From Motherwell to Hofmann: The Samuel Kootz Gallery, 19451966 is the first exhibition to examine the critical role Kootz (18981982) played in establishing modern American art as an international force. It focuses on the ways in which Kootzs New York gallery (operational 19451966) was instrumental in promoting the careers of several major Abstract Expressionist artists, including William Baziotes, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, and Robert Motherwell. It features works by these artists and focuses on a selection of important exhibitions that were held at the Kootz Gallery, including a 1946 show of the collection of Roy R. Neuberger, Kootzs first customer at the gallery, and founding patron of the Neuberger Museum of Art
. Until now, Samuel Kootz has been underrepresented in the scholarship of the postwar period, despite representing much of the major talent in twentieth-century art. The exhibition and associated publication, with essays by noted experts, recasts Kootz, focusing on his writings, relationships with individual artists, collectors, and dealers, and the trajectories of the artists who showed at his gallery, in order to provide a new perspective on this moment in American art.
The exhibition, organized as Dealers Choice: The Samuel Kootz Gallery, 1945-1966 by The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, presents more than 50 works of art and includes highlights such as Adolph Gottliebs celebrated paintings, The Frozen Sounds, Number 1 (1951, The Whitney Museum of American Art) and Frozen Sounds II (1952, The Albright-Knox Gallery)
that mark the transition from his use of Surrealist pictographs to Abstract Expressionist bursts; Hans Hofmanns The Vanquished (1959, University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive) which illustrates the artists famed push-pull aesthetic, critical to his teachings and work; William Baziotess Figures in Smoke #2 (1947) a recent Fralin acquisition and an important watercolor from a seminal year in Baziotess career; and Robert Motherwells The Red Skirt (1947, Whitney Museum of American Art) a painting that reflects the artists interest in primordial themes, and the first of the large-scale compositions he began in 1947.
The Kootz Gallery was one of the premier art galleries in mid-century New York. Started by art dealer Samuel Kootz in 1944, it not only helped finance the works of emerging artists like Motherwell and Baziotes in the late 1940s, but it also offered the first post-World War II retrospective of Picasso in 1947. Kootz Gallery was one of the first to champion Abstract Expressionist art. Samuel Kootz himself had a finely-tuned eye for great Abstract Expressionist artwork: when Jackson Pollock rose to fame in the late 1940s with his signature "drips," Kootz reminded the public that Hans Hofmann was producing "drip" paintings as far back as 1940. The Kootz Gallery was an international gallery, showcasing the finest contemporary American art of mid-century alongside older Modern "masters" like Léger and Picasso. But in its earliest days, after World War II, the gallery needed a little help. As Roy Neuberger described it in his autobiography The Passionate Collector: In a sense, I was his earliest backer. Shortly after the gallery opened, he said, Roy, I do not have a big mailing list. May I have an exhibition of works from your collection? I said yes. It was understood that although the paintings would be exhibited, they were not for sale... His gallery became quite successful. By the 1950s, the Kootz Gallery began promoting the avant-garde on a newer, grander scale, by bringing together painters of large canvases, muralists and architects for exhibitions that came to redefine how the artist and audience coexist.
From Motherwell to Hofmann is accompanied by a scholarly publication bringing new research and essays by noted experts closely examining Kootzs career and activities with the gallery; his writings; his relationships with individual artists, collectors and other dealers; and the trajectories of the artists who showed at his gallery. Essayists include Rebecca Schoenthal, curator of Dealers Choice; Serge Guilbaut, professor emeritus of art history at the University of British Columbia; Barbara Michaels, former gallery employee at Kootz Gallery; Ágnes Berecz, associate professor at Christies Education; Diana Bush, teaching assistant professor at Stevens Institute of Technology; and Jennifer Farrell, associate curator, Department of Drawings and Prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, who serves as editor for the publication.