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THE GUGGENHEIM EXHIBITION – Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949–1960, June 8 – September 12, 2012.

To many observers, Art in the first decade of the 21st century seems to be timid, boring, outrageous, or in chaos. Some even think that Art in the first decade of this century is trying hard to make the mundane into genius.

The same was said of art in the last half of the 20th century, especially about abstract art, particularly Abstract Expressionism. The Guggenheim’s Exhibition, Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949–1960 is a great demonstration of the process of creating order out of what then seemed to be chaos.

Mark Rothko, Untitled (Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow on White and Red), 1949
Oil on canvas, 207 x 167.6 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gift, Elaine and Werner Dannheisser and The Dannheisser Foundation 78.246. © 2012 Kate Rothko Prizel and Christopher Rothko/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

As Art Daily recently reported,

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Art of Another Kind: International Abstraction and the Guggenheim, 1949-1960. Comprising approximately 100 works by nearly 70 artists, the exhibition explores international trends in abstraction in the decade before the Guggenheim’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building opened in October 1959, when vanguard artists working in the United States and Europe pioneered such influential art forms as Abstract Expressionism, Cobra, and Art informal.


The online written content of the exhibition online is excellently done. The pieces about the movements and the artists are extremely well written in clear and concise language. Abstract Expressionism, for instance, is explained in just a few sentences:

Abstract Expressionism encompasses a diverse range of postwar American painting that challenged the tradition of vertical easel painting. Beginning in the late 1940s, Pollock placed his canvases on the floor to pour, drip, and splatter paint onto them.

This gestural act, with variations practiced by William Baziotes, De Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, and others, was termed “Action painting” by American critic Harold Rosenberg, who considered it a product of the artist’s unconscious outpouring or the enactment of some personal drama.

Here is the explanation of the further development of Abstract Expressionism during this period:

Other painters eliminated the gestural stroke altogether. Mark Rothko used large planes of color, often to express universal human emotions and inspire a sense of awe for a secular world. Welder-sculptors such as Herbert Ferber and Theodore Roszak are also counted among the decade’s pioneering artists.

Willem De Kooning, Composition, 1955
Oil, enamel, and charcoal on canvas, 201 x 175.6 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 55.1419. © 2012 The Willem De Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The descriptions of the artist are also excellent. Following are some excerpts on De Kooning, this one on his method:

Willem De Kooning most often worked from observing reality, primarily figures and the landscape. From 1950 to 1955, he completed his famous Women series, which integrated the human form with the aggressive paint application, bold colors, and sweeping strokes of Abstract Expressionism.

And, this paragraph describing his coming to the United States and early employment by the WPA:

De Kooning came to the United States in 1926 and settled briefly in Hoboken, New Jersey. He worked as a house painter before moving to New York in 1927, where he met Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and John Graham. He took various commercial-art and odd jobs until 1935, when he was employed in the mural and easel divisions of the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project.

There is also additional detailed biography material on De Kooning: Biography.

Judit Reigl

Judit Reigl, Outburst, 1956
Oil on canvas, 136 x 160 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Gift of the artist in honor of Kálmán Makláry 2012.1. ©

The biographical notes on Reial not only contain pertinent information, but also a description of her technique that virtually comes alive with the reading:

In 1955, five years after leaving Hungary for Paris, where she was briefly associated with André Breton’s Surrealist group, Judit Reigl began a new series to explore the process of painting as a dynamic and corporeal activity. The resulting works, Outburst (1955–57), feature masses of exploded paint that traverse the surface of the canvas tracing the movements of the artist’s body in action.

This canvas,[Outburst] like each work in the rest of the series, was realized in a single session. Using a stretched canvas, which she tilted against a wall, Reigl worked by hurling a mixture of industrial pigment and linseed oil onto the surface by hand, adding paint with a long and flexible knife, then spreading and flattening it into diagonal bands with a bent curtain rod.

The online visuals show a selection of 20 of the works in the exhibition, which can be made larger with just a click. There is also a short video clip of the exhibition with interviews with the curators, Tracey Bashkoff, Curator, Collections and Exhibitions, and Megan Fontanella, Assistant Curator, Collections and Provenance.

Perhaps the Museum will offer a digital download of the Exhibition Catalouge, as it has done with the historical Catalogues related to the exhibition, and that it will develop an app, incorporating the most advanced technology, similar to the technology used with the museums in the GoogleArt Project.


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