The decades following World War II were heady times for American art. This fall, Reynolda House Museum of American Art will be the final host to "Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum," an exhibition that examines the complex nature of American art in the mid-twentieth century. The exhibition will open tonight and continue through Dec. 31, 2011.
Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum" explores the lives of painters and sculptors who sought to understand the motivations that shape human life, and, in doing so, created a compelling new art and emerged as visual spokesmen in post-war America. Reynolda House is the final venue of only six museums across the country to host the exhibition and the only one in North Carolina. "Modern Masters" is the first exhibition from the Smithsonian American Art Museum to come to North Carolina since 2002.
Featuring 31 of the most celebrated artists who came to maturity in the 1950s, the exhibition examines the complex and varied nature of American abstract art through 43 key paintings and sculptures selected from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's collection. The exhibition is organized according to three broadly-conceived themes: "Significant Gestures" explores the autographic mark, executed in sweeping strokes of brilliant color which became the expressive vehicle for Franz Kline, Michael Goldberg, Hans Hofmann, Sam Francis, Joan Mitchell, and others who came to be known as abstract expressionists. "Optics and Order" highlights Josef Albers, his exploration of mathematical proportion and carefully balanced color, and the artists who built on his ideas: Ilya Bolotowsky, Louise Nevelson, Esteban Vicente, Ad Reinhardt, and Anne Truitt. "New Images of Man" includes Nathan Oliveira, Romare Bearden, Larry Rivers, Jim Dine, David Driskell, and Grace Hartigan, each of whom searched their surroundings and personal lives for vignettes emblematic of larger universal concerns.
Modern Masters: American Abstraction at Midcentury, the beautifully illustrated catalogue co-published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and D Giles Limited (London), was written by Virginia M. Mecklenburg with contributions by Tiffany D. Farrell. The book features an essay and biographical information on the 31 artists whose work is included in the exhibition. It is available in the museum's store.
Numerous programs will be going on throughout the exhibition. A complete list of events will be available at reynoldahouse.org. Featured events include:
On Friday, Oct. 7 (opening day), join museum staff for Looking Aloud Gallery Discoveries, a series of informal yet engaging 30-minute gallery experiences in the "Modern Masters" exhibition. The talks will be held hourly from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Members/students free, non-members free with Museum admission.
On Sunday, Oct. 9 at 2 p.m., Wake Forest University professor of music Louis Goldstein will explore the impact that the abstract expressionist painters of New York had on the great American composer Morton Feldman. In addition, Goldstein will perform Feldman's piano music. Goldstein's most recent recording was ranked in 2010's top ten modern composition recordings by Wire magazine. This event is free for members and students and $8 for non-members.
One evening isn't enough to fully experience "Modern Masters," so Reynolda House is hosting four Modern Thursdays from Oct. 13 through Nov. 3 from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Experience this stunning exhibition with friends at these special museum nights, offered for the first time at Reynolda House. The evenings will center on how the art forms of the post-war scene, such as avant-garde music, film, Beat poetry, architecture, and politically-engaged art criticism, connect to contemporary artists and intellectuals. Old records and cool refreshments will add to the atmosphere. Visitors can choose from featured programs each night, or simply enjoy the exhibition and a cocktail. The cost is $5 and includes all programs and food. A cash bar will be available.
Virginia Mecklenburg, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, will speak on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 5:30 p.m. She will discuss highlights from the exhibition, which she organized. She has been a curator at the Smithsonian since 1979 and has published works about the art and lives of Edward Hopper, Frederick Carl Frieseke, George Bellows and others. This lecture is sponsored by Mary Louise and John Burress. This event is free.