Each fall the Museum introduces a new series of installations of the permanent collection, highlighting recently acquired works and creating different connections and contexts. The goal is to offer inventive ways of looking at the familiar and the unfamiliar, bringing to light the many kinships among works of art that, when viewed together, encourage inventive ways of thinking about the world around us and our relationship to it. Connections and Context introduces several themes and concepts that echo throughout the collection galleries. These thematic, mini-narratives suggest the idea of dialogue—how artworks interact with one another while claiming individual visual territory.
Through gesture and composition the atmospheric abstractions of Dan Christensen’s Moondowner (1970), Helen Frankenthaler’s Riverhead (1963), and Untitled (1991) by Esteban Vicente suggest the notion of landscape as both a place and an emotional state of being. Christensen’s washy colors and defined horizon, Vicente’s light infused color dotted with mysterious forms, and Frankenthaler’s watery, flooded field of color suggest a sense of place that is felt rather than seen. Friedel Dzubas’s energetic masses of color and form in Untitled (ca. 1958) create an imaginative interplay between the abstract and the physical.
Other modes of abstraction play with the marriage of gesture and geometry. Ellsworth Kelly’s soaring White Curve (2010) echoes the buoyant mark-making in James Brooks’s Mardon (1973) and the minimalism of Kelly’s object, hovering between painting and sculpture, is heightened by the dispersed narrative of Brooks’s allover composition. The solidness of geometric form played against immaterial light comes into play for both Dorothea Rockburne and Stephen Antonakos. Rockburne’s shaped canvas Capernum Gate (1984) is infused with a sense of illumination that is a painterly illusion. By contrast Antonakos’s Voyage (1999) emphatically reinforces light and its variable and mystical properties.
Paintings by Michael Tetherow and Donald Sultan and sculpture by Robert Gober bring to the fore ideas about texture, gesture, and the suggestion of a story to tell. Both Sultan and Gober find inspiration in narrative. For Gober what appears to be an ordinary household sink in Untitled (2012) is actually a painstakingly handmade version of that practical object, which, with its reference to cleanliness and purity, becomes a potent symbol. Sultan’s The Cantelope Pickers (1983) uses a news photo as a jumping off point for an image that is at once straightforward and mysterious. Both artists explore social, political, and cultural concepts through abstract visual gesture. Tetherow’s thickly worked monochromatic canvas is as dense as a black hole, symbolically expressing the vastness of the universe and an unknowable time and place.