Arnold Lehman curates his final Phillips exhibition ahead of retirement

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Arnold Lehman curates his final Phillips exhibition ahead of retirement
Sam Gilliam, Untitled, 1971, 23 1/4 x 35 in. (59.1 x 88.9 cm).

NEW YORK, NY.- Phillips is proud to announce Innovation in American Art / 1970-1975 / A Fifty Year Perspective, a selling exhibition organized by Phillips Senior Advisor and former Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman together with his longtime executive assistant, Elizabeth Wallace, opening 29 June at 432 Park Avenue, New York, NY. The exhibition marks the last of Lehman’s many celebrated projects at Phillips ahead of his retirement at the end of the summer, with the show focusing on a brief yet immensely significant period of artistic creativity. Innovation in American Art will present approximately thirty-five artists who were prominently featured in one or more of the five esteemed invitational exhibitions of the early 1970s: Documenta in Kassel, the Venice Biennale, the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh, the So Paulo Bienal, and the Whitney Biennial in New York. While some of these artists emerged onto the international art scene during the 1970s, others had already attained global recognition. Now, half a century later, Lehman’s focused overview aims to celebrate both those artists who continue to be revered worldwide as well as those who, while highly acclaimed during that era, may not be as front- of-mind today as they should among art-aware audiences. Among the artists included in the exhibition are Jim Dine, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Jennifer Bartlett, Al Loving, Brice Marden, Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Dorothea Rockburne, Fred Eversley, and Richard Pousette-Dart.

Arnold Lehman, Senior Advisor, said, “The early 1970s marked the beginning of my museum career, providing me with an unrestricted perspective on art and artists grappling with the social and political upheaval of American culture in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The images of the art created between 1970 and 1975, which forms the core of this exhibition, have remained with me for half a century as my earliest introduction to the remarkable narrative of American art in the final decades of the twentieth century. These artists became integral to my visual universe and have continued to influence me throughout my more-than-forty-year tenure in the museum community. After an exhaustive eighteen-month research process, my colleague Elizabeth Wallace and I are very pleased to present these artists together in one exhibition, introducing their works to new audiences of art collectors, educators, students, and anyone eager to engage with the profound and enduring creativity of these artists.”

Acting as a bridge between the artistic movements of Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, and Minimalism in the 1950s and 1960s, the early 1970s set the stage for the remarkable diversity of artistic achievements in the visual arts that unfolded over the subsequent half century in America against a backdrop of explosive cultural change. From Robert Moskowitz’s ability to bring together Abstract Expressionism and the New Image painting movement, to Arlene Slavin’s combination of Geometric Abstraction and Pattern and Decoration – the artists in this exhibition were without limitation in their representation of the strength and innovation expressed in this brief but pivotal period in American art. The fifty years of American cultural and creative momentum following the early ‘70s ignited new and majestic artistic visions from artists whose names compose a near-permanent pantheon of American visual expression. Innovation in American Art salutes and extols the extraordinary vision and creative energies of all those artists who share in creating new ways of vividly translating the world for all of us.

Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips’ President, Americas, said, “Arnold Lehman is a true pioneer in the art world, having shattered boundaries and enlightened minds throughout the journey of his illustrious career. From his exceptional leadership of the Baltimore Museum of Art to his nearly two decades of transformative direction of the Brooklyn Museum - the time during which he valiantly fought against censorship of artistic freedom - Arnold’s cultural impact will be felt for years to come. His exhibitions at Phillips have become a staple of the calendar and it’s so fitting that his final show will focus on the artists and artworks that helped shape him into the celebrated museum professional that he is today. We wish him the very best in his retirement and thank him endlessly both on behalf of Phillips and the entire art community.”

Lehman’s work at the Brooklyn Museum and his highly publicized battle with the Mayor of New York can be read about in his book, SENSATION: The Madonna, The Mayor, The Media, and the First Amendment.

June 29 - August 9, 2023

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