Instruments of Cubism, June 30-August 5

Gene Provenzo is the featured solo artist in the exhibition Instruments of Cubism June 30-August 5. Provenzo constructs assemblages and sculptures to uniquely interpret paintings and drawings of Cubist musical instruments by Pablo Picasso, George Braque, and Juan Gris. Provenzo’s renditions are literally and figuratively multi-layered and largely constructed of found, purchased, and repurposed objects including a Huss and Dalton guitar frame, Taylor and Boody organ pipes, cast off table legs, used dish racks, old clock parts and many other items whose new application would be beyond the imagination of most. Download the exhibit catalog to learn more. 

Artist’s Statement, Eugene Provenzo

I am a recently retired university professor (University of Miami 1976-2013). Although my main work has been as an educational historian and cultural theorist, art and design have been constants in my professional life. Beginning in the late 1970s, I began to work on various projects involving innovative toy design, book design, the creation of museum exhibits, as well as multimedia and video game development. Separate from my professional work, and inspired by the 1980 retrospective exhibit of the work of Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) at the Museum of Modern Art Exhibit, I began to work as a collage and assemblage artist. Throughout my academic career I would occasionally be invited to exhibit some of my pieces. A high point for me early on was the exhibit in 1979 of my system of “Golden Mean Blocks” at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Having retired from research and teaching, I am now devoting myself to working full-time as an artist.

I consider myself to be part of an outsider art tradition. My work is eclectic and integrative. I use both traditional techniques and found materials. Much of my inspiration is historical. I draw deeply on linguistic and cultural tropes ranging from modes of play to representation in popular culture sources such as television, comic books and mass circulation magazines. There is a consciously developed narrative quality in much of my work.

This exhibit, Instruments of Cubism, is based on a project that I have been pursuing since the beginning of 2014. The works included in the project are largely inspired by the Cubist paintings and sketches of musical instruments by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Juan Gris (1887-1927) and George Braque (1882-1963) during the period around the First World War.
In much the same way that Picasso, Braque and Gris painted largely from still lifes, I have deconstructed their paintings and drawings and recreated them as assemblages, collages, mobiles, free-standing statues and bas-relief sculptures. In this sense, the works included in this exhibit represent a deconstruction and re-imagination of the original Cubist still lifes. I believe the results are extremely interesting. They combine both a certain gravitas and playfulness. I hope the works that I have created allow visitors to reflect on the three featured artists, on the meaning of Cubism, and simply to enjoy my work.

Gene Provenzo: Artist’s Resume

Since moving to Staunton, I have had several exhibits in the gallery space at Black Swan Books and Records: The first was a collection of 101 collages based on reassembling the work of famous artists in Western History, titled Art History 101 (December 1, 2013-March 6, 2014); the second was a collection of my large historical collages titled “Selected Collages” (October 2, 2014-February 11, 2015); forty-seven dioramas showing characters from the Wizard of Oz encountering contemporary American culture was exhibited during the Holiday season (November 2014-January 15, 2015); and a large-scale installation of a Fantasy Holiday Toy Chest (November, 28, 2016-January 18, 2017). In addition, my “Book Angel” (a life-size winged angel made of typewriter parts, books and pencils) is on semi-permanent display in the bookstore’s front window. Also on semi-permanent display at the Visulite Theater in Staunton, are twenty collages on the history of cinema.

During the Holiday Season (November 16, 2016-January 6, 2017) the Wizard of Oz Dioramas were exhibited at the Fishersville Public Library.

Twenty collages from the Beyond Max Ernst series were first exhibited at the Shenandoah Fringe Festival April 9-10, 2017, Staunton, Virginia.

Sculptural Installation “Knowledge/Power/Power/Knowledge: A Critique of E. D. Hirsch, Jr.’s Conceptions of Cultural Literacy,” and the sculpture “Frobelian/Hegalian Synthesis,” American Educational Studies Association (AESA), Charlottesville, Virginia, November 2005.

Guest Curator, “W. E. B. Du Bois and the Exhibit of the Georgia Negro, Paris 1900, January 1, 2005-June 31, 2005.” African American Panoramic Experience Museum (APEX), Atlanta Georgia. The exhibit was a reconstruction of the photographs and charts exhibited by Du Bois at the Paris 1900 International Exposition.

Guest Curator, “Signs of Andrew,” July 15-December 15, 2002, University of Miami, Otto G. Richter Library. 29 photographs of signs spray-painted on homes in the Country Walk housing development after Hurricane Andrew. A website for this exhibit is available at:

“Counter Cultural Literacy: A Multimedia Response to E. D. Hirsch,” American Educational Studies Association Meeting, November 1, 2001, Miami, FL.

“Einstein’s Brain” (assemblage/construction) and selected Wizard of Oz “book boxes,” included in the “Secret Spaces of Childhood,” exhibition at the Residential College Art Gallery and Benzinger Library, University of Michigan, November 13-December 14, 1998.

Guest Curator with Asterie Provenzo, “Centennial Exhibit of the Dade County Public Schools (1885-1985),” Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Spring and Summer, 1985).

“Golden Mean Blocks” (Designed by Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr.) exhibited at the Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., June 15, 1979-September 9, 1979.

“Golden Mean Blocks” (Designed by Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr.) exhibited as part of “Child’s Play,” an exhibition selected from entries to the Arango International Design Competition: Educational Toys, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, March 8, 1979-April 15, 1979.