STOCKBRIDGE -- Jarvis Rockwell, the eldest son of illustrator Norman Rockwell, has forged a path in art that is uniquely his own. This summer, Norman Rockwell Museum shines a spotlight on Jarvis Rockwell's more than 60 years of creative exploration in the exhibition "Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion, and Us" opening Saturday and running through Oct. 20.
"Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion and Us" reveals the depth and evolution of the artist's work -- from the early portraits and drawings of his youth to more recent structural works and assemblages.
The retrospective includes a documentary on the artist by filmmaker Rachel Victor; and selections from Rockwell's extensive toy collection, installed on "Maya V," a vast, whimsical pyramid inspired by Hindu temples and sculptural deities.
Visitors also are encouraged to visit the museum through the summer and fall to watch the evolution of an in-process wall drawing that will be created on site while the exhibition is on view, with surprise appearances by Jarvis Rockwell himself. The artist also will provide commentary during a special exhibition opening at Norman Rockwell Museum on Saturday from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
"I was 22 years old when I first met Jarvis Rockwell," notes Norman Rockwell Museum director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt. "Jarvis was already widely regarded in the community as an artist, famed for his string installations, ephemeral environmental performance installations, and fantasy drawings. He was a contemporary conceptual artist seeking his voice; working as distantly as possible from his father's narrative, idealized painting style, yet evidencing the same exacting hand and eye for the smallest details of daily life.
"We are deeply honored to welcome Jarvis home to Stockbridge, to invite him to take his place and stand side by side with his father through this imaginative installation of his life's work."
Jarvis Rockwell, 81, began drawing at an early age, encouraged by both his parents. Sketching portraits of neighbors and friends in Arlington, Vt., and taking classes at New York's Art Students League and National Academy of Design, prepared him for the art assignments he would assume during the Korean War. He went on to study at the Boston Museum School and Los Angeles County Art Institute and has continued his artistic explorations ever since.
His work has been included in several exhibitions, including Mass MoCA and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.
Rockwell began collecting action figures in 1979 and since then his collection has grown by hundreds of pieces per year. After a decade of collecting, Rockwell began to create small groupings, articulating the relationships he saw between the figures, and arrange his tableaux in Plexiglass boxes.
In 2001 the artist expanded on the concept with "Maya," a vast toy-embellished pyramid inspired by Hindu temples the artist witnessed during trips to Chennai and Delhi, India. This work "tells the story of us" through the artifacts of commercial culture, reminding us of the society's deepest longings and aspirations.
In the gallery
What: “Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion, and Us”
When: July 13 through Oct. 20. Opening reception — 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday with artist commentary at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183, Stockbridge Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Admission: $16; seniors, $14.50; students, $10; kids and teens 6-18, $5; museum members, active military personnel, children 5 and under, free
Additional information: (413) 298-4100; nrm.org