Exploring the unfolding story of America by actively collecting and exhibiting outstanding works by American artists is central to the mission of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Recently, several works were acquired that complement the museum’s 20th-century holdings, and enhance focuses within the collection. Among those acquisitions are an iconic Pop image by Andy Warhol from the Cold War era, and an important and grand-scale Minimalist sculpture by Donald Judd.
These works will debut in the museum’s 20th-Century Art Gallery this month as part of a scheduled rotation of works on exhibit. The update will include the reinstallation of Mark Rothko’s No. 210/No. 211 (Orange), as well as the debut of Miriam Schapiro’s A Mayan Garden and Theodore Roszak’s 42nd Steet (Times Square), both acquired in 2012.
Andy Warhol, Hammer and Sickle, 1977, acrylic and silkscreen ink on canvas
“Hammer and Sickle is a great example of how art can engage American history,” said Crystal Bridges Curator of American Art Kevin Murphy. “Warhol is acting as a provocateur here in playing with ideas of art, culture and society.” A part of the Hammer and Sickle series, the 6 x 7-foot work was completed by Warhol after a 1976 trip to Italy, where he saw the hammer and sickle frequently repeated in graffiti. Though the symbol is usually associated with the Communist party, in Italy—a democratic country since the end of WWII—Warhol felt the graffiti symbol was more Pop than political. “He treats it as a still life,” said Murphy, “and while he may not have been making a political statement, it’s evocative of the tensions during the Cold War period.”
Donald Judd, Untitled1989 (Bernstein 89-24), 1989, copper and red Plexiglas
Rising nearly 19 vertical feet when installed, this sculpture features 10 copper and red Plexiglas box-like elements. “Donald Judd was a pioneering artist in the art movement that came to be known as Minimalism, in which artists reduced their sculptural forms to the most fundamental geometric shapes,” said Crystal Bridges President Don Bacigalupi. “These ‘primary structures’ were considered the most modern approach to sculpture in the 1960s, and had considerable influence on art thereafter. Our newly acquired Judd sculpture is both an extraordinary example of the artist’s pure geometric Minimalist forms, but also a dazzling and seductively beautiful work, with its brilliant red and bright shiny copper surfaces. Towering to 19 feet high, the work expands our notion of what sculpture can be and how we encounter it.”
Other recent acquisitions will add depth to the museum’s strong holdings of art from the first half of the 20th century. A stellar example by one of the leading female Modernists of her day (Agnes Pelton), another of the earliest American Modernists’ experiments with Cubism (Max Weber) and a first acquisition by an unsung hero of the Regionalist movement of the 1930s (Marvin Cone) all complement and augment existing works on view.
Max Weber, Burlesque #1, 1909, oil on canvas
This early Modern-period painting is a precursor to Burlesque #2, which is already in Crystal Bridges’ collection. On the back of Burlesque #1, Weber has sketched ideas for Burlesque #2, and curator Kevin Murphy noted that “this Cubist work is an excellent addition alongside the museum’s similar holdings, including paintings by Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis.”
Agnes Pelton, Sand Storm, 1932, oil on canvas
“Pelton, like her contemporary, Georgia O’Keeffe, sought the seclusion of the desert to produce abstractions of the natural world,” said Murphy. “Her refined technique almost appears to be airbrushed, which helps carry her message of light as spiritual metaphor.” Crystal Bridges also holds another of Pelton’s works: Divinity Lotus, 1929, oil on canvas.
Marvin Dorwart Cone, Stone City Landscape, 1936, oil on canvas
This mid 1930s work depicting Stone City, Iowa, is in the Regionalist tradition. Cone was a contemporary and friend of Grant Wood, whose work is also included in Crystal Bridges’ collection. “This landscape furthers our offerings from that time period,” added Murphy, “which includes works by Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry.”
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