The 1950s and early 1960s witnessed tremendous ferment and creativity in the New York art world. Thanks to the heroic accomplishments of the Abstract Expressionists, New York seized the leadership of the avant-garde. A cornucopia of important works from this era will be shown in New York Cool: Paintings and Sculptures from the NYU Art Collection.
Gestural abstraction is amply represented with works by Philip Guston, Esteban Vicente, and Elaine de Kooning; paintings by Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb, and Helen Frankenthaler illustrate how gestural abstraction often evokes landscape. NYU?s collection features important examples of gestural figuration by Philip Pearlstein, Nicholas Marsicano, and Willem de Kooning. Some artists combine a neo-Dada sensibility with the visual language of Abstract Expressionism, as seen in a superb combine by Robert Rauschenberg and a remarkable series of collaborative drawings by Norman Bluhm and Frank O?Hara.
An important sculpture by Richard Stankiewicz puts the Cubist-Dada tradition of collage to new expressive use: it is simultaneously funny and sad, vigorous and frail. Other sculptors of the time, including Louise Bourgeois, draw on the example of ?primitive? art to create a new variation of abstract Surrealism.
Beginning in the later 1950s, the visual language of the New York School underwent a dramatic change as geometric, hard-edge abstraction began to supplant the organic, liquid forms of gestural painting. Artists such as Ilya Bolotowsky continue to work in a deliberately impersonal geometric style, but a new generation of younger artists, including Louise Nevelson, Kenneth Noland, and Al Held, demonstrate how geometric forms can be arranged more freely into personal, poetic statements. Frank Stella and Agnes Martin discover a new expressive power in the undisguised repetition of the grid, while other painters, such as Yayoi Kusama and Richard Kalina, distort the grid into shimmering webs and swags.
Curated by Pepe Karmel, Associate Professor in NYU?s Department of Fine Arts, New York Cool will concentrate on major paintings and sculptures by these artists, accompanied by a selection of important works on paper. The accompanying publications and educational activities, including lectures and a symposium, will not only provide biographical and critical background to the works in the exhibition, but will also explore the role of Greenwich Village as the home of the avant-garde and the springboard for new ideas about architecture and urbanism. The project will also address the history and contemporary relevance of the university art collection. The exhibition is made possible in part by the Abby Weed Grey Trust. Public programs are supported by the Grey?s Inter/National Council.
April 22 ? July 19, 2008