The Fralin Museum of Art at The University of Virginia highlights 70 years of Abstract painting in new exhibition

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The Fralin Museum of Art at The University of Virginia highlights 70 years of Abstract painting in new exhibition
Sam Gilliam (American, 1933-2022), Alphabet I, II, and III, 1968. Acrylic on canvas, 70 x 90 inches. Collection of The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. Gift of Janice and Henry Peskin, 2022.13.1.a-c. © 2022 Sam Gilliam / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.- The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia explores abstract artists’ experimental use of paint in Processing Abstraction, on view through Dec. 31. The exhibition demonstrates the expansive utilization of the medium through vigorous brushstrokes, saturated canvases and atmospheric surfaces. The featured artists employ several painting techniques, including pouring, dripping, splashing, staining, spraying, soaking and splattering.

For more than 100 years, abstraction has reigned as a major expressive form in painting with continuously changing techniques and styles. Abstract paintings are frequently interpreted according to their visual components, but their socio-political contexts are also vital for understanding.

Processing Abstraction features large-scale abstract paintings from the Museum’s collection created over the last 70 years by Gene Davis, Sam Francis, Sheila Isham, Suzanne McClelland, Joan Mitchell, Larry Poons and Hedda Sterne, each demonstrating the vast potential of paint. In August, the Museum will rotate select works in the exhibition. An additional Joan Mitchell painting and a large Robert Reed work will replace artworks by Hedda Sterne, Sam Francis and Suzanne McClelland.

The exhibition provides the opportunity for The Fralin to, for the first time, display two paintings by the late Sam Gilliam that recently entered the collection.

“The generous gift of these two artworks greatly augments The Fralin’s growing collection of 20th-century abstract paintings,” said Laura Minton, co-curator of the exhibition and The Fralin’s interim chief curator and curator of exhibitions. "Both paintings are examples of Gilliam's Beveled-edge series, or Slice paintings, which are stretched on custom-made frameworks. The works project off the wall, altering the conventional two-dimensional viewing experience of a painting.”

Also on view through Dec. 31 are Look Three Ways: Maya Painted Pottery, which highlights three approaches used by scholars today to understand and interpret these works, and N’Dakinna Landscapes Acknowledged featuring landscapes of the White Mountains of New Hampshire painted by Benjamin Champney, Samuel Lancaster Gerry, Samuel W. Griggs and Sylvester Phelps Hodgdon. The exhibition models an innovative reframing of American landscape painting to acknowledge the land being depicted as Indigenous terrain. Radioactive Inactives: Patrick Nagatani & Andrée Tracey, on view through Nov. 26, emphasizes Americans’ apathy in the threat of nuclear destruction through a series of 11 fictional portraits of people in highly constructed sets that resemble domestic interiors.

Processing Abstraction is curated by Laura Minton, interim chief curator and curator of exhibitions, and Matthew McLendon, former J. Sanford Miller Family director of The Fralin. The exhibition is made possible through support from The Fralin Museum of Art Volunteer Board. Programming is generously supported by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation and in-kind donors include WTJU 91.1 FM and Ivy Publications LLC’s “Charlottesville Welcome Book.”

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