“International Abstraction Part 1: Making Painting Real” May 2, 2003 —February 29, 2004
1300 1st Ave, Seattle, WA 98101
The kaleidoscopic development of abstraction in painting and sculpture in Europe and the United States after World War I will be the focus of a dynamic exhibition drawn from SAM’s permanent collection. The first abstract painters developed their pioneering works in relative isolation just prior to and during the war in Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands. However, in the twenties and thirties abstraction became a truly international phenomenon, gaining in vitality and fulfilling its original promise to become a universally recognizable visual language. Use of simple shapes and strong primary colors were thought to elicit a direct, almost visceral, response from the viewer. Some artists, such as Joseph Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and László Moholy-Nagy, whose works are included in the show, began to teach this bold new form of expression at the famous Bauhaus school in Germany. When Adolf Hitler ordered the closure of the school in 1933, Albers, Moholy-Nagy, and several other artists emigrated to the United States and became charismatic teachers to new generations of abstractionists.
Rather than faithfully replicating visual appearances–art as window-on-the-world–abstract artists explored the power of nonrepresentational forms and colors. They believed their works were more “real” because they dispensed with the false illusion of objects and space, of dreams or fantasy. This exhibition will showcase works by artists from the international European art scene who helped pave the way for the later work of several American artists also featured in the show, including Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.
“International Abstraction Part II: Making Painting Real” Part: II, August 15, 2003–February 29, 2004
This summer, the second component of International Abstraction will open in two additional galleries on the Fourth Floor. The first section of the two-part project, conceived by Marek Wieczorek, Assistant Professor of Modern Art History at the University of Washington, opened in May with two galleries devoted to works that trace the development of abstraction, from its roots in Germany, Russia, and the Netherlands to the international phenomenon it became. The second section of the exhibition will look at the continued exploration of abstraction from the 1940s to today, including works of abstract expressionism and minimalism, as well as works from non-Western cultures. As with Part I, the majority of the objects in this section of the exhibition will be drawn from the museum’s collection, including important works by Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Carl Andre, and Agnes Martin.
“Seattle-based artist Lisa Liedgren used the computer to translate elements of her autobiography into an abstract painting, first transcribing the moon phases from the day of her birth until the time she was eight years old. After applying these patterns to the canvas with a template, she painted the surface by hand, blurring the crisply traced lines and lending an impression of the handmade to the work.”
— Lisa Corrin, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art & Susan Rosenberg, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seattle Art Museum
This exhibition has been co-curated by Marek Wieczorek, Assistant Professor of Modern Art History at the University of Washington; Lisa Corrin, Deputy Director of Art/Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; and Tara Young, Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. An undergraduate course, International Abstraction between the World Wars, which Dr. Wieczorek taught at the University of Washington in the fall of 2002, was the catalyst for this show¹s content.