Muscarelle Museum of Art Presents Impact: Expressions in Abstraction

IMPACT: Expression in Abstraction is a selection of works from the collection of the Muscarelle Museum of Art chosen to represent the diverse canon of the Abstract Expressionists.

The exhibition showcases the dynamic techniques used to create an intimate experience for the viewer and the lasting impression of Abstract Expressionism on the history of modern art. IMPACT: Expression in Abstraction is on view through January 2, 2011.

The subjective nature of Abstract Expressionism enabled fundamental aspects of painting—canvas, color, and brushstroke—to capture a vast range of emotional complexities. Renowned American art critic Harold Rosenberg commented that for the artists of this movement, “the canvas was not a picture, but an event.” Aesthetic choices of Abstract Expressionist artists provide insight into the psyche of the individual artist.

Impact: Expression in Abstraction focuses primarily on three aesthetic themes the Abstract Expressionists explored. Color Field paintings immerse the viewer in a vivid Abstract Expressionist palette. Either on enormous paintings or in minute compositions, the use of color in these works creates an effect of expansiveness that brings the viewer into these fields of color. Second, Action Painting, the most explosively energetic of the Abstract Expressionist techniques, embraces the spontaneous. Action painters splashed, splattered, and smeared pigment in what was often an exploration of the subconscious. Lastly, the exhibition features works of visual opposition and juxtaposition. This style incorporates elements that are both painterly and geometric, creating an integrated finished piece with individual elements that are distinct without being dissonant. The artists of these differentiated works seek contrast as opposed to equivalence, accentuating rather than subduing visual differences.

While this exhibition highlights different aesthetics, Abstract Expressionists continually reworked their compositions, experimenting within and across the arbitrary boundaries of aesthetic categories. This very indeterminacy of Abstract Expressionism, and its artists’ refusal to provide the traditional imagery required for interpretation, is the primary mechanism that encourages the viewer to actively experience the spirit in which these works were created. For the artists creating the work, it was a way to express the unknown. For the viewers, these works provide a new way to experience and understand the intangible.

The Muscarelle Museum of Art is located on Jamestown Road on the campus of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The Museum is open from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed on Mondays. Docent tours are available at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Sundays, and other times as announced.  During exhibitions, there is an admission fee of $10.00.  Admission is free for Museum members, The College of William & Mary faculty, staff, and students, and children under twelve.  For more information about this exhibition or the Muscarelle Museum of Art in general, please call 757-221-2700 or visit www.wm.edu/muscarelle

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