Montclair Art Museum presents Patterns, Systems, Structures. Abstraction in American Art exhibition

. January 12, 2012 . 0 Comments

The Montclair Art Museum (MAM) presents Patterns, Systems, Structures: Abstraction in American Art. The exhibition will open in two phases. Part One opened December 3, 2011, in the McMullen Gallery with works from the late 19th century through the 20th, including Native American art; Part Two opens February 12, 2012, in Lehman Court and the Shelby Gallery with additional works representing 20th-century abstraction. The exhibition runs through May 19, 2013, and is organized by MAM’s chief curator, Gail Stavitsky.


Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), Skunk Cabbage, ca. 1927, oil on board. Gift of Henry H. Ploch 1998.22.

The exhibition is drawn entirely from the permanent collection of the Montclair Art Museum and explores the rich variety of approaches to abstraction in American art. Since the late 19th century, painters and sculptors have not always aimed to depict persons and objects representationally. Artists moved toward abstract visual expression as they experimented with unconventional materials and techniques and developed visual languages of form, color, and line that exist independently from their subjects’ natural appearance. Some artists deliberately altered appearances by stretching or bending forms, breaking up shapes, and giving objects unlikely textures or colors. Others looked to aspects of our person-made world, such as architecture, to invest their compositions with a sense of solidity, monumentality, and structure. Artists have made these transformations in an effort to communicate universal or unseen spiritual aspects of existence and of modern life that they cannot convey through representational treatments.

Stavitsky said: “This exhibition has provided a great opportunity to re-examine the permanent collection and show works that have seldom or never been exhibited before. It offers new perspectives by juxtaposing historical and contemporary art. Rarely, for example, do you see the 19th-century masters Inness and Whistler in the company of American modernists like Morgan Russell and Joseph Stella, nor mid-century artists like Joseph Albers and his student Richard Anuskiewicz with the current artist James Siena.”

19th century, painters and sculptors have not always aimed to depict persons and objects representationally. Artists moved toward abstract visual expression as they experimented with unconventional materials and techniques and developed visual languages of form, color, and line that exist independently from their subjects’ natural appearance. Some artists deliberately altered appearances by stretching or bending forms, breaking up shapes, and giving objects unlikely textures or colors. Others looked to aspects of our person-made world, such as architecture, to invest their compositions with a sense of solidity, monumentality, and structure. Artists have made these transformations in an effort to communicate universal or unseen spiritual aspects of existence and of modern life that they cannot convey through representational treatments.

Stavitsky said: “This exhibition has provided a great opportunity to re-examine the permanent collection and show works that have seldom or never been exhibited before. It offers new perspectives by juxtaposing historical and contemporary art. Rarely, for example, do you see the 19th-century masters Inness and Whistler in the company of American modernists like Morgan Russell and Joseph Stella, nor mid-century artists like Joseph Albers and his student Richard Anuskiewicz with the current artist James Siena.” – montclairartmuseum.org

Category: Exhibition News