off Hidden Gems In 'Restricted'

Mark Schreiner
WUSF Public Media
Roy Lichtenstein's "Brushstroke Chair and Ottoman" is one of about 50 pieces on display at the USF Contemporary Art Museum's summer exhibition, "Restricted."

A lot of people would walk into the Contemporary Art Museum on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida, look in one corner of a gallery and see a chair -- a long, wooden, wavy, not particularly comfortable-looking chair and ottoman, colorfully flecked with blue paint.

But an art fan would look at it and probably recognize it immediately as a work of 1960s pop artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Most of the time, "Brushstroke Chair and Ottoman" -- which was produced at USF Graphicstudio -- sits in the musuem's storage area, mainly because of the requirements needed to put it on display. The rare, valuable piece has to be shown on a pedestal and has to be monitored all the time to make sure a weary viewer doesn't try to sit on it.

The need to protect the Lichtenstein work is one of the reasons it's part of "Restricted," the museum's summer exhibition featuring about 50 "hidden gems" from their collection of more than 5,000 pieces.

First things first -- about that title, and the marketing of the exhibition - think of the rating you'd see on a movie poster: a big black and white letter "R" next to the word "Restricted."

Museum executive director Noel Smith explained that that doesn't necessarily mean what you think it does.

"Really the show deals with ideas of conservation and access to museum collections," said Smith. "All of the works that are in this show are works that we don't normally show for one reason or another."

"It can be because, yes, sometimes it's risque, we don't want to always be showing nudes in places that people might not expect them, but also works that perhaps are very difficult to install," added Smith. "Some of the works are very large and so they're difficult to find spaces to exhibit them. Some of the pieces are very light-sensitive and so you can't have them shown, you have to really control and monitor where they're seen."

The USFCAM is hosting "Tales from The Vault - Access vs. Preservation," a discussion featuring curators, collection management teams and gallery directors from a number of local museums, Thursday at 6 p.m.

"There's a constant push and pull in museums, including ours. How do you bring your works out and still keep them preserved and conserved?" said Smith. "Everytime you take a work out of the collection, it's running a risk, either from light or somebody damaging it, damaging it when you're moving it, there's all risks about that. We have invited area professionals to discuss these issues."

"Restricted" is on display at the Contemporary Art Museum on USF's Tampa campus. It's open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.) and Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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