Five galleries feature newly acquired portrait by Kahlo, drip painting by Pollock and more than a dozen works by O’Keeffe
BOSTON, MA (Tuesday, July 12)—A series of new installations on the third floor of the Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), explores the notion of “Making Modern” in the 20th century. From Frida Kahlo to Jackson Pollock to Georgia O’Keeffe, Modern artists in the Americas were influenced by a variety of mentors, teachers, colleagues and friends. Starting with diverse sources of inspiration, they took their art in dramatic new directions. Each of the five galleries in the installation represents a moment—from Mexico City to New York to Boston—that illustrates the evolution of Modern art in North America. Many of these artists knew each other, and were aware of avant-garde trends in European art. Featuring new acquisitions, rarely seen loans, and masterpieces from the MFA’s collection, these galleries provide a fresh perspective on Modern artists working in the 20th century. Kahlo and Her Circle is presented with support from the Leigh and Stephen Braude Fund for Latin American Art.
“These galleries feature individual artists and their profound impact on Modern art in America,” said Elliot Bostwick Davis, John Moors Cabot Chair, Art of the Americas. “We celebrate the contributions of the early Modernists from the Lane Collection—such as O’Keeffe, Sheeler and Dove—placing their voices in conversation with Pollock, Picasso, Hofmann, Kahlo and the Boston Expressionists.”
The five newly installed galleries are Kahlo and Her Circle; Pollock/Picasso; The Lane Collection: O’Keeffe, Sheeler, Dove; Beckmann in America; and Hofmann and the Next Generation.
In Kahlo and Her Circle, the work of Frida Kahlo and her circle of family and friends in Mexico City is displayed in the Robert and Jane Burke Gallery. Anchored by the MFA’s recently acquired and newly conserved painting Dos Mujeres (1928) by Kahlo, the installation also includes Imogen Cunningham’s iconic portrait of Kahlo, as well as photographs by Tina Modotti and Edward Weston. La Mujer (Frida Kahlo) (1930) is among a selection of lithographs and drawings on view by Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera. Recently donated archival material related to the artists includes a wedding portrait of Kahlo and Rivera by Victor Reyes, scrapbook photos and a newspaper clipping announcing the couple’s wedding. A black-and-white video of Kahlo sketching is also featured in the gallery.
Pollock/Picasso, on view in the Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries, contrasts two titans of Modern art. Side-by-side groupings of paintings, sculpture and works on paper explore Pollock’s engagement with Picasso, and how the younger artist moved away from representation into abstraction during the 1930s and ’40s. Although the two never met, Pollock was familiar with Picasso’s work, having seen it in publications, as well as in museums and galleries in New York. Two major works—the painting Fernande Olivier (1905–06) and a version of the bronze cast of Head of a Woman (1909)— were among those Pollock would have seen at the 1939-40 Museum of Modern Art retrospective of Picasso.
During his career, Picasso pushed the boundaries of representation, while Pollock belonged to the generation that fully shifted to abstraction. The installation explores the mid-century shift—both geographic (Paris to New York) and generational—that marks the beginning of abstract expressionism in the US. Pollock’s Number 10 (1949) is an example of his revolutionary drip paintings, rooted in surrealism, while Picasso’s Portrait of a Woman (1910) is an example of his early cubist works, which were among the artist’s most abstract. Also included in the gallery are two archival videos of the artists at work, painting on glass in their studios.
The large central gallery of “Making Modern,” The Lane Collection: O’Keeffe, Sheeler, Dove, represents five American artists—Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Sheeler, Arthur Dove, Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis—who knew and were influenced by Alfred Stieglitz and each other, and were actively collected by William H. Lane and his wife Saundra, generous MFA supporters. Stieglitz tirelessly promoted photography and American Modernists, while Lane assembled and donated one of the nation’s great gifts of American early modernist painting and photographs to the MFA in 2012. Works by each artist are grouped separately, exploring their artistic identity, with O’Keeffe represented by more than a dozen paintings from the MFA’s collection, including Deer’s Skull with Pedernal (1936) and White Rose with Larkspur No. 2 (1927). Sheeler’s painting On a Shaker Theme (1956), and Dove’s That Red One (1944) are also on view.
Beckmann in America, on view in the Saundra B. and William H. Lane Galleries, highlights the influence of German-born artists Max Beckmann and Karl Zerbe. After fleeing Germany in the 1930s, both immigrated to the US and had a lasting impact on American artists. Zerbe, head of the Drawing and Painting program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) from 1937 to 1954, was influenced by Beckmann, and in turn influenced a number of artists in Boston’s thriving artistic community during the 1940s and 1950s. The gallery explores the work of Beckmann and Zerbe, as well as students Jack Levine and Hyman Bloom, who established Boston Expressionism as a major style of painting at mid century. Together with Zerbe and SMFA student David Aaronson—who went on to establish the Fine Art Department at Boston University—the Boston Expressionists developed their own personal responses to the bold subjects and broad technique of the German Expressionists.
Hofmann and the Next Generation in the Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell Gallery explores the impact of pedagogy on mid-century abstract artists. Hans Hofmann (American, born in Germany), an abstract expressionist and prominent teacher, welcomed hundreds of students to his studios in New York and Provincetown, training them in his distinctive technique and then inspiring this new generation to develop their own voice. From Franz Kline’s monumental, gestural work to Robert Motherwell’s more philosophical approach, Hofmann’s deep influence on abstract art and technique can be seen in paintings by Helen Frankenthaler, Kline and Motherwell, and sculptures by David Smith and Peter Voulkos.
Art of the Americas
“Making Modern,” on the third floor of the MFA’s Art of the Americas Wing, is on view through January 15, 2018. Since the Museum’s founding in 1870, it has been committed to collecting art of North, Central and South America from all time periods. Its diverse holdings rank among the most significant in the nation and feature masterpieces ranging from gold of the Ancient Americas, Mayan ceramics and Native American (prehistoric to contemporary) objects, to one of the finest collections of art of the United States from colonial through modern times. More than 5,000 objects from the Museum’s collection of works from the Americas are on view in the 53 galleries of the Art of the Americas Wing, designed by Foster + Partners (London) and opened in 2010.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), is recognized for the quality and scope of its collection, representing all cultures and time periods. The Museum has more than 140 galleries displaying its encyclopedic collection, which includes Art of the Americas; Art of Europe; Contemporary Art; Art of Asia, Oceania, and Africa; Art of the Ancient World; Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; Textile and Fashion Arts; and Musical Instruments. Open seven days a week, the MFA’s hours are Saturday through Tuesday, 10 am–5 pm; and Wednesday through Friday, 10 am–10 pm. Admission (which includes one repeat visit within 10 days) is $25 for adults and $23 for seniors and students age 18 and older, and includes entry to all galleries and special exhibitions. Admission is free for University Members and individual youths age 17 and younger. Wednesday nights after 4 pm admission is by voluntary contribution (suggested donation $25). MFA Members are always admitted for free. The Museum’s mobile MFA Guide is available at ticket desks and the Sharf Visitor Center for $5, members; $6, non-members; and $4, youths. The Museum is closed on New Year’s Day, Patriots’ Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit mfa.org or call 617.267.9300. The MFA is located on the Avenue of the Arts at 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115.