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Human Presence: Works from the Museum's Collection
Bridget Riley, Blue Dominance. screenprint, 1977. Museum purchase through the Beatrice S. Levy Fund, 1979:23.3. © Bridget Riley, all rights reserved, Courtesy Karsten Schubert, London.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA.- The San Diego Museum of Art presents Human Presence: Works from the Museum's Collection through July 17, 2005. This two-part exhibition of the Museum's contemporary collection examines the role of the human body in art, both as subject matter and as an instrument of perception. Part I: The Singular Body joins a selection of three-dimensional sculptures of the human body and animal forms in the galleries with works on view in SDMA's sculpture garden and court. In Part II: Through the Geometry of Color, geometric paintings and works on paper draw visitors' awareness to their own physiological reactions to pure form and color.

The figurative sculptors presented in The Singular Body resisted the stringent formalism of earlier artists like Constantin Brancusi. For example, Marino Marini and Henry Moore, who both came into prominence between the two world wars, saw in simplified human and animal forms a way to address humanist concerns and to express the isolation and vulnerability of the postwar human condition. These same concerns are later expressed in the work of American Deborah Butterfield, who during the 1980s used animals, primarily horses, to reflect on the seclusion and impenetrability of subjective experience.

Through the Geometry of Color features works by geometric abstractionists, including Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely, who rejected the gestural and representational approaches found in figurative art and searched instead for an art of essential forms. The following generation of artists, including Americans Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly and British artist Bridget Riley, saw the picture plane as a container of visible phenomena to be decoded through automatic ocular impressions which would then be given meaning by the mind. They reduced the activity of art to the activity of seeing through the physical body while still situating the human being, through the eye, at the center of their premise.

Human Presence: Works from the Museum's Collection bridges two artistic approaches, which differ in their formal and stylistic strategies, by presenting works that engage both the symbolic and perceptual aspects of the body as a means of exploring changing definitions of the self.

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