Mark-Making in Abstract Painting from the Collection of Preston H. Haskell
An exciting collection of mid-20th Century art will be highlighted this spring at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens. Rothko to Richter: Mark-Making in Abstract Painting from the Collection of Preston H. Haskell, organized by the Princeton University Art Museum, will be on display January 30 through April 22.
Highlighting one of the most active periods of artistic development, the exhibition spans the years from 1950 to 1990 through twenty-seven carefully selected works by some of the era’s most important artists, including Karel Appel, Helen Frankenthaler, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Morris Louis, Joan Mitchell, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, and Mark Rothko. From Expressionism to Minimalism, Color Field to Op art, these works convey the rich artistic legacy of abstraction.
“We are thrilled to present this impressive, powerful collection of mid-century art to our community,” says Hope McMath, Cummer Museum director. “These works perfectly convey the dynamism inherent in this period of remarkable artistic production and vitality.”
Art critic Clement Greenberg described “modernist” art not as a break with the past, but as an evolution of tradition, explaining, “one tends to see what is in an Old Master before one sees the picture itself, [but] one sees a Modernist picture as a picture first … The Old Masters created an illusion of space in depth that one could imagine oneself walking into, but the analogous illusion created by the Modernist painter can only be seen into; can be traveled through, literally or figuratively, only with the eye.” These new traditions, as many artists in this period began to move away from narrative and symbolism, began to celebrate the literal act of applying paint to canvas.
Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Princeton University Art Museum Kelly Baum, curator of this exhibition, explains, “Each artist sought to redefine abstract painting for new social and cultural milieus. Each asked him or herself: What does it mean to make an abstract painting in 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, or 1990? What does any particular historical moment demand of abstraction? Even though they came to disparate conclusions, the artists in Rothko to Richter tended to approach this question through the same means, mark-making. For them, the debate around abstract painting occurred largely at the level of process and technique.”
The works exhibited show this vast experimentation. For many artists, “a direct, transparent relationship exists between mark and method, a one-to-one correspondence between every stroke of paint and every movement of the artist’s hand,” says Baum. “However, not every artist subscribed to this approach. Several developed techniques designed to depersonalize the act of mark-making, to literally divorce the mark from the artist’s hand. Some even went so far as to erase the traces their tools left behind, effacing marks as soon as they were created. Instead of flaunting the process by which their paintings were produced, these artists dissimulated.”
This contrast is evidenced in two works in the exhibition. Richard Anuskiewicz’s Burnt Orange (1975) shows almost no trace of the artist’s hand. Using masking tape to create crisp, even lines across the canvas, and a water-based acrylic that eliminates any residual texture heightens a sense of systematic, structured, industrial process. At the other end of the spectrum are works by Willem de Kooning and others, who emphasized the movement and actions of the artist. Willem de Kooning’s Woman II (1961) and Untitled (Woman) (1965) both fluidly articulate the sweeping motions of the artist’s body through layered brushstrokes with dripped and scraped paint.
Preston Haskell has been collecting for more than forty years, both as an individual and for The Haskell Company. “I am passionately drawn to the energy, mystery, and excitement these works possess,” says Haskell, “a passion that is as difficult to rationalize as the art itself.” As an individual collector, Haskell says, “I simply must personally love the work.” However, from the corporate perspective, the art collection marries with a larger corporate philosophy, first that a
community and its economic growth are positively affected by a strong and viable arts environment. But, the art collection, proudly displayed throughout the Jacksonville office and other regional offices, “makes our offices a special place in which to work and do business,” says Haskell. “Art stimulates and energizes the human mind and spirit, making us more imaginative and creative. This is particularly appropriate in our business: we deal in designs, ideas, and concepts, many of which are novel and original. It also sends a strong message to visitors and external constituents that we value aesthetics and creativity as an important part of our culture, and in the execution of creative projects.”
Says McMath, “We are grateful to Mr. Haskell for his willingness to share his remarkable collection with our visitors, and for his long-standing support of the arts and cultural community of Northeast Florida. This exhibition is a testament to both his incredibly savvy eye and his spirit of generosity.”
Visitors will have the opportunity to connect to Rothko to Richter through a variety of public programs.
In addition to the community opening on Thursday, January 29, other special programs include:
Join Collector Preston Haskell and Curator Kelly Baum for cocktails and conversation on The Haskell Collection, Thurs., Feb. 12, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Members $25, Non-Members $35, Up & Cummers Members $20. Registration Required
Talks & Tea: The Art of Abstract Expressionism Wed., Feb. 18 or Thurs., Feb.19, 1:30 p.m. Members and Non-Members $6. Registration Required
Sunday Classical Concert featuring Contemporary Works with Benjamin Sung Sunday, March 29, 1:30 p.m. Free with Museum Admission. Registration Required
For further information or to make your required reservation, please contact the Cummer Museum’s Events and Programs Office at (904) 899-6038 or reserve your tickets online at cummermuseum.org.
Article written by Holly Keris