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New York

The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center

Exhibition Detail
Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection
124 Raymond Ave
Poughkeepsie, NY 12604


July 12th, 2013 - September 8th, 2013
 
 Untitled, Franz KlineFranz Kline, Untitled, 1951, Oil on wood
© Courtesy of The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center
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“What is abstract art good for?” “What's the use — for us as individuals, or for any society — of pictures of nothing, of paintings and sculptures or prints or drawings that do not seem to show anything except themselves?” These were among the central questions explored by the late Kirk Varnedoe, a longtime Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, during his now famous 2003 series of A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts held at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Varnedoe’s notes from his six Mellon lectures were edited for his posthumous 2006 book Pictures of Nothing, and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center has chosen the same title for its new exhibition of key abstract works from the Vassar museum’s collection.

 “Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection” will be on exhibit Friday, July 12, through Sunday, September 8, in the temporary galleries of the Art Center. In conjunction, curator Mary-Kay Lombino will lead an informal gallery talk and walk-through of the exhibition on Thursday, July 18, at 4:00pm. And on the exhibition’s final weekend painter Thomas Nozkowski will deliver the lecture “Pictures of Something”, on Friday, September 6, at 5:30pm, in Taylor Hall room 203. “Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection” is supported by the Evelyn Metzger Exhibition Fund.

With “Pictures of Nothing” the Art Center will trace the evolution and development of abstract art from nine decades of the twentieth century, through close to fifty artworks in such media as painting, sculpture, photography, and prints. The exhibition divides the art into three sections — focusing on gesture, geometry, and pattern — in order to highlight the different formal characteristics among these groups of works. Examples (respectively by sections of the exhibition) include artworks by Helen Frankenthaler, Nancy Graves, Grace Hartigan, Brice Marden, and Robert Motherwell (gesture); Peter Halley, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella, Anne Truitt, and Josef Albers (geometry); and Jasper Johns, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Tobey, and Terry Winters (pattern).

The exhibition’s approach is to showcase varieties of artistic abstraction that emerged over the last century, and to highlight the distinctions among them — from surrealism, abstract expressionism, and geometric abstraction, to color-field and hard-edge painting and minimalism. Surrealist works, for example, show an interest in such technical devices as “automatism” and in psychological theories about the role of the unconscious and archetypal inner sources; the gestural style of action painters reveals their attempts to transfer pure emotion and internal creative energies into their art to convey the direct immediacy of the moment of creation; hard-edge paintings display an economy of form, fullness of color, and smooth surface planes; and minimalist works use spare abstraction to expose the essence of form.

Much of the art to be shown in “Pictures of Nothing” was created in the middle of the twentieth century, during the glory days of abstract painting in New York, but the exhibition will wholly span works from the 1930s to the 2010s. Among them, two have a very special relationship. Robert Delaunay’s 1937 painting Rhythme inspired Complete Coverage on Delaunay, a sculpture created by Uruguayan-born Marco Maggi for his one-person exhibition held in 2011 at the Art Center (http://fllac.vassar.edu/exhibitions/2011-2012/marco-maggi.html). With seventy-four years between these two colorful works, they act as fascinating bookends for abstract art in Vassar’s permanent collection.

“While abstract art comes in many forms, it often shares a use of a particular visual language of form, color, and line to create imagery that is independent from visual references in the world,” said Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves Fisher 1957 and Richard B. Fisher Curator at the Art Center.  And she noted that in the first of his six Mellon lectures Varnedoe remarked, “Abstraction is a remarkable system of productive reductions and destructions that expands our potential for expression and communication.”

“What is abstract art good for?” “What's the use — for us as individuals, or for any society — of pictures of nothing, of paintings and sculptures or prints or drawings that do not seem to show anything except themselves?” These were among the central questions explored by the late Kirk Varnedoe, a longtime Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, during his now famous 2003 series of A.W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts held at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Varnedoe’s notes from his six Mellon lectures were edited for his posthumous 2006 book Pictures of Nothing, and the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center has chosen the same title for its new exhibition of key abstract works from the Vassar museum’s collection.

 “Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection” will be on exhibit Friday, July 12, through Sunday, September 8, in the temporary galleries of the Art Center. In conjunction, curator Mary-Kay Lombino will lead an informal gallery talk and walk-through of the exhibition on Thursday, July 18, at 4:00pm. And on the exhibition’s final weekend painter Thomas Nozkowski will deliver the lecture “Pictures of Something”, on Friday, September 6, at 5:30pm, in Taylor Hall room 203. “Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art from the Permanent Collection” is supported by the Evelyn Metzger Exhibition Fund.

With “Pictures of Nothing” the Art Center will trace the evolution and development of abstract art from nine decades of the twentieth century, through close to fifty artworks in such media as painting, sculpture, photography, and prints. The exhibition divides the art into three sections — focusing on gesture, geometry, and pattern — in order to highlight the different formal characteristics among these groups of works. Examples (respectively by sections of the exhibition) include artworks by Helen Frankenthaler, Nancy Graves, Grace Hartigan, Brice Marden, and Robert Motherwell (gesture); Peter Halley, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella, Anne Truitt, and Josef Albers (geometry); and Jasper Johns, Yayoi Kusama, Mark Tobey, and Terry Winters (pattern).

The exhibition’s approach is to showcase varieties of artistic abstraction that emerged over the last century, and to highlight the distinctions among them — from surrealism, abstract expressionism, and geometric abstraction, to color-field and hard-edge painting and minimalism. Surrealist works, for example, show an interest in such technical devices as “automatism” and in psychological theories about the role of the unconscious and archetypal inner sources; the gestural style of action painters reveals their attempts to transfer pure emotion and internal creative energies into their art to convey the direct immediacy of the moment of creation; hard-edge paintings display an economy of form, fullness of color, and smooth surface planes; and minimalist works use spare abstraction to expose the essence of form.

Much of the art to be shown in “Pictures of Nothing” was created in the middle of the twentieth century, during the glory days of abstract painting in New York, but the exhibition will wholly span works from the 1930s to the 2010s. Among them, two have a very special relationship. Robert Delaunay’s 1937 painting Rhythme inspired Complete Coverage on Delaunay, a sculpture created by Uruguayan-born Marco Maggi for his one-person exhibition held in 2011 at the Art Center (http://fllac.vassar.edu/exhibitions/2011-2012/marco-maggi.html). With seventy-four years between these two colorful works, they act as fascinating bookends for abstract art in Vassar’s permanent collection.

“While abstract art comes in many forms, it often shares a use of a particular visual language of form, color, and line to create imagery that is independent from visual references in the world,” said Mary-Kay Lombino, the Emily Hargroves Fisher 1957 and Richard B. Fisher Curator at the Art Center.  And she noted that in the first of his six Mellon lectures Varnedoe remarked, “Abstraction is a remarkable system of productive reductions and destructions that expands our potential for expression and communication.”

- See more at: http://fllac.vassar.edu/about/press/2012-2013/130516-fllac-pictures.html#sthash.R91KuGUY.dpuf

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