August 18–October 21, 2012
Highlights from the Collection showcases a wide assortment of the University at Buffalo Anderson Gallery’s modern and contemporary art collection. Works by Paul Jenkins, Norman Bluhm, and Sam Francis represent gesture painting, a subcategory of Abstract Expressionism. Representational meanings are no longer important and instead, it is the process in which the large canvases are created by the application of loose brush strokes, drips, spills, and splatters. Each swipe and spill of paint shows the gesture of the artist’s hand. The result is a buildup of paint, which gives the artwork a textural quality that further emphasizes the fact that one is looking at what art critic Clement Greenberg called simply “paint on canvas.”
Although Joan Mitchell’s Sunflower prints are not paint on canvas, she accomplishes abstract expressionistic landscapes by integrating gestural lines of varying thickness with backgrounds made of washed-out pastels. Her prints mimic the energy found in nature amidst the plants, especially the life and death of sunflowers. Mitchell captures the energy of plants on paper and allows her work to radiate her emotional response to the subject matter into the viewer’s space.
Taking a step away from abstraction are Karel Appel’s vibrant lithographs and William Scott’s subdued minimalistic still-lifes. Appel’s artistic inspiration stems from the imagination of a child. He believed that one must forget their artistic training and see the world through the eyes and expressions of a child. A series of three cats represent his beliefs through the use of lively colors, disproportional body parts, and a vast variation of line thickness. These playful drawings imitate a child’s imagination and give an energetic quality to the images. On the opposing end of the gallery are William Scott’s still-lifes. Their skewed perspectives reflect his artistic studies of Post-Impressionist artists such as Paul Cézanne. Monochromatic backgrounds redefine the space surrounding the simple silhouette-like objects, which allows viewers to experiment with different viewpoints. Altering the viewer’s way of seeing allows the objects to take on new forms and assign new meanings to each composition.
Lithographs from Robert Rauschenberg’s Stoned Moon Series further lead the way into a more representational realm. Rauschenberg creates collages with borrowed images from NASA that show man’s first steps on the moon paired with a primitive flying apparatus. His motif of space exploration reflects the role of television viewing in the emergence of pop culture in the 1960s.
The artists within Highlights from the Collection feature important works throughout the modern and contemporary era. During this time period, artists were experimenting with new techniques and borrowing ideas from one another to form new ways of defining art and as ways to challenge viewers’ emotions. Artists used a variety of medium, including newspapers, house paint, dirt, and borrowed images, which help evoke specific memories and feelings. Modern art no longer imitates physical nature but instead suggests the inner qualities of life.
—Nicholas Ostness, Summer Intern and Guest Curator