At UNC Charlotte a personal collection goes public

08/01/2012 12:00 AM

08/02/2012 3:36 PM

A corporate art collection must please – or at least not offend – a variety of people. This may include board members, clients, employees and anyone else who walks through the door. But a private collection must please only the collector.

The Lona-Frey Collection shows evidence of both sensibilities. When Andrew Lona was an administrator at the Southwestern Bell Corporation, he headed a curatorial team that amassed more than 1,000 works on paper for the SBC collection. He then built on that experience to develop a collection for himself and his partner, Brently Frey.

On Aug. 4, the Lona-Frey Collection will go on public display at UNC Charlotte’s Center City Building, where it will remain for at least three years. Comprising 43 works, it emphasizes prints by 20th-century American artists, but it also includes photographs, drawings, paintings and sculpture, as well as two pieces of Italian Murano glass.

After Andrew Lona’s death, Brently Frey was encouraged by an aunt, who held an administrative position at UNCC, to place some of the collection with the university. In 2007, Frey and UNCC negotiated an eight-year loan of 31 works. In 2011, the loan was extended, and Frey provided several additional works.

This personal, eclectic collection mixes connoisseurship and that impulse to acquire something just because you want it. It includes many internationally known artists, among them John Chamberlain, Robert Motherwell, Louisa Chase, Donald Sultan, Robert Rauschenberg, Sam Gilliam, Sol LeWitt, Julian Schnabel, Jim Dine and Sam Francis.

James Rosenquist’s “Spikes” is classic pop art, a bit of the every day elevated to the status of serious art. It combines a candy-colored lithographed image of ordinary hardware and a delicate blind embossing of geometric shapes.

Helen Frankenthaler, who pioneered the technique of pouring diluted paint on unprimed canvas, is represented here by the silkscreen “Bilbao.” Like her paintings, this work is a sensuous spill of pigment.

Three small prints by Brice Marden, Derek Boshier and Roy Lichtenstein are grouped in a way that engenders surprising associations. Boshier is probably best known for his design work for The Clash and David Bowie; in his frenetic little print “Wake Up America,” a man with a crazed smile is about to wrap himself in the American flag, as if it were a towel. Flanking this piece are Marden’s “Twelve Views for Caroline,” a formal, austere abstraction that looks almost flag-like next to the Boshier, and Lichtenstein’s “Figure with Teepee,” which has an idiosyncratic assortment of symbols, including a snake, fishes and arrow airfoils. The Boshier’s goofy satire of out-of-control patriotism spills over to the other two works, creating an unintentional triptych.

Robert Longo’s “Raphael” and “Barbara,” silhouette-like lithographs of tastefully dressed individuals who are writhing or dancing, are extensions of his “Men in the Cities” series, which first garnered Longo international attention in the 1980s.

In addition to internationally known artists, the collection also includes artists from the various cities in which Lona and Frey lived: Matt Walters, who uses text as a design element in his tar and ink drawings; Leon Hicks, whose print looks like a composite of aerial views; Dennis Johnson, represented by the photorealist lithograph “Rock Road”; and Tim Curtis, whose untitled figural sculpture is suspended from the ceiling. These are just a few of the many artists who can hold their own against the Lona-Frey Collection’s art stars.

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