August 31, 2007

Learning to love abstraction (with footnotes)

“The Abstract Impulse: Fifty Years of Abstraction at the National Academy, 1956-2006,” at the National Academy Museum, New York, NY. Through February 2008.

Benjamin Genocchio reports in the NYTimes: "The fabled conservatism of the National Academy, longtime home of the retrograde and anachronistic in art, has faded over the years as this venerable institution has increasingly sought to attract new, younger members and audiences. But the reactionary spirit of yesteryear lingers. 'The Abstract Impulse: Fifty Years of Abstraction at the National Academy, 1956-2006,' drawn from the museum’s collection, illuminates the troubled history of abstraction at the academy over the last half-century. It may not be a great show, but it helps to explain how this once celebrated museum and school lost much of its prestige....The current show, comprising 47 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, spotlights the work of academy members, many only recently elected, who took part in movements like Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Kinetic and Op Art. Members, or academicians, are professional artists elected by peers who then donate representative examples of their art to the academy. In this way the academy has amassed a collection of more than 7,000 works." Read more.

Lance Esplund, in the NYSun suggests that the National Academy can't seem to purge the academicism: " As I have said in the past, the National Academy and its museum, which has recently mounted important shows of Jean Hélion, David Smith, and Louis Michel Eilshemius, are a crucial part of the New York art world. But sometimes they just don't get it. Lately, the National Academy has attempted to shake off the dusty label of 'figurative.' In recent years, it has included installation, video art, and, increasingly, abstraction in its exhibitions. It has also admitted abstract artists as academicians. But, as 'The Abstract Impulse' demonstrates, academic thinking, applied to figuration or abstraction, painting or installation, is no less academic." Read more.