Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Getting from P to P

By Chris Rossi, Associate Curator of Exhibitions

Prendergast to Pollock: American Modernism from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute  represents a change in the usual exhibit fare for the Fenimore Art Museum. This foray into modernism comes from the collection of Edward W. Root, a native of Clinton New York, who had a keen eye for the emerging 20th century American art scene.

Mary Murray (facing camera) leading the tour

The works are colorful, engaging and sometimes challenging. Fortunately Mary Murray, curator of modern and contemporary art at the MWPAI, was on hand to give a Food For Thought tour and expand my understanding of modernism. Mary explained that over the course of the 20th century artists were making a move from strictly representational works to more abstract views and expressions of what they were painting. Traditional realistically rendered scenes or figures gave way to canvases with flat and abstracted views where paint, color, form, and sometimes the action of painting itself were central to the art.

Landscape with Figures, ca. 1912
Maurice Prendergast
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York

Jackson Pollock's Number 20 and Number 34, as seen in Fenimore Art Museum

The exhibit is a mini-course in that progression. It starts with Maurice Prendergast’s colorful Landscape with Figures and ends with two very abstract action paintings by Jackson Pollock. The experience is an enlightening journey through American Modernism as it developed and came into its own in the 20th century.


emma porter said...

Chris, your post encourages a further exploration of the diverse pieces, by the equally diverse artists. Mary Murray effectively encouraged excited participation from the Food for Thought viewers. Modernism is all about conversation and invoking a personal reaction out of each viewer, and I think this conversation was a spectacular case in point.

chris said...

Thanks Emma. It has been a treat to have the works here at Fenimore and to have Mary on hand to evoke an expanded understanding of them.

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