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Exhibition considers artistic explorations of scale, material, and process
Maren Hassinger, Untitled, 1972/2020. Rope. Dimensions variable. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Purchased through prior gift of Judge and Mrs. Samuel I. Rosenman, 2020 © 2020 Maren Hassinger.

NEW YORK, NY.- As part of the public reopening, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Knotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture after Abstract Expressionism, an exhibition that considers the diverse ways that artists in the 1960s and ’70s responded to the achievements of Abstract Expressionist painters to formulate unique approaches to sculptural practice. Knotted, Torn, Scattered features works from the Guggenheim collection by Lynda Benglis, Maren Hassinger, Robert Morris, Senga Nengudi, Richard Serra, and Tony Smith. These artists saw in postwar painting urgent questions about scale, material, and process. This exhibition is presented in conjunction with Away from the Easel: Jackson Pollock’s Mural, offering a rare opportunity to view Pollock’s breakthrough painting Mural (1943) in proximity to works that expand and challenge the meaning of the artist’s legacy.

In the years following World War II, Pollock and other Abstract Expressionist artists redefined American painting. After Pollock’s death in 1956, a new generation saw in his work the impetus to create not expressive canvases, but sculptures that explored fundamental experiences of space, materials, and bodily mechanics. As artist and writer Allan Kaprow argued, “[M]ural-scale paintings ceased to [be] paintings and became environments.”

The work in Knotted, Torn, Scattered exemplifies a shift in emphasis in American art—from gestural painting toward explorations of the physical properties of materials. A pivotal piece featured in the exhibition is Richard Serra’s Belts (1966–67), an installation of industrial rubber coils and neon. The artist has described the work as “structurally related to Pollock’s Mural. If my origins culminated in anything, they culminated in Pollock. Then I felt I needed to move into literal space.” Lynda Benglis attempted to “get off the wall with the canvas” by transforming her painted surfaces into knotted sculptural objects. Tony Smith’s Wingbone (1962) demonstrates the translation of spiritual ambitions through organic geometries in his human-scaled forms. Influenced by dance and collaborative performance, works by Maren Hassinger and Senga Nengudi demonstrate how process-oriented practices could also register a social experience beyond the singular actions of the artist. A recent acquisition, Hassinger’s Untitled (1972/2020), comprised of eight lengths of nautical rope repeatedly hand-spliced and hung in an evocative installation, is on public view for the first time. Like Robert Morris’s Untitled (Pink Felt) (1970), Hassinger’s installation is an index of the artist’s interactions with industrial materials.

Knotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture after Abstract Expressionism is organized by Lauren Hinkson, Associate Curator, Collections. Generous funding for this exhibition is provided by the Edlis-Neeson Foundation, Sotheby’s, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation.

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