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A traveling exhibit of American art masterpieces from the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be installed at the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine, beginning Tuesday, August 1. Modernism & Abstraction: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, will remain on view at Colby through October 30. The 70 major paintings and sculptures show the radical transformations of American art in the 20th century as seen in works by Georgia O’Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Stuart Davis, Franz Kline and others.
“There has never before been an exhibition of this magnitude in Maine dealing with modernism and abstraction,” said Hugh Gourley III, director of the Colby museum of art. “It’s an extraordinary opportunity for people in Maine-and indeed New England-to see works by artists who were at the forefront of 20th-century American art.”
Modernism & Abstraction is one of eight exhibitions in “Treasures to Go,” a series of exhibits touring the nation through 2002. The Principal Financial Group® is a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people. More than 500 rarely lent paintings and sculptures were organized into eight thematic exhibits when the Smithsonian American Art Museum underwent renovations this year. Colby is the second of nine stops on the nationwide tour for Modernism & Abstraction.
Modernism & Abstraction features art that embodies the developments in the 20th century, from emerging technologies to new political theories. The show ranges across many artists and subjects: early modernists Joseph Stella and O’Keeffe portraying the dynamism of bridges and skyscrapers; Max Weber, Jan Matulka and Lois Mailou Jones responding to the forms of African sculpture; Stuart Davis translating jazz into rhythmic composition and color; Marsden Hartley and Arthur Dove drawing inspiration from primal nature.
Between the two World Wars, the American Abstract Artists group adapted cubist and surrealist styles originating in Europe. After 1945 artists such as Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Clyfford Still moved into full abstraction. Their breakthroughs led to further developments by painters in the San Francisco Bay area such as Richard Diebenkorn and Nathan Oliveira, as well as Kenneth Noland and Sam Gilliam of the Washington Color School. The most recent works, paintings of the 1990s by Jennifer Bartlett, Eric Fischl and David Hockney, take modern art in still newer directions.
“Storing treasures that attract more than half a million visitors each year was not an option we wanted to consider,” said Elizabeth Broun, director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, who will speak at the Colby museum during the exhibit’s opening. Instead, to share its collection the Smithsonian American Art Museum launched the most extensive art tour ever with the American people. The goal of “Treasures to Go” is to stimulate interest in American art among new audiences as well as among art lovers by exhibiting the nation’s foremost collection in communities across the country, Broun said. The breadth of the itineraries reflects a determination to bring the finest works of art directly to the nation.
Modernism & Abstraction previously was on exhibit at the Art Museum at Florida International University (Miami). After Colby it will be shown at the Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester (N.Y.), the Allentown Art Museum (Pa.), the Frist Center for the Visual Arts (Nashville, Tenn.), the Worcester Art Museum (Mass.), the National Academy Museum (New York, N.Y.), the Des Moines Art Center (Iowa) and the Oakland Museum of California.
Colby museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. admission is free, and the museum is accessible to persons with disabilities. For information call (207) 872-3228. Or visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s “Treasures to Go” web site at http://AmericanArt.si.edu/treasures.