From Modernism to Contemporary, 1958-1999

Ellen JohnsonGallery
Through August 17, 2003


Chakaia Booker,
American, b. 1953
Blue Bell, c. 1998
Rubber tires, steel, wood frame 48 x 42 x 48 in.
Allen Memorial Art Museum
John G. W. Cowles Directorís Fund, 2001.4


From Modernism to the Contemporary, 1958-1999 explores different conceptual and aesthetic approaches to abstraction. Artists in the exhibition have used commercially manufactured materials, urban detritus, and elements of the environment to produce art in both traditional and non-traditional formats. Artists and works in the exhibition include Morris Louis (American, 1912-1962) whose Feh, 1958, created by pouring paint on unprimed canvas, is an important early example of colorfield painting. Agbatana III, 1968, by American artist Frank Stella (b. 1936) is part of his 'protractor' series, and is named for the ancient Persian capital of the Median Empire. The work alludes to the architectural character of the cities' circular plans, as well as to the arches and decoration of Islamic monuments.

Kiki Smith's (American, b. 1954) Untitled IV (Shield) , 1990, is cast from the pregnant woman's abdomen. The imprint of the artist's hand and her friend's body is visible in the modeled ridge and the rounded plaster casting. Silent Barrack , 1989, by Rimer Cardillo (Uruguayan, b. 1944) is an arrangement of found objects, natural materials and printed images that form an altar and a fortification that refer to ancient civilizations and modern cultures. Untitled , 1991-93, a work composed of cotton shirts, gesso and steel by Columbian artist Doris Salcedo (b. 1958) was motivated by massacres in 1988 at the La Negra and La Honduras Plantations. The shirts, which symbolize the workers, allude to the expendability of human lives and bureaucratic anonymity, violence and victimization.

Also on view for the first time is Leonardo Drew's (American, b. 1961) Untitled, 1999, acquired by the museum in 2001. This large wall relief is built from rows of stacked cotton and wooden boxes, covered with found objects, and caked with rust, referencing both Minimalism and Abstract Expressionism.

Other artists represented in the exhibition are Carl Andre, Siah Armajani, Chakaia Booker, Scott Burton, Willie Cole, Jackie Ferrera, Sam Gilliam, Eva Hesse, Rebecca Horn, Claudia Matzko, Robert Morris, Elizabeth Murray, Dennis Oppenheim, Alan Saret, Peter Shelton, and Robert Smithson.