Radical Repetition: Albers to Warhol, an exhibition drawn from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation, opened at the Whatcom Museum
Saturday, April 19 and runs through August 17.
Featuring 140 works of art by 34 artists, Radical Repetition examines recurring imagery in art since the 1960s, which has led to unexpected stylistic transformations and reinvigorated content. Although the exhibition concentrates on prints, it also includes some extraordinary works in painting (James Lavadour) and sculpture (Jenny Holzer) that expand this theme. The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation makes its collections of post-war prints and multiples available to qualifying institutions without exhibition fees.
"This is a rare treat for Whatcom county and beyond" said Executive Director Patricia Leach. "I don't know if people realize just what an extraordinary opportunity Jordan Schnitzer and his Family Foundation have presented to us, but I can tell you we're thrilled to display aspects of his amazing collection. Works from the many stellar artists represented in this show are not often seen outside major metropolitan areas."
The "radical repetition lens through which Curator of Art Barbara Matilsky has organized the exhibition offers a fresh way to consider these modern and contemporary works, which represent both figurative and abstract art.
"Radical Repetition is an appropriate title to describe post-World War II print and multiple making in America. We celebrate the ability of Andy Warhol, Joseph Albers, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Roy Lichtenstein, and others to let the viewers see not just one image, but the magical effect of multiple images both thematically and graphically," said Jordan Schnitzer.
"These images grab us and wonderfully overwhelm us by surrounding us with the artists message. I am building a collection that allows directors and curators to pick themes which push the curatorial envelope. Hats off and a hearty thank you to Whatcom Museum for this stunning and thought-provoking exhibition!
ANYTHING BUT BORING
People often associate the word "repetition" with boredom, said Whatcom Museum Curator of Art Barbara Matilsky. But in the hands of master artists, repetition leads to unexpected pleasures compelling and sometimes complex images, personal and social insights, and even humor. This exhibition underscores the innovative potential of repeating imagery for a wide range of artists and approaches to art making.
The show begins with Josef Albers, who approached the subject of repetition with reverence, influencing a generation of artists when he assumed the chairmanship of the Yale University Art Department. Each print in his series, Homage to the Square (1967) represents an experiment in the optical and psychological effects of color. Later artists, including Sol Lewitt, Dorothea Rockburne, and Donald Judd, innovatively reconfigured geometric forms and redefined its importance for contemporary art.
Repeating forms exist in the natural world and have inspired artists from all cultures and periods. Recurring imagery provides continuity and balance to a composition, which in turn may lead viewers to experience harmony and a meditative mood. Within this context, a soft-edged approach to geometry defines the mandala-like circles in the work of Tara Donovan and Kenneth Noland. Contemplation and an otherworldly aura also emerge from the atmospheric and transcendental qualities of color and light in a series of prints by Anish Kapoor and Larry Bell.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, artists such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein utilized repetition to interpret popular culture. In his American Indian Theme Series (1980), Lichtenstein processes bits and pieces of a generic Native American culture masks, arrows, canoe, bear claws, and geometric patterns found on baskets, textiles and ceramics in an improvisational style inspired by Cubism and comic books. Through the repetition of motifs in flat, primary colors, the artist represents native culture as symbol.
Radical Repetition also highlights artists who explore the same motif in different media. Willie Cole's prints and sculptures, created with an actual iron, become a metaphor for the African American experience. These works expand the idea of repetition to reflect the realities of modern life.
The way recurring imagery has transformed traditional genres such as portraiture and narrative will be explored through the art of Chuck Close, Mickalene Thomas, Hung Liu, Romare Bearden, and Red Grooms. Either through multiples or repeating units within a single work, their stylistic renditions contribute to the ongoing dialogue with art history.
Other artists and works represented in the exhibition include: John Baldessari's I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (1971); Robert Indiana's iconic Four Panel Love (1972); Keith Haring's Pop Shop VI (1989); Edward Ruscha's Well Well (1979); Robert Rauschenberg's Soviet/American Array 1 (1988-89); and Andy Warhol's Cowboys and Indians (1986).