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Indepth Arts News:

"Action-Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940–1976"
2008-10-19 until 2009-01-11
Saint Louis Art Museum
St. Louis, MO, USA

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 May 4 at The Jewish Museum in New York. The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., is the exhibition’s third and final venue. 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, 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, Susan & Elihu Rose Chief Curator of The Jewish Museum, 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 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.

Admission to the exhibition is $6 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, $4 for children 6 to 12, free for children younger than 6, free to Members every day and free to all on Fridays. Tickets are available at all MetroTix locations. Charge by phone at 314.534.1111 or online at metrotix.com. Admission includes an iPod multimedia tour for visitors 12 and older. A major credit card is required. The iPod tour is $2 on Fridays when the exhibition is free and free to members every day.

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.

Leadership support has been provided by the Weissman Family Foundation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal agency, and the Peter Jay Sharp Foundation. The exhibition is sponsored by the Jerome L. Greene Foundation. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibition do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The exhibition will be on view in the Main Exhibition Galleries through January 11, 2009.

The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the nation's leading comprehensive art museums with collections that include works of art of exceptional quality from virtually every culture and time period. Areas of notable depth include Oceanic art, pre-Columbian art, ancient Chinese bronzes and European and American art of the late 19th and 20th centuries, with particular strength in 20th-century German art. The Museum offers a full range of exhibitions and educational programming generated independently and in collaboration with local, national and international partners.

Jasper Johns, American, born 1930;
Numbers in Color, 1958–1959;
encaustic and newspaper on canvas;
66 1/2 x 49 1/2 inches;
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.,
Gift of Seymour H. Knox Jr., 1959;
Art © Jasper Johns / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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