Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors

The Paul J. Sachs Prints and Illustrated Books Galleries

Rock Paper Scissors features sculptures and works on paper—realized in wood, stone, lead, etching, lithography, cut paper, watercolor, and crayon, among other materials and processes—by artists who moved in Abstract Expressionist circles.

Art Exhibition previously on at The Museum of Modern Art - MoMA in New York, United States.
From Sunday 03 October 2010 to Monday 28 February 2011

Ascending 1951 image Installation view of Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors. image Installation view of Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors. image Ascension Lente (Slow Ascent), state XII
1947/49 image Study for Jackson Pollock 1949 image Sunset, I 1953 image Laocoön 1943 image My Pacific (Polynesian Culture) 1942 image A Letter. 1952 image

Published by MOMA on Wednesday 24 November 2010.
Contact the publisher.

Abstract Expressionist ideas and practices extended beyond painting into a wide variety of mediums, including sculpture, printmaking, and drawing.

Works by artists Louise Bourgeois, Dorothy Dehner, Herbert Ferber, David Hare, Stanley William Hayter, Seymour Lipton, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi, Theodore Roszak, and David Smith share with contemporaneous paintings an affinity for premodern art, the subconscious, and mythology as well as a vigorous physicality and gestural composition. The exhibition reveals similarities in approach in two and three dimensions by these artists. Nearly one third of the works in the exhibition have not been on view in over 40 years; the presentation also includes several new acquisitions.

A group of totemic figures by Bourgeois, Ferber, and Hare are at the center of the first gallery, demonstrating a common tendency on the part of this generation of artists to rethink archaic and primitive forms; the sharp points and jagged edges of some of these sentinels result in a brooding quality that reflects the still-raw experience of World War II. In nearby drawings and prints by these same artists, marks that are repeated or are the results of gouging or scratching into etching plates reveal a similar sense of threat. Works by Noguchi emphasize the organic qualities of wood and ceramic in the sculptures My Pacific (1942) and Centipede (c. 1952), while his Work Sheets for Sculpture (1946) show the way scissors can be deployed to treat paper as sculpture.

Nevelson’s constructions from found wood are on view in the gallery’s second room alongside a series of studies rendered with a rough crayon line by Seymour Lipton, as well as his menacing Imprisoned Figure (1948). In the next gallery, viewers experience another approach to the totem in a multi-part piece by Dorothy Dehner, Encounter (1969), a new acquisition on view for the first time. Her etchings hanging nearby are similarly constructed from iterations of geometric forms. This gallery also showcases Stanley William Hayter’s surrealist-inspired prints, with body parts embedded in swirling lines and webs, as well as his lesser-known and rarely seen sculpture. Finally, in the last gallery, the juxtaposition of the sculpture 24 Greek Ys (1950) with the calligraphic imagery of his works on paper show David Smith’s exploitation of letters as endlessly interesting forms.

In looking beyond painting—long understood as the dominant medium of Abstract Expressionism—Rock Paper Scissors illuminates the range and liveliness of work produced in this period.

Rock Paper Scissors is organized by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings, and Sarah Suzuki, The Sue and Eugene Mercy, Jr., Assistant Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books.