Drawing on the Museum’s permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, the exhibition Remaking the World: Abstraction from the Permanent Collection assembles more than 20 paintings and sculptures by European and American artists associated with abstract expressionism. As early as the 1940s, artists from this critical modern art movement sought to transform New York’s art scene with revolutionary approaches to the canvas: splattering, spilling, dabbing, washing and dripping paint. These innovative techniques, rooted in deliberate yet spontaneous gestures of a brush or palette knife, along with emphasis on individuality and the subconscious as subject matter, affirmed and politicized the role art played in the evolution of postwar American society.
The Ringling’s collection of abstract expressionism is exciting yet modest; it contains only one or two works by Arthur Dove, Sonia Gechtoff, Grace Hartigan, Franz Kline, Irving Kriesberg, Jules Olitski, William Pachner, Kay Sage and Yves Tanguy, the influential artists who worked tirelessly to champion freedom of expression and develop a new visual vocabulary.
The breadth and growth of the collection is due to the generous gifting of relevant works of art by donors. The exhibition features an immensely significant bequest of paintings by Joan Mitchell and Robert Motherwell from the collection of Mandell L. and Madeleine H. Berman, the first additions to the collection by these prominent artists. It also offers the opportunity to extend on view a monumental painting by Yayoi Kusama, a promised gift from Keith D. and Linda L. Monda. Since her arrival in New York City in the 1950s, Kusama has been critically disrupting the status quo with innovative materials, radical self-reflexivity, advocacy for peace and acceptance for all; she was performing same-sex marriage ceremonies several decades before it had been legalized in the state.
A number of artists working in abstraction travelled south to enjoy the warm climate and pursue various teaching and art residency opportunities. Sarasota and the Tampa Bay area became a second home to artists David Budd, John Chamberlain, Jimmy Ernst, Gabriel Kohn, Conrad Marca-Relli and Syd Solomon, all of whom were instrumental in establishing a vital art scene in the area while often introducing pedagogy in the local community.
Abstraction was a rebuttal to the representational and narrative art favored by directors, curators, critics and gallerists of the time. Today, the artists in the exhibition are celebrated for giving shape to a new art for a world emerging from war. The abstract expressionists’ considerable ingenuity and perseverance forged a path for generations of artists to follow.
Remaking the World: Abstraction from the Permanent Collection runs Nov 10, 2019- Aug. 1, 2021, in the Searing Wing at the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. More information is available at ringling.org or (941) 358-3180.
This exhibition has been made possible by support from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.