Posts Tagged ‘American Abstract Expressionism

27
Aug
19

Exhibition: ‘Lee Krasner: Living Colour’ at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 30th May – 1st September 2019

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view at the Barbican Art Gallery
30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

 

The augur of passion, the fire of movement, the colour of the embrace!

She used to ask herself, “does it work?”, as every artist should… not seeking affirmation from others but just being focused in her own mind on what she wanted to say, on that inner experience.

She was the equal of men, surpassing most. Krasner is finally getting the accolades she so richly deserves.

Marcus

 

Many thankx to the Barbican Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. The black and white photographs have been digitally cleaned by myself.

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view at the Barbican Art Gallery
30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) 'Untitled' 1946

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Untitled
1946
Collection of Bobbi and Walter Zifkin
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Jonathan Urban

 

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) 'Abstract No. 2' 1947

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Abstract No. 2
1947
IVAM Centre, Spain
Courtesy IVAM
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation

 

Lee Krasner (1908-1984) 'Mosaic Table' 1947

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Mosaic Table
1947
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York

 

 

The cold winter on Long Island, where Krasner and Pollock were now living, forced her to work downstairs by the stove, where she made two brilliantly coloured mosaic tables using wagon wheels she found in the barn.

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Composition 1949 and Stop and Go c. 1949
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Installation view with Stop and Go c. 1949
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Blue Level' 1955

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Blue Level
1955
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Diego Flores

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Desert Moon' 1955

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Desert Moon
1955
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
© 2018 Digital Image Museum Associates/ LACMA/Art Resource NY/ Scala, Florence

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Bald Eagle' 1955

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Bald Eagle
1955
Collection of Audrey Irmas, Los Angeles
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Jonathan Urban

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Bird Talk 1955 and Bald Eagle 1955
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Bird Talk 1955
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Prophecy' 1956

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Prophecy
1956
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York
Photo: Christopher Stach

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Embrace' 1956

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Embrace
1956
Photograph © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Christopher Stach

 

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Embrace 1956
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

 

“I like a canvas to breathe and be alive. Be alive is the point.”

“Painting is a revelation, an act of love… as a painter I can’t experience it any other way.”

“I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent…”

“Aesthetically I am very much Lee Krasner. I am undergoing emotional, psychological, and artistic changes but I hold Lee Krasner right through.”

“Painting is not separate from life. It is one. It is like asking – do I want to live? My answer is yes – and I paint.”

“I couldn’t run out and do a one-woman job on the sexist aspects of the art world, continue my painting, and stay in the role I was in as Mrs Pollock… What I considered important was that I was able to work and other things would have to take their turn.”

“Jackson always treated me as an artist… he always acknowledged, was aware of what I was doing… I was a painter before I knew him, and he knew that, and when we were together, I couldn’t have stayed with him one day if he didn’t treat me as a painter.”

“[The Surrealists] treated their women like French poodles, and it sort of rubbed off on the Abstract Expressionists. The exceptions were Bradley Walker Tomlin, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock. That might be the end of my listing. The other big boys just didn’t treat me at all. I wasn’t there for them as an artist.”

“I go on the assumption that the artist is a highly sensitive, intellectual and aware human being… It’s a total experience which has to do with the sensitivity of being a painter. The painter’s form of expressing [them]self is through painting.”

.
Lee Krasner

 

“… their blossoming was remarkable. In fact “blossoming” is hardly the word, for it suggests a soft, floral, ethereal event, adjectives one would not pick for the tough paintings, often full of barely controlled anger, that she was to produce after 1960… Is there a less “feminine” woman artist of her generation? Probably not.”

.
Robert Hughes

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with The Eye is the First Circle 1960
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Polar Stampede' 1960

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Polar Stampede
1960
The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

 

Polar Stampede 1960, one of a series of paintings she made at night during bouts of insomnia and which her friend, the poet Richard Howard, called her ‘Night Journeys’

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'The Guardian' 1960

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
The Guardian
1960
Oil and house paint on canvas
53 1/8 × 58 1/8 in. (134.9 × 147.6 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art
Purchase, with funds from the Uris Brothers Foundation, Inc.

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Assault on the Solar Plexus 1961
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Through Blue' 1963

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Through Blue
1963
Private Collection, New York City
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Christopher Stach

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Through Blue 1963
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Another Storm 1963
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Another Storm' 1963

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Another Storm
1963
Private Collection
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Icarus' 1964

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Icarus
1964
Thomson Family Collection, New York
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York
Photo: Diego Flores

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Chrysalis 1964 and Icarus 1964
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Combat 1965
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Siren' 1966

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Siren
1966
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C.
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Photo: Cathy Carver, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Untitled' 1969

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Untitled
1969
The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, New York City
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Portrait in Green 1969
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner, who died in 1984, at work in her studio in the 60s, painting 'Portrait in Green'

 

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Palingenesis 1971
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Palingenesis' 1971

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Palingenesis
1971
Collection Pollock-Krasner Foundation
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy Kasmin Gallery, New York

 

 

Palingenesis noun Biology: the exact reproduction of ancestral characteristics in ontogenesis (the development of an individual organism or anatomical or behavioural feature from the earliest stage to maturity).

When Krasner showed 12 new paintings at the Marlborough Gallery in New York the critic Robert Hughes described this pink as rapping ‘hotly on the eyeball at 50 paces’.

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour

 

Lee Krasner: Living Colour
Installation view with Olympic 1974
Barbican Art Gallery 30 May – 1 September 2019
© Tristan Fewings/Getty Images

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984) 'Imperative' 1976

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Imperative
1976
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C

 

 

Barbican Art Gallery is pleased to stage the first retrospective in Europe for over 50 years of American artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984). One of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, Krasner made work reflecting the feeling of possibility and experiment in New York in the post-war period. Lee Krasner: Living Colour features nearly 100 works – many on show in the UK for the first time – from across her 50-year career, and tells the story of a formidable artist whose importance has often been eclipsed by her marriage to Jackson Pollock.

The exhibition celebrates Krasner’s spirit for invention – including striking early self-portraits; a body of energetic charcoal life drawings; original photographs of her proposed department store window displays, designed during the war effort; and her acclaimed ‘Little Image’ paintings from the 1940s with their tightly controlled geometries. It also features collages comprised of torn-up earlier work and a selection of her most impressive large-scale abstract paintings. This work is accompanied by rare photography and film from the period, in an elegant exhibition design by David Chipperfield Architects.

Jane Alison, Head of Visual Arts, Barbican, said: ‘We are thrilled to be staging Lee Krasner: Living Colour. Despite featuring in museum collections around the world and being one of the few women to have had a solo show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1984, Krasner has not received the recognition that she deserves in Europe, making this an exciting opportunity for visitors here to experience the sheer impact of her work’.

Krasner was determined to find new ways to capture inner experience. As the playwright Edward Albee commented at her memorial at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in both her life and her work, ‘…she looked you straight in the eye, and you dared not flinch’. Born in Brooklyn in 1908 in a family recently emigrated from Russia, she chose to attend Washington Irving High School (which at the time was the only school in New York to offer an art course for girls) before going on to study at the National Academy of Design. She was inspired by the opening of MoMA in 1929; joined the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, where she made lifelong friends including renowned designer Ray Eames; was a member of the American Abstract Artists; and became a friend to many leading artists of the day including Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline.

In 1945, Krasner married Jackson Pollock and they moved to Springs, Long Island, borrowing $2000 from collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim to buy a run-down clapboard farmhouse. Krasner worked in the living room and then an upstairs bedroom – intimate make-shift studio spaces, which are mirrored in the Barbican Art Gallery’s upstairs rooms – while Pollock worked in a converted barn outside. After Pollock’s early death in a car crash in 1956, Krasner made the courageous decision to claim his studio as her own, which allowed her to work for the first time on large, un-stretched canvas tacked to the wall. The result would be the remarkable ‘Umber’ and ‘Primary’ series paintings, in which her exploration of scale, biomorphic form and colour collided into some of her most celebrated work. Examples on show include The Guardian, 1960; Happy Lady, 1963; Icarus, 1964; and Siren, 1966.

Lee Krasner: Living Colour draws from more than 50 international collections: from museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery of Washington, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, as well as from a large number of private collections. Many works are being exhibited in Europe for the first time, such as the monumental Combat (1965), which is over 4 metres long, and has travelled from the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia.

The exhibition is curated and organised by Barbican Centre, London, in collaboration with Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern and Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

Press release from the Barbican Art Gallery [Online] Cited 14 June 2019

 

Unknown Photographer. 'Lee Krasner and her younger sister, Ruth' c. 1915-16

 

Unknown Photographer
Lee Krasner and her younger sister, Ruth
c. 1915-16

 

“I was brought up to be independent. I made no economic demands on my parents so in turn they let me be… I was not pressured by them, I was free to study art. It was the best thing that could have happened.” ~ Lee Krasner

 

Lee Krasner. 'Self-Portrait' c. 1928

 

Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984)
Self-Portrait
c. 1928
The Jewish Museum, New York
© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation
Courtesy the Jewish Museum, New York

 

Unknown photographer. 'Lee Krasner' c. 1938

 

Unknown photographer
Lee Krasner
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print

 

Maurice Berezov (American, 1902-1989) 'Lee Krasner in her New York studio' 1939

 

Maurice Berezov (American, 1902-1989)
Lee Krasner in her New York studio
1939
Gelatin silver print
© Copyright A.E. Artworks, LLC

 

Fred Prater. 'Lee Krasner at the WPA Pier, New York City, where she was working on a WPA commission' c. 1940

 

Fred Prater
Lee Krasner at the WPA Pier, New York City, where she was working on a WPA commission
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Lee Krasner Papers, c. 1905-1984
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

 

'Lee Krasner photo booth images' Nd

 

Lee Krasner photo booth images
1940s-50s?

 

With Jackson Pollock in Springs, London Island, 1949

 

With Jackson Pollock in Springs, London Island, 1949
Photo: Wilfred Zogbaum

 

 

“She would ask me to the studio. One didn’t just go there. One waited for an invitation. But she didn’t talk about her painting. The most distinct thing for her was the question: does it work? That was the big way that she thought. She wasn’t insecure about it. She wasn’t asking my opinion. She was asking herself.

“She had a very strong conviction about herself as a painter. She saw her own worth. She saw herself as equal to the men. She didn’t have the attention Pollock had, but she’d grown inured to that. Lee knew all about brands: she was Mrs Pollock, and sometimes she took advantage of it. But she also had great feeling for him as a painter. He wasn’t an easy person, but she never disparaged him, and he never disparaged her, either. The most powerful attraction between them was their intellectual acknowledgement of each other.”

Krasner’s nephew Jason McCoy quoted in Rachel Cooke. “Reframing Lee Krasner, the artist formerly known as Mrs Pollock,” on The Guardian website Sunday 12 May 2019 [Online] Cited 22 June 2019

 

Halley Erskine. 'Lee Krasner standing on a ladder in front of 'The Gate' (1959) before it was completed, Springs, July or August 1959' 1959

 

Halley Erskine
Lee Krasner standing on a ladder in front of ‘The Gate’ (1959) before it was completed, Springs, July or August 1959
1959
Gelatin silver print

 

Hans Namuth (German, 1915-1990) 'Lee Krasner in her studio in the barn, Springs' 1962

 

Hans Namuth (German, 1915-1990)
Lee Krasner in her studio in the barn, Springs
1962
Gelatin silver print
Lee Krasner Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009) 'Lee Krasner, Springs, NY' 1972

 

Irving Penn (American, 1917-2009)
Lee Krasner, Springs, NY
1972
Gelatin silver print
© The Irving Penn Foundation

 

 

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Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS

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11
Apr
17

Exhibition: ‘Cy Twombly’ at the Centre Pompidou, Paris

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2016 – 24th April 2017

 

This posting is for a friend who is a great Twombly fan.

Of the installation photograph of the series Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963, below) he observes:

“Quite an amazing installation… who would have thought #6 being placed there.
The text(?) which replaces the position of the “main” elements in #4, #5 sets the position of #6 – what a choice!
And it all had to be on one wall apparently – it looks tight, yet it is a success.”

It would take years to understand the intricacies of Twombly’s work, but the main archetypes that we can all interpret are there: themes such as love, war, death and night.

“Roland Barthes famously wrote of Twombly: ‘His work is based not upon concept (the trace) but rather upon an activity (tracing)’. In Twombly’s graphic art, the trace is the record of a gesture. Barthes again: ‘line is action become visible’. Like Olson, Twombly connects heart to line via the body.”

This is a visceral art of smudges, smears, and inscriptions. It is art that tells a story, an art that emotes? evokes deep inward feelings while challenging the intellect.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Centre Pompidou for allowing me to publish the artwork in the posting. Please click on the art work for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“To explore Twombly’s work with the eyes and the lips is therefore to continuously dash the expectations inspired by ‘what it looks like’.”

.
Roland Barthes in Yvon Lambert, ed., ‘Cy Twombly: Catalogue raisonné des oeuvres sur papier’ (Multhipla Edizioni, Milan, 1979) Éditions du Seuil, 1995

 

“My line is childlike but not childish. It is very difficult to fake… to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child’s line. It has to be felt.”

.
Cy Twombly

 

“Each line now is the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate – it is the sensation of its own realisation. The imagery is one of the private or separate indulgences rather than an abstract totality of visual perception.”

.
Cy Twombly, ‘L’Esperienza moderna’, no. 2 (1957)

 

 

“The Centre Pompidou is presenting a major retrospective of the work of American artist Cy Twombly. A key event of the fall 2016, this exceptionally vast exhibition will only be shown in Paris, and will feature remarkable loans from private and public collections from all over the world.

Organized around three major cycles – Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978) and Coronation of Sesostris (2000) – this retrospective covers the artist’s entire career in a chronological circuit of some 140 paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs, providing a clear picture of an extraordinarily rich body of work which is both intellectual and sensual. The selection includes many of Twombly’s iconic works, several of them never previously exhibited in France.

Born in 1928 in Lexington, Virginia, Cy Twombly died in 2011 at the age of 83 in Rome, where he spent a large part of his life. Unanimously acclaimed as one of the greatest painters of the second half of the 20th century, Twombly, who began dividing his life between Italy and America in the late Fifties, merged the legacy of American abstract expressionism with the origins of Mediterranean culture. From his first works in the early Fifties (marked by the so-called primitive arts, graffiti and writing) to his last paintings with their exuberant colour schemes, by way of the highly carnal compositions of the early Sixties and his response to minimalist and conceptual art during the Seventies, this retrospective emphasises the importance of cycles and series for Twombly, in which he reinvented great history painting. The exhibition is also the occasion to highlight the artist’s close relationship with Paris. The Centre Pompidou had devoted a first substantial retrospective to him as early as 1988.”

Press release from the Centre Pompidou

 

“The exhibition is deployed around three Cycles: Nine Discourses on Commodus, 1963, Fifty Days at Iliam, 1978, and Coronation of Sesostris, 2000. Each of them reinterprets an antique tradition by addressing themes such as love, war, death and night. Next to these exceptional series are exhibited magnificent works in which the artist confronts abstraction and figuration while exploring psychoanalysis, primitivism, writing and painting. The works incorporate names of gods, lyric heroes of Homer and Virgil and confirms his fascination for Classical authors, cosmogony, Greece, Rome and Egypt. Mysterious, obscene, crude, this exhibition confirms that Twombly was one the most original and unexpected of artists of the twentieth century.”

Mercedes Lambarri
Cataloguer, Contemporary art

 

Cy Twombly. 'Still Life, Black Mountain College I' 1951

Cy Twombly. 'Still Life, Black Mountain College II' 1951

Cy Twombly. 'Still Life, Black Mountain College III' 1951

 

Cy Twombly
Still Life, Black Mountain College
1951
Dry print on cardboard
43,1 x 27.9 cm
Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio collection
© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly 'Untitled (Lexington)' 1951

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled (Lexington)
1951
Oil-based house paint on canvas
101.6 x 121.9 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Volublis' 1953

 

Cy Twombly
Volubilis
1953
White lead pencil, oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas
139.7 x 193 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation, on deposit at the Menil Collection, Houston
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy The Menil Collection

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) III' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) IV' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) V' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) VI' 1957

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Grottaferrata) VII' 1957

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled (Grottaferrata) (No’s 3-7)
1957
Wax crayon and lead pencil on squared paper
7 drawings: 21,6 x 29,9 cm (each)
Private Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve, St.

 

 

“Resisting the term ‘graffiti’ (‘naughty or aggressive’ protest) that is often applied to his work, Twombly says that, ‘it’s more lyrical … in the totality of the painting, feeling and content are more complicated, or more elaborate than say just graffiti.’ Barthes suggests that Twombly’s impossible calligraphy invokes ‘what one might call writing’s field of allusions’ – a cultural field as well as feeling and content; a long way from a fine hand. His writing is also epigraphic, in the double sense of alluding to the object or surface on which it is written, and requiring to be deciphered like an ancient inscription. Twombly’s illegible scrawls and polyglot, non-standardised capitals, his interweaving of phrases from high modernist European poets and names from the Graeco-Roman tradition, evoke the longue durée of a commemorative culture that reaches back to Egypt and beyond: cult as well as culture.”

Mary Jacobus. “Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile,” in Tate Papers no. 10

 

Cy Twombly. 'Sperlonga Collage' 1959

 

Cy Twombly
Sperlonga Collage
1959
Pieces of semi-transparent cristal paper, oil-based house paint on paper
85 x 62 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

 

ROOM 1

The 1950s saw Twombly evidence a precocious maturity. After leaving Black Mountain College – the experimental liberal arts college in North Carolina where he encountered the crème de la crème of the US avant-garde – the 24-year-old painter from Lexington, Virginia, set off on a trip to Europe and North Africa in the company of Robert Rauschenberg. On returning to New York in late spring 1953, he produced his first major works, the sounds of their titles recalling villages and archaeological sites of Morocco. These were followed by white canvases covered in script – Twombly disliked the term “graffiti” employed by many of the critics – and its suggestion of triviality. The masterpiece of the decade is undoubtedly the series of white paintings done at Lexington in 1959, which Leo Castelli however refused to show. The austerity of their pictorial language makes outstanding works, economy of means being pushed to an extreme in the combination of white house paint and pencil.

ROOM 2

In the summer of 1957, Cy Twombly returned to Italy to visit his friend Betty Stokes, who was married to Venetian aristocrat Alvise Di Robilant and had just given birth to their first child. The Robilants were then living at Grottaferrata, where Twombly took several photographs of Betty. During his stay, he also made a series of eight wax crayons drawings, which he presented to her. One of these has since been separated from the group, leaving only seven, outstanding in their vigorous hand and lively colour.

 

Cy Twombly. 'School of Athens' 1961

 

Cy Twombly
School of Athens
1961
Oil, oil-based house paint, coloured pencil and lead pencil on canvas, 190,3 x 200,5 cm
Private Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus' 1962

 

Cy Twombly
Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus
1962
259 x 302 cm
Oil, lead pencil on canvas
Collection Centre Pompidou, Paris
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Describing space in Twombly’s work, Barthes uses the term ‘rare’ (Latin, rarus): ‘that which has gaps or interstices, sparse, porous, scattered’.

 

Cy Twombly. 'The Vengeance of Achilles' 1962

 

Cy Twombly
The Vengeance of Achilles
1962
Oil, lead pencil on canvas
300 x 175 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Kunsthaus Zürich, Zürich

 

Roland Barthes famously wrote of Twombly: ‘His work is based not upon concept (the trace) but rather upon an activity (tracing)’. In Twombly’s graphic art, the trace is the record of a gesture. Barthes again: ‘line is action become visible’. Like Olson, Twombly connects heart to line via the body.

 

Cy Twombly. View of the series 'Nine Discourses on Commodus' 1963

 

Cy Twombly
View of the series Nine Discourses on Commodus
1963
Guggenheim Bilbao Museo, Bilbao
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

 

ROOM 4

After Twombly’s marriage to Italian aristocrat Luisa Tatiana Franchetti, celebrated in New York on 20 April 1959, the couple settled in Rome, living in a palazzo on the Via di Monserrato, in a quarter known for its intellectual life. Twombly had just given up using his fluid and viscous house paint for oil paint in tubes with precisely the opposite properties. Between 1960 and 1962 he produced some of his most sexual paintings, Empire of Flora being an evocative example. Partial glimpses of body parts, male and female, are scattered over canvases that seem to preserve the sensual memory of hot Roman nights.

ROOM 5

In late 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Cy Twombly devoted a cycle of nine paintings to the Roman emperor Commodus (161-192), son of Marcus Aurelius and remembered as a cruel and bloodthirsty ruler. In these he conveys the climate of violence that prevailed during his reign, marked by executions and terror. Shown at Leo Castelli’s in New York in the spring of 1964, the paintings were roundly condemned by the critics. Won to the newly emergent Minimalism, the New York public was unable to grasp Twombly’s painterly gifts and his ability to render on canvas the complex psychological phases informing the life and death of the emperor. At the close of the exhibition, Twombly recovered the paintings, which would be sold to an Italian industrialist before being acquired in 2007 by the Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao.

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Having painted a series under the sign of Eros in the very early part of the decade, in 1962 Twombly turned to Thanatos, death, a theme that finds paroxysmal expression in his first two meditations on the Trojan War, Achilles Mourning the Death of Patroclus and Vengeance of Achilles. In these two paintings, brought together for this exhibition, Twombly gives form to Achilles’ sorrow and fury on the death of his friend. The Ilium triptych, for its part, was broken up at an unknown date, the first panel joining the Eli and Edythe Broad collection in Los Angeles. In the early 2000s, Twombly painted a new version of that panel to recreate the triptych, then owned by collector François Pinault.

 

Cy Twombly. 'Alessandro Twombly' 1965

 

Cy Twombly
Alessandro Twombly
1965
Dry print on cardboard
43.2 x 28 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Night Watch' 1966

 

Cy Twombly
Night Watch
1966
Oil-based house paint, wax crayon on canvas
190 x 200 cm
Private Collection
Courtesy Jeffrey Hoffeld Fine Arts, Inc.
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Cheim & Read

 

Cy Twombly. 'Pan' 1975

 

Cy Twombly
Pan
1975
Oil pastel and collage on paper
148 x 100 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives
Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Apollo' 1975

 

Cy Twombly
Apollo
1975
Oil pastel and lead pencil on paper
150 x 134 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy
Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Venus' 1975

 

Cy Twombly
Venus
1975
Oil Pastel, lead pencil and collage on paper
150 x 137 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola
Del Roscio

 

 

Walter Benjamin’s 1917 essay, ‘Painting, or Signs and Marks’, argues that, ‘The graphic line is defined by its contrast to area’ as opposed to the mark (‘Mal’) and painting (‘Malerei’): ‘the realm of the mark is a medium.’ His distinction between line and mark, drawing and painting, is especially hard to maintain in relation to Cy Twombly: the scribbled pencilling, the smudges and smears, are the marks of an affective body used as a writing instrument. Where Benjamin speaks proleptically to Twombly is in the decisive role he gives to writing, inscription, and naming, along with the spatial marks on monuments and gravestones. ‘[T]he linguistic word’, he writes, ‘lodges in the medium of the language of painting.’ With its collage of quotations, inscriptions, and names, Twombly’s entire oeuvre could be read as a retrospective commentary on this early Benjamin essay.

Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Vol.1, 19131926, ed. Marcus Bullock and Michael W. Jennings, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, pp.84-5 quoted in Mary Jacobus. “Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile,” in Tate Papers no. 10

 

Cy Twombly. 'Fifty Days at Iliam Shield of Achilles (Part 1)' 1978

 

Cy Twombly
Fifty Days at Iliam Shield of Achilles (Part I)
1978
Oil, oil stick, lead pencil on canvas
191.8 x 170.2 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, gift (by exchange) of Samuel S.White 3rd and Vera White 1989-90-1
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphie

 

Cy Twombly. 'Fifty Days at Iliam Shades of Achilles, Patroclus and Hector (Part VI)' 1978

 

Cy Twombly
Fifty Days at Iliam Shades of Achilles, Patroclus and Hector (Part VI)
1978
Oil, Oil Pencil, lead pencil on canvas
299.7 x 491.5 cm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphie, gift (by exchange) of Samuel S.White 3rd and Vera White, 1989-90-6
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphie

 

 

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Reacting to the Minimalism and Conceptualism that emerged in the United States in the 1960s, in 1966 Twombly, then living in Rome, embarked on a new series of remarkably austere paintings, with backgrounds of grey or black inscribed with simple forms or script-like loops in white wax crayon. He showed these at the Galleria Notizie, Turin, in early 1967. In the autumn, Leo Castelli in New York exhibited a second series, painted in January in a Canal Street loft made available to the painter by curator and collector David Whitney. Among the works shown was Untitled (New York City) (1967, cat. No. 75), which Twombly would later exchange with Andy Warhol for one of his Tuna Fish Disasters.

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Twombly’s sculptures might be described as “assemblages” or “hybridisations”, in that they consist of disparate elements. These combinations of found materials (pieces of wood, electrical plugs, cardboard boxes, scraps of metal, dried or artificial flowers) are unified by a thin coat of plaster. The white in which they are roughly painted catches the light, bringing out subtle nuances in the surface and giving them a spectral appearance. As Twombly explained in an interview with art critic David Sylvester, “White paint is my marble”. Sometimes later cast in bronze, these sculptures suggest myths, symbolic objects, archaeological finds, as in Winter’s Passage Luxor (Porto Ercole) (1985). “Cy Twombly’s sculpture,” wrote Edmund de Waal, “seems more archaic than archaizing, as if the impulse behind its creation were ancient itself.”

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In 1975, Cy Twombly bought a 16th-century house at Bassano in Teverina, north of Rome, and after basic renovations he established his summer studio there. Inspired by Homer’s Iliad, read in Alexander Pope’s 18th-century English translation, he embarked in 1977 on the major cycle “Fifty Days at Iliam,” whose ten paintings were completed over two successive summers. In the word “Ilium”, one of the ancient names for Troy, Twombly replaced the U with an A, preferring the sound. For him, the letter A evoked Achilles, the Greek hero to whom he had devoted two paintings in 1962. After being shown in 1978 at the Lone Star Foundation (now Dia Art Foundation) in New York, the work remained boxed up for 10 years, to be seen again only upon its purchase in 1989 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where it is on permanent exhibition in a room devoted to Cy Twombly. This exhibition marks the first time it has been shown in Europe.

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Formia)' 1981

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled (Formia)
1981
Wood, iron wire, nails, string, white paint
152 x 88.5 x 33.5 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Foundazione
Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Lexington)' 2004

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled (Lexington)
2004
Wood , screw, rope, scakcloth, plaster, synthetic resin paint
206.5 x 44.5 x 45 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Sammlung Udo and Anette Brandhorst

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Bassano in Teverina)' 1985

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled (Bassano in Teverina)
1985
Oil, acrylic on wooden panel
181.7 x 181.7 cm
Cy Twombly Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Wilder Shores of Love' 1985

 

Cy Twombly
Wilder Shores of Love
1985
Oil-based house paint , oil (oil paint stick), coloured pencil, lead pencil on wooden panel
140 x 120 cm
Private Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Summer Madness' 1990

 

Cy Twombly
Summer Madness
1990
Acrylic, oil, coloured pencil, lead
Pencil on paper mounted on wooden panels
150 x 126 cm
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Quattro Stagioni: Primavera' 1993-1995

 

Cy Twombly
Quattro Stagioni: Primavera
1993-1995
Acrylic, oil, coloured pencil and et lead pencil on canvas
313.2 x 189.5
Tate, London
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Tate, London 2016

 

 

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“Coronation of Sesostris” is one of the major painting cycles that punctuate Cy Twombly’s career, differing from the purely abstract series in their incorporation of narrative elements. Inspired by the example of the god Râ, whose sun-boat traverses the heavens from dawn to dusk to the end of night, Twombly opens the series with luminous canvasses dominated by sunny yellow and red to close it in black and white with an evocation of Eros from a poem of Sappho’s: “Eros weaver of Myth / Eros, sweet and bitter / Eros, bringer of pain.” Twombly combines fragmentary references to Sesostris I, to ancient Greek poets Sappho and Alcman, and to the contemporary poet Patricia Waters. Begun at Twombly’s house in Bassano, this cycle was completed after the canvases were shipped to Lexington. Sally Mann’s photographs show canvases of different sizes tacked to the walls of the little studio, showing that they were stretched only when finished.

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For the Bacchus series, painted at Twombly’s Gaeta studio in early 2005, in the midst of the Iraq War, the artist remembered again Homer’s Iliad and returned to the very characteristic writing he had explored in the “Black Paintings” of the late 1960s. Here, however, he replaced the white wax crayon with red paint evocative of both blood and wine, allowed to run freely across the vast beige canvases. The first series consisted of eight monumental paintings that were shown in late 2005 at the Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue in New York. Between 2006 and 2008, Twombly produced another series on the theme of Bacchus, some of these paintings being even larger in format. The two works here are from the first series.

Twombly took up photography at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and never afterwards gave it up. Studying under American photographer Hazel-Frieda Larsen, in 1951 he produced a series of still lifes with bottles and other glass vessels that recall the memory of the work of the Italian painter Giorgio  Morandi. In Morocco in 1953, on his first trans-Atlantic travels, he attentively studied the chairs and draped tablecloths of a Tetouan restaurant. But it was only later, on discovering the square format of the Polaroid, that he discovered his own photographic identity. Reflecting his taste for the blurred, for colours sometimes pastel and sometimes stridently saturated, the dry-printed enlargements evoke a world of contemplation. The photographs evoke the places he lived and his interest in sculpture, flowers and plants. When a friend brought him citrons, Buddha’s hands and other citrus fruits, he captured their sculptural and sensual aspect in a series of Polaroids. Distant from the photographic conventions of the time, Twombly’s images are “succinct and discreet poems.”

 

Cy Twombly 'Lemons (VI)' (Gaète) (detail) 1998

 

Cy Twombly
Lemons (VI) (Gaète) (detail)
1998
Dry print on cardboard
43.1 x 27.9
Fondazione Nicola del Roscio collection
© Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio, courtesy Archives Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Coronation of Sesostris (Part III)' 2000

 

Cy Twombly
Coronation of Sesostris (Part III)
2000
Acrylic, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas
206.1 x 136.5 cm
Pinault Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection

 

 

Cy Twombly’s remark that ‘lines have a great effect on painting’ resonates not only with his graphic practice but with his relation to poetry. The importance of the modern German poet Rainer Maria Rilke to Twombly includes the figure of the Orphic poet and their shared interest in the ancient River Nile. Twombly’s Egyptian series, Coronation of Sesostris, 2000, represents a late flowering of his remarkable graphic inventiveness…

Twombly’s ten-part Coronation of Sesostris, 2000, is the culminating synthesis of his ship ideographs and whirling expeditionary chariots: a blazing, triumphal departure that burns itself out on the far side of the Nile. Begun in Gaeta and completed in Virginia, it combines deceptive simplicity with painterly sophistication and poetic adaptation. Twombly calls this multi-media series (drawn, written, painted) one of his favourite sets and ‘very personal’. It incorporates a poem of 1996 by the Southern poet Patricia Waters, not a translation this time, although its title (‘Now is the Drinking’) translates Nunc est bibendum. With a few strokes and deletions, Twombly ‘interprets’ the poem to create his own reticent version:

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When they leave,
Do you think they hesitate,
Turn and make a farewell sign,
Some gesture of regret?

When they leave,
the music is loudest,
the sun high,

and you, dizzy with wine
befuddled with well-being,
sink into your body
as though it were real,
as if yours to keep.

You neither see their going,
nor hear their silence.

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Either side of this ambiguous celebration of bodily oblivion, Twombly’s sequence tracks the energetic course of the Pharaonic conquerer, Sesostris II.

Mary Jacobus. “Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile,” in Tate Papers no. 10

 

Cy Twombly. 'Coronation of Sesostris (Part V)' 2000

 

Cy Twombly
Coronation of Sesostris (Part V)
2000
Acrylic, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas
206.1 x 156.5 cm
Pinault Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection

 

Cy Twombly. 'Coronation of Sesostris (Part VI)' 2000

 

Cy Twombly
Coronation of Sesostris (Part VI)
2000
Acrylic, wax crayon, lead pencil on canvas
203.7 x 155.6 cm
Pinault Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Pinault Collection

 

 

Jonas Storsve: Curator’s point of view

Rich and complex, the work of Cy Twombly, who passed away in 2011, spans a period of some sixty years without ever losing any of its force, even in the very last years of the artist’s life. One of the most productive in recent history, Twombly’s career links the culture of post-war America, dominated artistically by Abstract Expressionism, and the Classical Mediterranean culture that he discovered as a young man and made his own. The artist would remain very close to the world of his birth, that of the Southern United States, better known in Europe for its literature, with William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Truman Capote and more.

From his childhood and youth in Lexington, Virginia, where he grew up under the attentive eye of his African-American nanny, Lula Bell Watts, he retained the characteristic and sometimes difficult-to-understand accent of the South. The boy’s family environment seems to have stimulated his intellectual curiosity, cultivated his sensibility and encouraged an interest in painting. When in 1952, at the age of 24, he applied for a grant to travel to Europe, he said he wanted “to study the prehistoric cave drawings of Lascaux.” He also planned to view French, Italian and Dutch museums, Gothic and Baroque architecture, and Roman ruins. He also declared himself to be “drawn to the primitive, the ritual and fetishistic elements, to the symmetrical visual order.” Once he had his grant, he invited the artist Robert Rauschenberg, whom he met in New York two years earlier, to accompany him. They took a ship for Naples on 20 August 1952. The rich and original culture that he acquired would nourish his work. His readings were also voyages – Goethe, Homer, Horace, Herodotus, Keats, Mallarmé, Ovid, Rilke, Sappho, Virgil – on which he would draw for his creation. He found inspiration too in less well-known authors, among them Lesley Blanch, Robert Burton, George Gissing and 13th-century Persian poet and mystic Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. This uncommonly refined sensibility found an expressive outlet in his painting.

Yet while Twombly was indeed a highly cultivated and well-read painter, this was only one aspect of his complex personality. The sophistication of his work is accompanied by a constant attention to vernacular realities, visible to varying degrees but always present. Endowed with a rare wit and humour, Twombly could be deliciously irreverent and even dirty-minded when he wanted. In front of his painting Apollo (1963), he remarked laconically to Paul Winkler, who used to be director of the Menil Collection in Houston: “Rachel and I used to love to go dancing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem”. And in a whole series of drawings from 1981-1982, he wrote the phrase “Private Ejaculations”, in the knowledge that in the 17th century it referred to short, intense prayer at regular intervals.

We know today, too, that photography played an important role in Twombly’s work and life. A private, even secretive man, he nonetheless regularly allowed himself to be photographed. Some of the most famous pictures of the artist were taken by Horst P. Horst for Vogue magazine, illustrating an article by Valentine Lawford entitled “Roman Classic Surprise” published in the November 1966 issue. Taken in Twombly’s apartment in the Via Monserrato in Rome, the photographs reveal a dandy living in palatial accommodations. This appearance in Vogue did little to improve his relationship with the United States, at a low ebb since the controversy of the Nine Discourses on Commodus shown at Leo Castelli’s in New York. It was considered too smart and sophisticated: too distant, in brief, from the American idea of an American artist.

Twelve years later, in 1978, Heiner Bastian published the first monograph on Twombly’s painting, for which the artist took care to present himself differently. The cover picture shows him dressed in jeans and pull-over, boots on his feet, sitting on the ground beneath a tree, with sheep close by – an image intended to communicate an idea of an artist close to the earth, living a healthy and simple life. Twombly indeed was probably both, dandy and Roman shepherd.

Sally Mann, a friend from Lexington, often photographed Twombly and his studio toward the end of his life. Thanks to her we have photos that document the development of the Coronation of Sesostris series, which he finished in the city of his birth. Among the most beautiful of the images are those of the studio, empty of work, with just traces of paint on the walls. From some of these ghostly images of a whole phase of Twombly’s work, of his place of work and creation, Mann assembled an album, recently published as Remembered Light.

The Centre Pompidou is staging the first comprehensive retrospective of Cy Twombly’s work in Europe. Unprecedented in scope, bringing together works from public and private collections the whole world over, the exhibition will be shown only in Paris. Organised around three great series – Nine Discourses on Commodus (1963), Fifty Days at Iliam (1978) and Coronation of Sesostris (2000) – it offers a chronological survey of the whole of the artist’s career, the 140 paintings, drawings and photographs affording an insight into the complexity of his work as a whole, simultaneously scholarly and sensual. Among the works shown are some of his best-known ones, many never exhibited in France before. Polyphonic in conception, the accompanying catalogue proposes a multiplicity of approaches, with essays on different aspects and periods of Twombly’s career. It also includes reflections and personal impressions by other artists, and accounts of the formation of the two great collections of Twombly’s work – the Brandhorsts’ and Yvon Lambert’s – as well as recollections by his son Alessandro Twombly. The catalogue closes on a lively and joyful portrait of Twombly from the pen of Nicola Del Roscio. Through this varied testimony, readers will discover not only the artist, but also the man, seemingly returned to life before our eyes.”

Jonas Storsve in Code Couleur, no. 26, September – December 2016, pp. 18-23.

 

Cy Twombly. 'Blooming' 2001-2008

 

Cy Twombly
Blooming
2001-2008
Acrylic, wax crayon on 10 wooden panels
250 x 500 cm
Private collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Archives Fondazione Nicola Del Roscio

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled, (A Gathering of Time)' 2003

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled, (A Gathering of Time)
2003
Acrylic on canvas
215.9 x 267.3 cm
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Untitled (Bacchus)' 2005

 

Cy Twombly
Untitled (Bacchus)
2005
Acrylic on canvas
317.5 x 417.8 cm
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Sans titre' (Gaète) 2007

 

Cy Twombly
Sans titre (Gaète)
2007
Acrylic, wax crayon on wooden panel
252 x 552 cm
Museum Brandhorst, Munich
Udo and Anette Brandhorst Collection
© Cy Twombly Foundation

 

Cy Twombly. 'Camino Real (V)' 2010

 

Cy Twombly
Camino Real (V),
2010
Acrylic on wood panel
252.4 x 185.1 cm
Louis Vuitton Foundation
© Cy Twombly Foundation, courtesy Gagosian Gallery

 

 

Centre Pompidou 
75191 Paris cedex 04
Tel: 00 33 (0)1 44 78 12 33

Opening hours:
Exhibition open every day from 11 am – 9 pm except on Tuesday
Closed on May 1st

Centre Pompidou website

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28
Nov
13

Vale Saul Leiter: the world will be less colour-full, less abstract, less sensual without him

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“Seeing is a neglected enterprise,” Mr. Leiter often said

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“I am not immersed in self-admiration,” he said. “When I am listening to Vivaldi or Japanese music or making spaghetti at 3 in the morning and realize that I don’t have the proper sauce for it, fame is of no use.”

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“He broke all the rules when it came to composing a photograph,” said Mr. Leiter’s assistant, Margit Erb, who confirmed his death, at his home. “He put things into the abstract, he paid attention to color, he threw foregrounds out of focus, which made the photographs feel very voyeuristic. He applied a painterly mentality that the photography world had not seen.”

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His art was enough.

Marcus

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Saul Leiter. 'Taxi' 1956

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Saul Leiter
Taxi
1956

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“”In order to build a career and to be successful, one has to be determined,” Mr. Leiter said in an interview for a monograph published in Germany in 2008. “One has to be ambitious. I much prefer to drink coffee, listen to music and to paint when I feel like it.” …

Unplanned and unstaged, Mr. Leiter’s photographs are slices fleetingly glimpsed by a walker in the city. People are often in soft focus, shown only in part or absent altogether, though their presence is keenly implied. Sensitive to the city’s found geometry, he shot by design around the edges of things: vistas are often seen through rain, snow or misted windows.

“A window covered with raindrops interests me more than a photograph of a famous person,” Mr. Leiter says in [the film] “In No Great Hurry.””

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Read the obituary of this wonderful artist at “Saul Leiter, Photographer Who Captured New York’s Palette, Dies at 89” on the New York Times website, November 27, 2013

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Saul Leiter. 'Foot on El' 1954

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Saul Leiter
Foot on El
1954

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More images

Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter’ at Kunst Haus Wien, Vienna, January – May 2013
Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter Retrospective’ at The House of Photography at Deichtorhallen Hamburg, February – April 2012
Exhibition: ‘Saul Leiter: New York Reflections’ at the Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam, October 2011 – March 2012

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08
Sep
12

Exhibition: ‘Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960’ at the Guggenheim Museum, New York

Exhibition dates: 8th June 8 – 12th September 2012

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This is pure indulgence. These paintings are so delicious I couldn’t resist a posting. Just imagine having ANY of them (especially the Hartigan, de Kooning or the Soulanges) on your wall at home… oh my!

Many thankx to the Guggenheim Museum for allowing me to publish the pictures in the posting. Please click on the pictures to see a larger version of the image.

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Grace Hartigan

Ireland
1958
Oil on canvas
200 x 271 cm
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice
© Grace Hartigan Estate

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José Guerrero
Signs and Portents
1956
Oil on canvas
175.9 x 250.2 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VEGAP, Madrid
© The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

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Takeo Yamaguchi

Work Yellow (Unstable Square [Fuantei shikaku])
1958
Oil on plywood
182.6 x 182.6 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
© Takeo Yamaguchi

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Pierre Soulages

Painting, November 20, 1956 (Peinture, 20 novembre 1956)
1956
Oil on canvas
195 x 130.2 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
© 2012 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

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“From June 8 to September 12, 2012, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960. Comprising approximately 100 works by nearly 70 artists, the exhibition explores international trends in abstraction in the decade before the Guggenheim’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building opened in October 1959, when vanguard artists working in the United States and Europe pioneered such influential art forms as Abstract Expressionism, Cobra, and Art Informel. In the 1950s, many countries ended their postwar isolationism and entered a phase of cultural openness and internationalism. The prominent French art critic Michel Tapié declared the existence of un art autre (art of another kind), a term embracing a mosaic of styles, but essentially signifying an avant-garde art that rejected a connection with any tradition or past idiom. With works by Karel Appel, Louise Bourgeois, Alberto Burri, Eduardo Chillida, Lucio Fontana, Grace Hartigan, Asger Jorn, Yves Klein, Willem de Kooning, Georges Mathieu, Isamu Noguchi, Kenzo Okada, Jackson Pollock, Pierre Soulages, Antoni Tàpies, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Takeo Yamaguchi, and Zao Wou-Ki, among others, the exhibition considers the artistic developments of the post-World War II period and draws greater attention to lesser-known artists in the museum?s collection alongside those long since canonized.

Abstract Expressionism encompasses a diverse range of postwar American painting that challenged the tradition of vertical easel painting. Beginning in the late 1940s, Pollock placed his canvases on the floor to pour, drip, and splatter paint onto them. This gestural act, with variations practiced by William Baziotes, De Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, and others, was termed “Action painting” by American critic Harold Rosenberg, who considered it a product of the artist’s unconscious outpouring or the enactment of some personal drama. The New York school, as these artists were called due to the city’s postwar transformation into an international nexus for vanguard art, expanded in the 1950s with the unique contributions of such painters as James Brooks and Hartigan, as well as energetic collagist-assemblers Conrad Marca-Relli and Robert Rauschenberg. Other painters eliminated the gestural stroke altogether. Mark Rothko used large planes of color, often to express universal human emotions and inspire a sense of awe for a secular world. Welder-sculptors such as Herbert Ferber and Theodore Roszak are also counted among the decade’s pioneering artists.

The postwar European avant-garde in many ways paralleled the expressive tendencies and untraditional methods of their transatlantic counterparts, though their cultural contexts differed. For artists in Spain, abstract art signified political liberation. Dissenting Italian artists correspondingly turned to abstraction against the renewed popularity of politicized realism. French artist Jean Dubuffet’s spontaneous approach, Art Brut (Raw art), retained figurative elements but radically opposed official culture, instead favoring the spontaneous and direct works of untrained individuals. His work influenced the Cobra group (1948-51), which was founded by Appel, Jorn, and other artists from Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam. The Cobra artists preferred thickly painted surfaces that married realism to lively color and expressive line in a new form of primitivism.

Eventually taking root in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, Art Informel refers to the antigeometric, antinaturalistic, and nonfigurative formal preoccupations of many European avant-garde artists, and their pursuit of spontaneity, looseness of form, and the irrational. Art Informel is alternatively known by several French terms: Abstraction lyrique (Lyrical Abstraction), Art autre (Art of another kind), matiérisme (matter art), and Tachisme (from tache, meaning blot or stain). The movement includes the work of Burri and Tàpies, who employed unorthodox materials like burlap or sand and focused on the transformative qualities of matter. Asian émigré artists Kumi Sugaï and Zao were likewise central to the postwar École de Paris (School of Paris) and melded their native traditions with modern painting styles. By the end of the 1950s, artists such as Lucio Fontana, Klein, and Piero Manzoni were exploring scientific, objective, and interactive approaches, and introduced pure monochrome surfaces. Other abstractionists engaged viewers’ senses and explored dematerialization, focusing on optical transformations as opposed to the art object itself, and investigating the effects of motion, light, and color.

Through the presentation of these varied styles and innovative developments in the post-World War II years, Art of Another Kind especially highlights paintings and sculptures that entered the Guggenheim collection under James Johnson Sweeney, the museum’s second director (1952-60). Following Solomon R. Guggenheim’s death in 1949 and the end of founding director and curator Hilla Rebay’s tenure in 1952, Sweeney championed emerging avant-garde artists and augmented the museum’s existing modern holdings with new works. Sweeney had stated, “I do not believe in the so-called ‘tastemakers,’ . . . but in what I would call ‘tastebreakers,’ the people who break open and enlarge our artistic frontiers.” His program of exhibitions and acquisitions considerably broadened the museum’s scope, and his vision included reconsidering the founding collection assembled by Solomon and Irene Guggenheim under Rebay’s guidance by uniting the abstract works by Vasily Kandinsky and other modernists with rarely seen representational works for a more complex perspective of the avant-garde in the first half of the twentieth century. Recently, the Guggenheim Museum highlighted his contributions to the institution in The Sweeney Decade: Acquisitions at the 1959 Inaugural, an exhibition featuring a selection of works that were first unveiled at the 1959 show in the museum’s new Wright building. On view in 2009 as part of the museum’s 50th-anniversary celebrations, The Sweeney Decade featured 24 paintings and sculptures from the 1950s collected under his leadership. Art of Another Kind offers a more comprehensive elaboration of his vision along with works that were added to the collection after his tenure.

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Exhibition installation

While the exhibition explores individual styles, diversity within abstraction, and artists often working independently of established groups or affiliations, works are loosely organized according to artists’ locus of activity and stylistic trends: New York school; Art Brut and Cobra; School of Paris; Spanish and Italian Informalism; Kinetic art; and, finally, late 1950s experiments with matiérisme, performance-based painting, and the monochrome. Highlights within the installation include Outburst (Éclatement, 1956) by Judit Reigl, newly acquired in 2012, and Alexander Calder’s Red Lily Pads (Nénuphars rouges, 1956), suspended in the upper ramps and visible from the rotunda floor below. The exhibition also includes the work of 11 living artists.

Visitors will have the opportunity to browse through historic exhibition catalogues produced by the first full-time publications department established during Sweeney’s tenure. Designed by the Swiss-born typographer and designer Herbert Matter, catalogues from the era helped shape the museum’s visual identity and chronicle the development of the art championed by the Guggenheim under Sweeney in the 1950s. Selected books will be available in the museum at iPad stations and online at guggenheim.org/new-york/exhibitions/publications/from-the-archives.

Extensive content related to the exhibition will be available on the Guggenheim’s website, which features a selection of supporting materials from the museum’s archives, including letters between artists and director James Johnson Sweeney, invitations to exhibitions, and historic photos of Guggenheim exhibitions. In addition, 20 works and several exhibition themes will be explored through short texts. Multimedia content including video footage and interviews with the curators will be added to the site once the exhibition opens to the public.”

Press release from the Guggenheim Museum website

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Mark Rothko

Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red)
1949
Oil on canvas
207 x 167.6 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Gift, Elane and Werner Dannheisser and The Dannheisser Foundation
© 2012 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Karel Appel

The Crying Crocodile Tries to Catch the Sun
1956
Oil on canvas
145.5 x 113.1 cm
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1976
© 2012 Karel Appel Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Asger Jorn
A Soul for Sale (Ausverkauf einer Seele)
1958-59
Oil with sand on canvas
200 x 250 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Purchased with funds contributed by the Evelyn Sharp Foundation, 1983
© 2012 Donation Jorn, Silkeborg / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/COPY-DAN, Copenhagen

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Willem de Kooning
Composition
1955
Oil, enamel, and charcoal on canvas
201 x 175.6 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
© 2012 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 5th Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York

Opening hours:
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Saturday 10 am – 7.45 pm
Thursday closed

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20
Apr
11

Exhibition: ‘Abstract Expressionist New York: The Big Picture’ at The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York

Exhibition dates: October 3rd 2010 – April 25th 2011

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970) 'Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea' 1944

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970)
Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea
1944
Oil on canvas
6′ 3 3/8″ x 7′ 3/4″ (191.4 x 215.2 cm)
Bequest of Mrs. Mark Rothko through The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc.
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea pictures two creatures dancing between sea and sky, surrounded by arabesques, spirals, and stripes. The forms “have no direct association with any particular visible experience, but in them one recognizes the principle and passion of organisms,” Rothko said. For him art was “an adventure into an unknown world”; like the Surrealists before him, Rothko looked inward, to his own unconscious mind, for inspiration and material for his work.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

 

What a privilege to post all of these works together.

Aaron Siskind has to be one of my favourite photographers of all time (and space). His Martha’s Vineyard (see photograph below), like most of his work, is superb: the abstraction and counterpose are magnificent. Team this with a couple of Rothko, a Motherwell, a de Kooning and a knockout of a Hartigan and you certainly have the start of ‘The Big Picture’. I wish I could have been there to see this exhibition – sigh!

Marcus

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Many thankx to The Museum of Modern Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011. Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956) 'The She-Wolf' 1943

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956)
The She-Wolf
1943
Oil, gouache, and plaster on canvas
41 7/8 x 67″ (106.4 x 170.2 cm)
Purchase
© 2010 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

In the early 1940s Pollock, like many of his peers, explored primeval or mythological themes in his work. The wolf in this painting may allude to the animal that suckled the twin founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, in the myth of the city’s birth. But “She-Wolf came into existence because I had to paint it,” Pollock said in 1944. In an attitude typical of his generation, he added, “Any attempt on my part to say something about it, to attempt explanation of the inexplicable, could only destroy it.” The She-Wolf was featured in Pollock’s first solo exhibition, at Art of This Century gallery in New York in 1943. MoMA acquired the painting the following year, making it the first work by Pollock to enter a museum collection.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at right, Jackson Pollock’s painting Number 1A, 1948. Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956) 'Number 1A, 1948' 1948

 

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956)
Number 1A, 1948
1948
Oil and enamel paint on canvas
68″ x 8′ 8″ (172.7 x 264.2 cm)
Purchase
© 2010 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

While the style of “drip” painting has become synonymous with the name Jackson Pollock, here the artist has autographed the work even more directly, with several handprints found at the composition’s upper right. Around this time Pollock stopped giving his paintings evocative titles and began instead to number them. His wife, artist Lee Krasner, later explained, “Numbers are neutral. They make people look at a painting for what it is – pure painting.” Collectors did not immediately appreciate Pollock’s radical new style, and when first exhibited, in 1949 (then titled Number 1, 1948), this painting remained unsold. Later that year the work was shown again in the artist’s second solo exhibition (Pollock added “A” to the title to avoid confusion with more recent work) and shortly thereafter was purchased by MoMA.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Bradley Walker Tomlin (American, 1899-1953) 'Number 20' 1949

 

Bradley Walker Tomlin (American, 1899-1953)
Number 20
1949
Oil on canvas
7′ 2″ x 6′ 8 1/4″ (218.5 x 203.9 cm)
Gift of Philip Johnson

 

 

Although some of the ribbons and bars that animate Number 20 are recognisable letters of the alphabet (E, X, or Z) these and their more abstract neighbours evoke calligraphy without constituting it. A critic described these symbols as “hieroglyphs that lack only the appropriate Rosetta Stone for their deciphering.” Tomlin distributed his nonobjective imagery evenly on the canvas, depriving the work of a traditional focal point and creating a staccato rhythm and allover design that invites the viewer’s glance to travel across its surface.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at left, Barnett Newman’s painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Barnett Newman (American, 1905-1970) 'Vir Heroicus Sublimis' 1950-51

 

Barnett Newman (American, 1905-1970)
Vir Heroicus Sublimis
1950-51
Oil on canvas
7′ 11 3/8″ x 17′ 9 1/4″ (242.2 x 541.7 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller
© 2019 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Vir Heroicus Sublimis, Newman’s largest painting at the time of its completion, is meant to overwhelm the senses. Viewers may be inclined to step back from it to see it all at once, but Newman instructed precisely the opposite. When the painting was first exhibited, in 1951 at the Betty Parsons Gallery in New York, Newman tacked to the wall a notice that read, “There is a tendency to look at large pictures from a distance. The large pictures in this exhibition are intended to be seen from a short distance.” Newman believed deeply in the spiritual potential of abstract art. The Latin title of this painting means “Man, heroic and sublime.”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Jack Tworkov (American, born Poland, 1900-1982). 'West 23rd' 1963

 

Jack Tworkov (American, born Poland, 1900-1982)
West 23rd
1963
Oil on canvas
60″ x 6′ 8″ (152.6 x 203.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© Estate of Jack Tworkov, courtesy Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York

 

Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991). 'Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 54' 1957-61

 

Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991)
Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 54
1957-61
Oil on canvas
70″ x 7′ 6 1/4″ (178 x 229 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Given anonymously
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at left, David Smith’s sculpture Australia (1951). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

David Smith (American, 1906-1965). 'Australia' 1951

 

David Smith (American, 1906-1965)
Australia
1951
Painted steel
6′ 7 1/2″ x 8′ 11 7/8″ x 16 1/8″ (202 x 274 x 41 cm), on cinder block base, 17 1/2 x 16 3/4 x 15 1/4″ (44.5 x 42.5 x 38.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of William Rubin
© Estate of David Smith/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

 

At the time of its completion, Australia was Smith’s largest sculpture. By welding together thin rods and plates of steel he created a work that is simultaneously delicate and strong, a masterpiece of tension, balance, and form that he described as a “drawing in space.” Sculpture has traditionally been defined by volume and mass; Australia is, in contrast, built of lines. In what might be described as an allover sculpture, the linear activity is greatest at the perimeters, while the center is nearly empty. Because of its title, the work is sometimes read as an abstracted kangaroo, its lines capturing the spring of the animal’s leap.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing a wall of photographs by Aaron Siskind, including at second right, Martha’s Vineyard (1954-59). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991). 'Martha's Vineyard' 1954-59

 

Aaron Siskind (American, 1903-1991)
Martha’s Vineyard
1954-59
Gelatin silver print
12 7/16 x 16 1/2″ (31.6 x 41.9 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2010 Estate of Aaron Siskind

 

Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974) 'Man Looking at Woman' 1949

 

Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903-1974)
Man Looking at Woman
1949
Oil on canvas
42 x 54″ (106.6 x 137.1 cm)
Gift of the artist
© Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 

 

In the 1940s Gottlieb began to emulate the art of early Native American and Middle Eastern cultures, explorations that eventually inspired his Pictograph paintings, including Man Looking at Woman. This work and others like it feature hieroglyphic-like script distributed across the canvas in a series of gridded compartments. Gottlieb avoided using decipherable signs. In 1955 he said of these works, “I frequently hear the question, ‘What do these images mean?’ That is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking or optical facts. A better question would be: ‘Do these images convey any emotional truth?'”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Arshile Gorky (American, born Armenia, 1904-1948) 'Agony' 1947

 

Arshile Gorky (American, born Armenia, 1904-1948)
Agony
1947
Oil on canvas
40 x 50 1/2″ (101.6 x 128.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. A. Conger Goodyear Fund
© 2010 The Arshile Gorky Foundation / The Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The evocative title of this work and the fiery intensity of the palette signal a departure from Gorky’s more lyrical abstractions of the preceding years. Agony, a blazing, impassioned scene, is often understood in relation to the traumatic events of the artist’s personal life, including a fire in his studio and cancer.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

 

Subtitled The Big Picture, this installation of 100 Abstract Expressionist paintings and a rich selection of some 60 sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs, occupies the entire fourth floor of the Museum and chronicles the era of Abstract Expressionism. The movement drew together a host of artists with greatly varying stylistic approaches, but with a common commitment to the power of an abstract art that could express personal convictions and profound human values.

Organised in a loose chronology, intermittently interrupted by monographic galleries that allow for the in-depth study of an individual artist’s practice, the installation opens with a selection of paintings and drawings that attest to the acutely self-conscious sense of new beginnings present in the work of individuals such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, they and their peers – not yet a cohesive group – created imagery that evoked primitive man or ancient myth, and conjured an aquatic or geological pre-human world.

Upon entering the galleries, visitors are greeted by Jackson Pollock’s The She-Wolf (1943), which was featured in the artist’s first solo exhibition, in 1943, and was the first work by Pollock to enter a museum collection when MoMA acquired it the following year. Made before Pollock developed his signature “drip” style, the canvas shows that a free-form abstraction and an unfettered play of materials were already parts of his process. Also on view is Mark Rothko’s Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea (1944), a canvas picturing two creatures floating between sea and sky, surrounded by arabesques, spirals, and stripes that betrays the influence of Surrealism on Rothko’s early work.

A monographic gallery devoted to the work of Barnett Newman includes Onement, I (1952), which the artist later identified as his breakthrough painting. Modest in size, it consists of a monochromatic background divided in half by a vertical band, or “zip” as the artist later called it. Every successive painting by Newman, as seen in the seven works in this gallery, features this particular compositional motif, although their formal and emotional differences are apparent. The scale and proportions of the paintings, as well as their palette and brushwork, vary from work to work, as do the number of zips and their location in the field of colour. At the other end of the spectrum from this relatively small canvas is Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950-51), an 18-foot-wide, vibrant red expanse that was Newman’s largest painting at the time of its creation.

The distinctive materials, techniques, and approaches developed and practiced by the Abstract Expressionists can be seen in a number of other works from the late 1940s and early 1950s. For Painting (1948), Willem de Kooning used oil and enamel sign paint to create a densely packed painting in which the paint drips, bleeds, congeals, or dissolves into delicate streaks. Lee Krasner’s Untitled (1949) shows that she applied thick paint – sometimes directly from the tube – in rhythmic and repetitive strokes, giving equal attention to every inch of the canvas and creating an allover composition. Bradley Walker Tomlin, in Number 20 (1949), and Adolph Gottlieb, in Man Looking at Woman (1949), distributed imagery evoking the alphabet and hieroglyphics evenly across their canvases.

A large gallery focusing on the work of Jackson Pollock includes Full Fathom Five (1947), one of earliest “drip” paintings, and Number 1A, 1948 (1948), the first drip painting to enter MoMA’s collection (in 1950). For One: Number 31, 1950 (1950), a masterpiece of the drip technique and one of Pollock’s largest paintings (8′ 10″ x 17′ 5 5/8″ [269.5 x 530.8 cm]), the artist laid the canvas on the floor of his studio and poured, dribbled, and flicked enamel paint onto the surface, sometimes straight from the can, or with sticks and stiffened brushes. The density of interlacing liquid threads of paint is balanced and offset by puddles of muted colours and by allover spattering.

Eight paintings made by Mark Rothko over a 14-year period are presented in a single gallery. The earliest examples from 1948, such as No. 1 (Untitled), feature variously sized abstract forms caught mid-motion as they shift on the canvas. Beginning in 1950, Rothko’s “classic” style forms as the artist creates a composition from horizontal planes of thinly layered paint and highly modulated colour, simplifying the compositional structure of his paintings and arriving at his signature style. No. 10 (1950) is divided horizontally into three dominant planes of blue, yellow, and white that softly and subtly bleed into one another. Acquired by MoMA in 1952, it was the first Rothko to enter the Museum’s collection, and was considered so radical that a trustee of the Museum resigned in protest.

MoMA’s practice of making in-depth acquisitions of work by artists that its curators judged to be of greatest importance was complemented by acquisitions of smaller numbers of works by other artist who played roles too significant to be forgotten. The Big Picture includes paintings and sculptures by more than 20 artists.

There is a gallery devoted to a selection of photographs made by individuals who used a camera to explore kindred artistic concerns – often resulting in work with striking stylistic similarities. Aaron Siskind may be the photographer most closely associated with Abstract Expressionism, and numerous works of his on display suggest the depth of this connection. Also featured in this installation is work by Harry Callahan, Robert Frank, Minor White, and others, revealing the variety of ways in which the sensibility or structure of paintings from this period manifested itself photographically.

The exhibition includes some 30 items from the MoMA Archives, documenting the relation of the Museum to Abstract Expressionism. Materials represent the institution’s influential series of “Americans” exhibitions, organised by Dorothy C. Miller, which included several Abstract Expressionist artists in four of its iterations. In addition, documentation regarding the internationally circulating New American Painting show (also organised by Miller) is presented. This important exhibition travelled to eight European cities in 1958-59 and propelled the homegrown Abstract Expressionist movement onto the international art scene. A third section includes photographs of artists and their own statements and letters. Highlights include: exhibition catalogues, installation photographs, news clippings, and ephemera; photographs of artists in the studio with their artworks; a letter from Robert Motherwell to Miller describing the four themes of his art (automatic means, pure abstractions, political or a kind of “disasters” series, and intimate pictures), a letter from Ad Reinhardt to Miller recommending a different installation of his paintings, and a statement by Grace Hartigan identifying her subject as the “vulgar and vital in American life, and the possibilities of its transcendence into the beautiful.”

Text from the Museum of Modern Art press release

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing a wall of the photographs of Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'Paris' 1952

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
Paris
1952
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'Mississippi, St Louis' 1948

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
Mississippi, St Louis
1948
Gelatin silver print

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019) 'New York' c. 1949

 

Robert Frank (Swiss-American, 1924-2019)
New York
c. 1949
Gelatin silver print

 

Ibram Lassaw (American, born Egypt. 1913-2003). 'Kwannon' 1952

 

Ibram Lassaw (American, born Egypt. 1913-2003)
Kwannon
1952
Welded bronze
6′ 1/2″ x 43″ x 29″ (184.2 x 109.2 x 73.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Katharine Cornell Fund
© 2010 Denise Lassaw/Ibram Lassaw studio

 

 

This sculpture represents Kwannon (also known as Kannon), the Buddhist goddess of mercy and an attendant of Buddha. Lassaw thickened steel wire with molten bronze, creating an openwork metal scaffolding of irregular lines and voids – what he called a “drawing in space.” Lassaw wrote of this abstract figure, “Although I never try to depict or narrate or communicate, I feel that something of Kwannon entered this piece of sculpture.”

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Willem de Kooning (American, born The Netherlands, 1904-1997). 'Woman, I' 1950-52

 

Willem de Kooning (American, born The Netherlands, 1904-1997)
Woman, I
1950-52
Oil on canvas
6′ 3 7/8″ x 58″ (192.7 x 147.3 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase.
© 2010 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

De Kooning famously said, “Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented,” and although he often worked in an abstract style he continually returned to the figure. Woman I took an unusually long time to complete. De Kooning made numerous preliminary studies then repainted the canvas repeatedly, eventually arriving at this hulking, wild-eyed figure of a woman. An amalgam of female archetypes, from a Paleolithic fertility goddess to a 1950s pinup girl, her threatening gaze and ferocious grin are heightened by de Kooning’s aggressive brushwork and intensely coloured palette.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Grace Hartigan (American, 1922-2008). 'Shinnecock Canal' 1957

 

Grace Hartigan (American, 1922-2008)
Shinnecock Canal
1957
Oil on canvas
7′ 6 1/2″ x 6′ 4″ (229.8 x 193 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Thrall Soby
© 2010 The Estate of Grace Hartigan

 

Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine. 1899 -1988). 'Sky Cathedral' 1958

 

Louise Nevelson (American, born Ukraine. 1899-1988)
Sky Cathedral
1958
Painted wood
11′ 3 1/2″ x 10’ 1/4″ x 18” (343.9 x 305.4 x 45.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Mildwoff
© 2010 Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

Sky Cathedral. 1958 | MODERN ART & IDEAS

 

Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany, 1880-1966). 'Memoria in Aeternum' 1962

 

Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany, 1880-1966)
Memoria in Aeternum
1962
Oil on canvas
7′ x 6′ 1/8″ (213.3 x 183.2 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist
© 2010 Renate, Hans & Maria Hofmann Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

In Memoria in Aeturnum (Eternal memory) Hofmann remembers five American painters who died in their prime: Arthur B. Carles, an early American Cubist, and four abstract painters whose work is on display in this exhibition – Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, and Bradley Walker Tomlin. Painted near the end of his life, Hofmann’s work is a tribute to the preceding decades of abstract art, incorporating a wide range of techniques that evoke the spirits of the departed: stains, drips, drawn-out brushstrokes, and smooth-edged geometric forms.

Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010-April 25, 2011

 

Installation view of the exhibition, "Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors"

 

Installation view of the exhibition, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors at MoMA, New York October 3, 2010 – February 28, 2011 showing at right, MarRothko’s painting No. 5 / No. 22 (1950). Photograph by Thomas Griesel

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970). 'No. 5/No. 22' 1950

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970)
No. 5 / No. 22
1950
Oil on canvas
9′ 9″ x 8′ 11 1/8″ (297 x 272 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of the artist.
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970). 'No. 3/No. 13' 1949

 

Mark Rothko (American, born Latvia. 1903-1970)
No. 3 / No. 13
1949
Oil on canvas
7′ 1 3/8″ x 65″ (216.5 x 164.8 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Bequest of Mrs. Mark Rothko through The Mark Rothko Foundation, Inc.
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

 

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53rd Street, New York
NY 10019
(212) 708-9400

Opening hours:
Daily 10.30 am – 5.30 pm

MoMA website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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