NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ.-
Innovation and Abstraction: Women Artists and Atelier 17, on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum
from January 17 to May 31, 2017, examines the formal innovations and burgeoning feminist consciousness of eight artists who worked in the studios New York location: Louise Bourgeois, Minna Citron, Worden Day, Dorothy Dehner, Sue Fuller, Alice Trumbull Mason, Louise Nevelson, and Anne Ryan. Atelier 17, a legendary printmaking studio, had relocated from Paris to New York at the outbreak of World War II, providing a workspace and support for some 200 artists nearly half of whom were women during this period of upheaval and uncertainty in Europe. Experimental, often unorthodox, prints by the featured artists are displayed alongside their paintings and sculptures to explore how this work catalyzed their creativity and inspired these women to reshape American abstraction.
Innovation and Abstraction debuted at the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center in East Hampton, New York, in the summer of 2016. The presentation at the Zimmerli features eleven additional works, primarily drawn from the museums strong collection of 20th-century American art. These prints and sculptures showcase the technical expertise of the artists and demonstrate their diverse approaches to mid-century modernism. It also coincides with the museums exhibition Guerrilla (And Other) Girls: Art/Activism/Attitude, which spotlights women artists whose more contemporary graphic works have been shedding light on gender inequality and inequity in the art world for the past 30 years.
Organized by the Pollock-Krasner House and curated by Christina Weyl (who completed her Ph.D. at Rutgers in 2015), the co-founder and co-president of the Association of Print Scholars, the exhibition focuses on a core group who bent traditional printmaking rules and explored uncharted aesthetic terrain in various intaglio and relief printing techniques. Weyl notes, "With the exception of Bourgeois' prints, these artists' graphic works have been largely absent from accounts of postwar American art, despite their having been regularly exhibited in print annuals, museums, and art galleries during the period. This exhibition is the first time their works have been shown together within the context of women's collective innovations at Atelier 17."
Founded in 1927 in Paris by British artist Stanley William Hayter, Atelier 17 relocated to New York from 1940 to 1955 to escape political conflicts in Europe. Many expatriate Surrealist and abstract artists, as well as vanguard Americans including Jackson Pollock worked there, attracted to Hayter's experimental approach to graphics. "I want the artists to try impossible, different, unusual methods," Hayter said.
Examples in the exhibition include Fuller's soft-ground etching, made by impressing lace into the plate's surface coating; Ryan's use of a recycled floorboard for her woodblock print; Bourgeois' sculptural treatment of the engraving process; and Nevelson's use of fabric dipped in acid to create etching directly on the plate. In addition to prints, the exhibition includes examples of works in other media for which the artists are better known: sculpture by Bourgeois, Day, Dehner, and Nevelson; paintings by Citron and Mason; a collage by Ryan; and a string composition by Fuller.
Among the lenders are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, Washburn Gallery, Susan Teller Gallery, Cheim & Read, and the Dorothy Dehner Foundation. A fully illustrated e-catalog is available online at http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/pkhouse/atelier17-ecatalog.pdf.
Innovation and Abstraction: Women Artists and Atelier 17 was curated by the independent art historian Christina Weyl for the Pollock-Krasner House. The presentation at the Zimmerli is coordinated by Nicole Simpson, Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings.