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September 13–November 30, 2014 Honickman and Berman Galleries
This fall, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will present a survey of works on paper created by Richard Pousette-Dart during his long and productive career. This comprehensive exhibition will reveal him as one of the most inventive draftsmen of the twentieth century, exploring the evolution of his distinctive vision. On loan from the artist’s estate and public and private collections will be sixty-five of Pousette-Dart’s finest works on paper as well as six of his notebooks. These works offer a revealing perspective on the artist’s lifelong, restless exploration of different materials and techniques in an effort to translate spiritual impulses into physical form.
The youngest of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, Richard Pousette Dart (1916-1992) is best known as a painter and member of a group that included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Willem de Kooning. Early in his career, Pousette-Dart was influenced by tribal art, as evidenced in the recurring motifs he used in his Cubist-inspired sculpture and figurative drawings and paintings.
Among the works on display will be six watercolors on handmade paper from an important series produced in the 1940s, including Garnet Realm, recently acquired by the Museum. During this period, as Pousette-Dart was maturing as an artist, he experimented with techniques associated with Surrealism, such as automatic drawing, often evoking the rich color of Byzantine mosaics and Gothic stained glass windows. His densely layered compositions are characterized by irregular grids, spattered paint, and intricately outlined biomorphic and geometric shapes.
In his works of the 1960s, Pousette-Dart developed dense, textured surfaces to convey glowing auras of light. The exhibition includes numerous examples of these richly colored, carpet-like images, which distinctively feature geometric patterns or concentric circles rendered with tiny dots of myriad colors. He called the quivering borders of color in these works “the living edge,” seeking in them the visual equivalent of evanescent light.
The spontaneous markings and linear webs that characterized his drawings and paintings in the early 1950s re-emerged in the mid-1970s, most notably in a series of pale graphite drawings that rank among his finest works. Major examples of these will be on view, including Untitled (Vertical Lines) and Implosion. His works from the 1980s show a remarkable diversity of materials employed in novel combinations. Paintings and drawings on heavy cast papers reflect his enduring fascination with sculpture, while a return to earlier motifs conveys a striking continuity of vision that is echoed throughout his career. Among the last works in the exhibition is Beyond the Moon, a newly acquired drawing made in 1990, which is nocturnal in character and evokes a deep sense of mystery.
Innis Howe Shoemaker, The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, and organizer of this exhibition, stated: “Part what makes Richard Pousette-Dart’s drawings so fascinating is that they reveal his process and thinking so clearly. His art is often associated with the mystical and transcendental, but it also reflects a continuous and truly remarkable inner harmony—in essence, a form of visual poetry. These internal rhythms are especially fascinating to observe across the spectrum of his career, which is what this exhibition sets out to do, ultimately bringing the viewer full circle.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by a comprehensive, fully illustrated catalogue published by the Museum in association with Yale University Press. It will include a foreword by Timothy Rub, The George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer, essays by Innis Howe Shoemaker; The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Nancy Ash, The Charles K. Williams, II, Senior Conservator of Works of Art on Paper; and Eliza Spaulding, the former Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Paper Conservation.
The 146-page catalogue includes 195 color illustrations and will be available for $35.00 in September 2014.
About the Artist
Richard Pousette-Dart was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He was the son of Nathaniel Pousette, a painter and writer, and Flora Louise Dart, a musician and poet. Largely self-taught, he attended Bard College in 1936, but left to devote himself to his art. Inspired by artist and theorist John Graham, he became a key member of the Abstract Expressionist movement, though he eventually diverged to explore other concerns. Pousette-Dart taught in his later years at the New School for Social Research and the School of Visual Arts in New York and received the National Endowment for the Arts Award for Individual Artists in 1967. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (1963, 1974, and 1998); the Museum of Modern Art (1969); the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1997); the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy (2007), among others.
The exhibition is generously supported by The Robert Montgomery Scott Fund for Exhibitions. The accompanying publication is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Tuesday through Sunday: 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Wednesdays and Fridays until 8:45 p.m.