Robert Motherwell: Works on Paper,
1966-1991

In Association with the Artist's Estate
July 8-October 10, 1999

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July 7, 1999 (SAN FRANCISCO, CA)

Meyerovich Gallery announces Robert Motherwell: Works on Paper, 1966-1991, an exhibition of more than 30 works by one of the leaders of Abstract Expressionism. The show, which runs from July 1 to October 10, features unique monotypes as well as boldly colored collages, lithographs, aquatints and etchings.

Born in Aberdeen, Washington, Motherwell (1915-1991) had long-standing ties to the Bay Area where he studied painting at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (1932) and earned a B.A. in philosophy at Stanford University (1932-37). He studied philosophy at Harvard University (1937-38) and Art History at Columbia University (1940) before becoming a full-time artist in 1941.

His philosophical and artistic training made him a powerful proponent of the 1950's Abstract Expressionist group which included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler. One of the Twentieth Century's major art movements, Abstract Expressionism was the first to be led by American artists and helped establish New York City as the center for modern art. Although each member of the group worked in a distinctive style, they shared a preference for large scale canvases which they most often painted in an "all-over," abstract manner.

Motherwell completed many paintings on canvas, but often preferred to work on paper, which he felt better captured the spontaneity of his ideas. Of the Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell was the most interested in printmaking and was a leading figure in the "graphics renaissance" that revitalized American printmaking in the 1960's. Although known for his heavy use of black, Motherwell's printmaking reveals that he was also a strong colorist.

Robert Motherwell: Works on Paper, 1966-1991 features several of Motherwell's best known prints as well as some that are rarely seen. One of his most famous lithographs, Wave (1989) has a vibrant red background and vigorous black brushwork in the manner of Japanese calligraphy, one of Motherwell's great passions. Elegy Study I (1989) echoes Motherwell's famous Elegy paintings and reflects the lifelong tenacity of the Elegy theme. Later color lithographs show Motherwell moving in a new direction. Black Cathedral (1991), Hollow Man's Cave (1991), Delos (1991), and Black for Mozart (1991) feature glowing oranges and vibrating, oblique black forms. These four works, from the final year of Motherwell's life, are not yet illustrated in any books.

Motherwell also practiced collage, a modern approach to still life, and often included "found" elements in his prints. The monumental Black for Mozart (1991) incorporates torn sheet music and the America-La France series (1983-84) features French shipping labels. In contrast, in St. Michael III (1975-79) and Hermitage (1975), Motherwell created the illusion of collage on a single sheet of paper.

The exhibition concludes with a group of unique monotypes from the 1970's. These monotypes are excellent examples of "psychic automatism," a practice favored by Motherwell for creating direct, abstract expressions of the subconcious. The subtle gradations of ink and vigorous brushwork on the monotypes reflect his fascination with Japanese calligraphy. Several of the works relate to his 1970's Samurai series.

For additional information or visuals, please contact Alex Meyerovich at (415) 421-7171. Please note that all images are copyright protected and should carry the following copyright information: © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, 1999.