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Exhibition follows George Wardlaw's Mississippi beginnings to lofty career in New York and New England
George Wardlaw (born 1927), Tower of Silence, 1955. Oil on canvas. 41 x 47 in. Copyright © the artist.

JACKSON, MISS.- The Mississippi Museum of Art opened a new exhibition of work spanning six decades by accomplished Mississippi artist George Wardlaw. George Wardlaw: A Life in Art: Works from 1954-2014, on view from May 29 – August 30, 2015, charts the artist’s beginnings in a small Mississippi farming town during the Great Depression to his journey to New York’s avant-garde art scene and his career as a influential teacher at Yale Universiy and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. The town of Baldwyn, Mississippi, from which Wardlaw hails, is commemorating the artist’s journey by declaring May 26, George Wardlaw Day.

The exhibition features thirty-four quintessential works, many large in scale, from among the hundreds created by Wardlaw over the course of more than six decades. They were selected by Dr. Roger Ward, the Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator, to illustrate the trajectory of Wardlaw’s artistic development from his roots in Abstract Expressionism through the era of Color Field painting, Pop Art, and Minimalism to the individualistic and personally expressive character of his contemporary work. The exhibition includes Wardlaw’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures from the collections of other museums such as the de Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Wichita Art Museum in addition to works from the MMA’s own collection.

The exhibition brings to life the important book published in 2012: George Wardlaw: Crossing Borders (available for purchase in The Museum Store), the first comprehensive survey of the artist’s long career. The critical essays in this book offer an extended look into the unfolding of a lifelong dialogue between abstraction and spirituality, played out on canvas, forged in metal, constructed in objects, sculpture, and installations.

“Mr. Wardlaw’s work is little-known here in Mississippi and it deserves to be much more widely celebrated,” said Deputy Director and Chief Curator Roger Ward. “What we hope to create, with this exhibition, is a panoramic but highly selective review of a career which has lasted more than six decades and shows no signs of slowing down (much like that of Ellsworth Kelly, for example). As an artist, Wardlaw has been active in and responsive to the major developments in painting since the appearance of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s to the hard-edge, Color Field and Minimalist painting of the ‘60s and ‘70s to the neo-representational art of the 21st century; today his art is intensely personal and highly expressive in a very exciting way. While our exhibition brings the viewer right up to the present, the concurrent exhibition at the nearby Fischer Galleries will be a showcase for Wardlaw’s most recent works, some completed just this year.”

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