Tuesday, December 11, 2018

EPIC ABSTRACTION at The Met Fifth Ave: Review by Polly Guerin

Jackson Pollock 
If you have ever been bewildered by the message the abstract painters were projecting on canvas you need to no further for creative clarification than The Metropolitan Museum of Art, opening Monday, December 17th with EPIC ABSTRACTION: Pollock to Herrera.  
      The exhibition begins with the 1940s and extends into the 21st century and explores large-scale abstract painting, sculpture, and assemblage through more than 50 works from The Met collection and includes a selection of loans, promised gifts and new acquisitions. Iconic works from The Met collection, such as Jackson Pollock's classic "drip" painting and Louise Nevelson's monumental Mrs. N's Palace highlight works by international artists, such as, Japanese painter Kazuo Shiraga and the Hungarian artist IIona Keseru.
Image: Jackson Pollock (American 1912-1956) Enamel on Canvas 1950, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection. Gift of Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman, in honor of her grandchildren, Ellen Steinberg, Coven and Dr. Peter Steinberg 2006. Artists Rights Society (ARS) 2018 New York.
      In the 1940s Pollock developed the "drip" technique for which he became renowned and his work grew to monumental sizes; he eventually discarded the easel to paint on and around unstretched canvases splayed on the studio floor. The drips, splatters, and whips of paint record his bodily experience in the process of painting, but they also evince a high degree of control and intentional effects. Abstract Expressionism was promoted as exemplary of American democracy and freedom during the early years of the Cold War, and Pollock's art began exerting an international influence in this context. He reinvented the medium of painting as experimental, a kind of performance. Well over fifty years after their creation these works retain their audacious dynamism and sense of daring.
      THE ARTISTS REACT: In the wake of unprecedented destruction and loss of life during World War II, many painters and sculptors working in the 1940s grew to believe that traditional easel painting and figurative no longer adequately conveyed the human condition. In this context numerous artists, including Barnett Newman, Pollock and others associated with the so called New York School, were convinced that abstract styles---often on large scale---most meaningfully evoked contemporary states of being. Many of the artists represented in Epic Abstraction worked in large in large formats not only to explore aesthetic elements of line, color, shape and texture but also to activate scale's potential to evoke expansive---'epic' ideas and subjects, including time, history, nature, the body, and existential concerns of the self.        
Carmen Herrera
      "The Met's great holdings of
 post-war art include some of the most celebrated examples of Abstract Expressionism. This exhibit is an important reinterpretation of a core area of the Museum's collection as it expands beyond the familiar to include fresh and perhaps surprising perspectives of artist's who have adopted, adapted, and even critiqued the precedents established by the well know New York School," said Max Hollein, Director of the Museum. "These monumental works also offer a powerful---even mesmerizing---experience." Image: Carmen Herrera, Cuban born 1915, EQUILBRIO 2012 Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60." The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Promised gift of Estrellita and David Brodsky. (c) Carmen Herrera.                                   
Louise Nevelson
The exhibition also includes a range of major works composed of found objects and repurposed materials, including the installations centerpiece Louise Nevelson's Mrs. N's Palace, Chakala Booker's Raw Attraction and Thornton Dials elegiac Shadows in the Field, which evokes the history of American slavery. The exhibition also features a gallery of works by the next generation of artists, including Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Marigold, Alejandro Puente and Anne Truitt, who worked in the hard edge, minimalist styles that came to define modern art in the 1960s and l970s. Image: Mrs. N's Palace (1964-71) Painted wood. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Gift of the artist 1985. (c) 2018 Estate of Louise Nevelson/Artist Rights Society (ARS) New York.

CONCERT PROGRAM: In conjunction with the exhibition, a concert in the MetLiveArts Sight and Sound series, "Abstraction in Music and Art" will feature Leon Botstein and The Orchestra Now performing works by the radical modernist Anton Webern and experimental composer Morton Feldman, who mirrored the Abstract Expressionist painters and took his inspiration from their work. Performance on May 19, 2019, at 2 p.m. in The Met Fifth Avenue Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, will be preceded by a discussion accompanied by musical excerpts performed alongside on-screen artworks.  Tickets start at $30. Bring Kids for $1 are also available. Info: (metmuseum.org/sightandsound).
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Come in out of the cold and visit Epic Abstraction's iconic artists. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and click on the
link in the left hand column to the Blog that resonates with your interest.


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