Saint Louis Art Museum shows ‘Action/Abstraction ~ Pollock, de Kooning & American Art’
The Saint Louis Art Museum announces the October 19 opening of “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940–1976”, the first major U.S. exhibition in 20 years to re-examine Abstract Expressionism and the movements that followed. Prior to traveling to St. Louis, Action/Abstraction opened at The Jewish Museum in New York. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., is the exhibition’s third and final venue. On view in Saint Louis October 19th through January 11th, 2009.
Action/Abstraction features more than 50 key works that were carefully chosen from major institutions and collections throughout the U.S. and abroad, including major masterpieces by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, as well as Helen Frankenthaler, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, Lee Krasner, Norman Lewis, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, David Smith, Frank Stella and Clyfford Still.
Viewed from the perspective of influential, rival art critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, these works propose a fresh look at the painting and sculpture that transformed the art world in the years following World War II—a period when abstraction emerged as a dominant means of artistic expression.
Beginning in the 1940s, Pollock and de Kooning created paintings and sculptures that catapulted American art onto the international stage. In magazines as diverse as Partisan Review, The Nation, ARTnews and Vogue, Greenberg and Rosenberg wrote incisively about seismic changes in the art world, often disagreeing with each other vehemently. Their advocacy propelled the artists and their art to the forefront of the public imagination, and by the late 1950s, Pollock and de Kooning were virtually household names.
Against a background of Cold War politics, rising mass culture and growing consumerism, Rosenberg championed the concept of action—the creative act of the artist—versus the ideal purity of a non-representational aesthetic defended by Greenberg. Action/Abstraction re-examines how these critics’ theories vied with each other and with
the intentions of the artists––who nevertheless remained keenly aware of the critics’ perspectives and were often influenced by them.
Action/Abstraction is curated in St. Louis by Charlotte Eyerman, curator of modern and contemporary art. It was conceived and organized by Norman L. Kleeblatt, the Susan & Elihu Rose Chief Curator of The Jewish Museum, New York, with consulting curators Maurice Berger, Senior Fellow at The Vera List Center for Art & Politics, New School University and Senior Research Scholar of the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, University of Maryland; Douglas Dreishpoon, Senior Curator of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery; and Charlotte Eyerman. Maurice Berger curated the context rooms in the exhibition.
An accompanying 332-page catalogue, co-published by The Jewish Museum, New York, and Yale University Press and edited by Norman L. Kleeblatt, features 255 illustrations, a cultural timeline by Maurice Berger, an exhibition checklist and essays by Norman L. Kleeblatt, Douglas Dreishpoon and Charlotte Eyerman, as well as Debra Bricker Balken, Morris Dickstein, Mark Godfrey, Caroline A. Jones and Irving Sandler.
Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940–1976, has been organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, in collaboration with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, and the Saint Louis Art Museum.
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