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Mad Men to Mad Painters

Perhaps we're in a retro trend here with the popularity of chain-smoking, heavy drinking, macho men on the TV show Mad Men. Now the Museum of Modern Art has joined in by dusting off some of its extensive collection of work from the mad painters of that era with the exhibit Abstract Expressionist New York.

It's always nice when you can rummage through your warehouse and pull out some of the best examples of an era of painting. Pollock, Rothko, Newman, Motherwell, Gorky, Richard Pousette-Dart, Krasner, de Kooning, Smith, and Mitchell, plus a few lesser known but no less impressive. This 1940 Guston, which is new to me, is a gem and this Rothko is so in tune with his friend Milton Avery.

Lots of old favorites from Pollock and Still and several David Smith sculptures, also some surprises like Sam Francis's Big Red, probably his best, that I've seen anyway. Plus Ad Reinhardt, whom I rarely get to see, is well represented by two of his black paintings: a few narrow verticals, this more surreal work from 1949, and a white painting titled #107. Heavy on Pollocks and Barnett Newmans and light on the women: Lee Krasner, a lone Nevelson, and no Grace Hartigan or Elaine De Kooning to be found (not a surprise though).

Painting was not the only genre making great strides in this period. I was glad to see photography also included in this exhibit: Minor White, Harry Calahan, Walter Chappell, and one of my favorites, Robert Frank; Aaron Siskind explores the more painterly imagery.

To hear a two-part podcast by art blogger C-Monster herself, Carolina Miranda, about the famous watering hole the Cedar Tavern and the gallery that supported the movement, Peggy Guggenheim's Art of this Century Gallery, go here. Abstract Expressionist New York is up through April 25th.


chris said...

Mad Men and MoMA? I guess if you're MoMA you gotta remind people why they need to come to MoMA sometimes.

Mark Barry said...

They seem to be doing quite well with attendance, Chris, but it's always a surprise to see just how much incredible work goes unseen.