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Exhibition Closed February 2011

This exhibition of highlights from the outstanding collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum will examine the complex and heterogeneous nature of American art in the mid-twentieth century. Featuring thirty-one of the most celebrated artists who came to maturity in the 1950s, the exhibition traces the history of this period through forty-three key paintings and sculptures.

Abstract Expressionism was the first American-born style to have international impact, and the rise of the movement established New York City as the new center of the art world. Aided in their efforts by a group of young dealers, prominent critics, and influential editors, abstract artists gained credibility, and abstraction became a widely discussed national style. Weekly magazines such as Life, Time, and Newsweek brought images of contemporary abstraction to households throughout the country, while New York museums toured exhibitions to the capitals of Europe. By the late 1950s, Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Franz Kline, and other painters and sculptors who embraced abstraction early in the decade enjoyed success, celebrity, and international acclaim.

Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum is organized according to three broadly conceived themes. “Grand Gestures” explores the autographic mark, executed in sweeping strokes of brilliant color, which became the expressive vehicle for Franz Kline, Hans Hofmann, Sam Francis, and others who came to be known as action painters or abstract expressionists. “Optics and Order” highlights Josef Albers, his exploration of mathematical proportion and carefully balanced color, and the artists who built on his ideas-Ilya Bolotowsky, Louise Nevelson, Esteban Vicente, and others. “New Images of Man” includes work by Nathan Oliveira, Romare Bearden, Larry Rivers, Jim Dine, and others who searched their surroundings and personal lives for vignettes emblematic of larger, universal concerns.

The William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment Fund, the C.F. Foundation in Atlanta, and members of the Smithsonian Council for American Art have generously contributed to Modern Masters from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, which was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Local Sponsorship provided, in part, by AT&T Real Yellow Pages and Savannah Communications, Inc.

Hans Hofmann; Fermented Soil, 1965; Oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc.


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Jepson Center

Portfolio Development Class: The Modern Painter
November 3, 10, & 17, 4-6 pm
This class for high school students and young adults emphasizes painting and color theory. Students will exhibit their work in the Morrison Community Gallery. Registration required; call 912.790.8823.

Lecture by Virginia Mecklenburg
Members’ Opening Reception to follow
November 4, 6 pm
Join Virginia Mecklenburg, senior curator at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for a discussion of highlights from the Modern Masters exhibition.

The lecture program is free and open to the public, co-sponsored by the City of Savannah and the Telfair Academy Guild. The opening reception is free to members or with museum admission.

Modern Masters Highlights Tours
November 5-December 17, Fridays at 2 pm
Free to members or with museum admission.

Modern Masters Free Week
November 13-19
During this Free Week at the Jepson Center, visitors will enjoy free admission to exhibitions including Modern Masters, No Ordinary Folk, and The Art of Kahlil Gibran.

Visual Thinking Strategies Practicum for Educators
November 19-20, 9 am-4 pm
This two-day workshop will focus on Visual Thinking Strategy-a method first tested at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and now widely implemented by schools and museums internationally.
Advance registration required; call 912.790.8821.

>> Modern Masters Educators Guide>>

Unless otherwise noted, the above programs are presented free of charge, thanks to project funding provided by the City of Savannah.


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