September 23, 2007

Ab-Ex at the Met

"Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," selected and installed by Gary Tinterow. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY. Through Feb. 3.

In the NYTimes, Roberta Smith drools over Mrs. Newman's collection, but NYSun critic Lance Esplund suggests that Mrs. Newman's collection is too conventional, breaks no new ground, and merely restates the existing narrative surrounding Abstract Expressionism.

Roberta Smith: "Mrs. Newman, now 93, began collecting in 1951. Trained as an artist, she had an excellent eye and chose with an artist’s sense of urgency. In a few short years she accumulated major works by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, David Smith and Mark Rothko. She also acquired American artists who didn’t fit neatly inside the Abstract Expressionist hierarchy that was then in formation: Joseph Cornell, Mark Tobey, Karl Knaths, Robert De Niro Sr. and Anne Ryan, as well as outstanding examples by Europeans including Alberto Giacometti, Joan MirĂ³ and Jean Arp. In the late 1950s, after her first husband died and she remarried, Mrs. Newman picked out great work by Alexander Calder, Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Jules Olitski and Claes Oldenburg...The consistently high quality of Mrs. Newman’s selections is thrilling. Many communicate a forceful self-sufficiency, as if they were the only works by their particular makers that we ever need to see. It is not hard to imagine them being looked at and loved, providing daily sustenance." Read more.

Lance Esplund: "It is a good show. But if the exhibit had been more courageous and less conventional, it could have broken ground. Instead, it hails to the Ab-Ex chiefs and sweeps nearly everyone else under the rug. The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection has much that could strike viewers as wonderful and new, but the exhibition requires that viewers read between the lines, and that they, ignoring curatorial direction, do a little treasure hunting on their own." Read more.

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