Modernism From the National Gallery of Art Heading to San Francisco

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As the National Gallery of Art renovates and expands its East Building galleries, the deYoung Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco presents Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert & Jane Meyerhoff Collection from June 7, 2014 through October 12, 2014. This exhibition is one of the two latest collaborations between the National Gallery of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, dating back to the 40s.

As the exclusive venue, the exhibit will highlight 46 works by the masters of the post-World War II to San Francisco including Roy Lichtenstein, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella, Mark Rothko and Ellsworth Kelly among others. Art will be arranged into three generational categories in order to give visitors an overview of American art from the end of the Second World War to the end of the 20th century.

At the heart of the exhibition is Barnett Newman’s The Stations of the Cross, a series of 15 paintings, universally considered his most important works. Visitors will experience Newman’s paintings in a dedicated, “chapel-like” gallery as envisioned by the artist.

Among the featured sculptures and paintings are Jasper Johns’ 1982, Perilous Night and Frank Stella’s 1969, Flin Flon IV.

Johns’ Perilous Night, in encaustic on canvas with objects, is a diptych. Visitors will note that the work is bleak with shadowy imagery, seemingly associated. However, Jasper Johns incorporated found images, “murky” art history along with symbolic references to previous works and experiences. For example, the handkerchief in the painting is symbolic of Picasso’s La Femme Qui Pleure (Weeping Woman Sixth State) to imply grief and sadness.

Named after a Canadian town in Manitoba, Stella’s Flin Flon IV from a series (1969) is made of synthetic polymer and fluorescent paint on canvas. His painting explored color relationships, form and pattern in a geometric flower motif. The work is in contrast to his earlier monochromatic canvases.

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It was in the late 50s, when Baltimore art collector- philanthropist, Robert E. Meyerhoff and his wife, Jane began collecting works of art by promising post-World War II artists.  Over the years, the couple also concentrated on a group of artists who followed Abstract Expressionism like Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella – all who became the distinguished couple’s friends.

At the beginning of 1985, the Meyerhoffs began to donate their major post-war works to the National Gallery of Art. In 1997, they signed an agreement with the museum for the “eventual donation” of their entire collection to the Gallery. Today, the Meyerhoff’ collection is the largest donation ever to the National Gallery of Art since 1937.

The Meyerhoffs amassed one of the largest collections to emphasize the post-war era – nearly 300 works of art. It was not only remarkable “in its depth and quality, but also in the passion and acumen with which it was assembled,” noted the director of the National Gallery, Earl A. Powell III. While the artwork chosen for the exhibit is only a partial display of the Meyerhoff collection, visitors to the deYoung Legion of Honor museum will gain an overview of the visual and intellectual concerns that have defined American art since the mid-20th century.

By Dawn Levesque

Antiques and the Arts Weekly
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National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Australia

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