Robert Motherwell: Early Colleages

Robert Motherwell: Early COlleages
Curated by Susan Davidson
May 26 – September 8, 2013

This exhibition is devoted exclusively to early collages and related works on paper produced by Robert Motherwell (Aberdeen, Washington 1915 - Cape Cod, Massachusetts 1991), one of the leading figures of American Abstract Expressionism, during the first decade of his career, from 1941 to 1951. Motherwell has been the subject of several comprehensive retrospectives orga¬nized around the globe that have acknowledged the critical role of col¬lage in Motherwell’s oeuvre but have not paid any special attention to his pioneering work in this essential medium. Robert Motherwell: Early Collages is in fact the first presentation to extensively chronicle his artistic beginnings through the lens of his reve¬latory encounter with the papier collé technique, which Motherwell described in 1944 as “the greatest of our [art] discoveries.”

Robert Motherwell
Figure with Blots, 1943
David and Audrey Mirvish, Toronto

  Robert Motherwell
Jeune Fille, 1944
Private collection
  Robert Motherwell
View from a High Tower, 1944–45
Private collection
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Featuring forty-four works from renowned museums and private collections from across Europe and the US, the exhibition also honors Peggy Guggenheim. Friendship, patronage, stimulus, and promotion were all components of Peggy’s manifold generosity to Motherwell as well as to other Americans while still in their forma¬tive years as artists. In fact, Peggy Guggenheim’s catalytic impact on Motherwell’s development is typical of her crucial role in New York’s 1940s art scene. Thanks to her encouragement and under the tutelage of Chilean Surrealist artist Matta (Roberto Antonio Sebastián Matta Echaurren), Motherwell first experimented with collage in 1943. As he recalled years later, “I might never have done it otherwise, and it was here that I found […] my ‘identity’.” Motherwell’s earliest papier collé works were featured in Exhibition of Collage, the first international presentation of collage in the United States. This groundbreaking show was held at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century museum-gallery in spring 1943. On this occasion, Motherwell displayed his works next to other European artists who were working with collage, such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Kurt Schwitters. Little more than a year later, in autumn 1944, Peggy mounted Motherwell’s first solo U.S. exhibition, which proved to be one of the largest shows in the history of Art of This Century. Over the next decade, Motherwell’s production of large-scale collages even outpaced his creation of paintings; his enthusiasm for and dedication to the collage technique for the remainder of his career sets Motherwell apart from other artists of his generation.

This exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue (Guggenheim Publications) that offers a vital reassessment of Motherwell’s work in the collage medium.

This exhibition is generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art, with additional funding from the Dedalus Foundation. The Leadership Committee is gratefully acknowledged for its support, including Gilbert and Shelley Harrison, Dorothy and Sidney Kohl, and Louisa Stude Sarofim. The exhibition is also supported by Intrapresae Collezione Guggenheim. The organizers are grateful for the collaboration of the Corriere della Sera and to Radio Italia as media partners. Hangar Design Group designed the exhibition’s publicity materials. Programs auxiliary to the exhibition are supported by the Fondazione Araldi Guinetti, Vaduz. After Venice, the exhibition will be on display at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (September 27, 2013 – January 5, 2014)