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Poindexter Collections of American Modernist Painting
Felix Ruvolo, Undulation, 1957, oil on canvas, 57 x 50 x 1 1/2 inches; collection Yellowstone Art Museum.



DAYTONA BEACH.- Daytona Beach's Museum of Arts and Sciences offers more than a solid look at abstract American art of the 20th century with its new exhibit "The Most Difficult Journey: The Poindexter Collections of American Modernist Painting". The exhibit comprises sixty paintings from a remarkable collection of American modernist art acquired by Elinor and George Poindexter between 1950 and 1994, which now is divided between the Montana Historical Society and the Yellowstone Art Museum. The two collections include work by many of the country’s most important painters of the postwar era, such as Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Franz Kline, and Emerson Woelffer. Lesser-known artists, such as Robert Adler, Gene Davis, Robert DeNiro Sr., Albert Stadler, and Teiji Takai—also made significant contributions to modern and and abstract painting in America and are included in this exhibition.

In 1962, George Poindexter (1900–1975) said that the most difficult journey he had ever taken was one of gaining appreciation of abstract art. Nothing in his upbringing, or his life as a successful businessperson, would suggest that he would become an important collector of modern art. Born and raised in Montana, Poindexter lived far from the culture that produced the art he would eventually collect. After graduating from Columbia University, he founded Commodity Brokers Inc. in New York. In the early 1950s, following a failed attempt at becoming an artist and art dealer in Paris, Poindexter regarded abstract expressionism and other modern artistic trends with bafflement. Acting on the suggestion of an artist friend, Jack Tworkov, Poindexter bought an abstract painting, believing that if he lived with it for a while he might come to understand and appreciate it. In time, he learned not only to understand abstract art, but also to love it. George Poindexter’s wife, Elinor (1906–1994), had more early exposure to art. She studied art history at Finch College and worked at the Weyhe Gallery in New York City during the Great Depression. After raising three children with George, Elinor returned to the New York gallery scene in 1953, working at the Egan Gallery for two years before opening one of her own, the Poindexter Gallery. The Poindexter Gallery became a significant exhibition space in New York City, as Elinor was known for supporting emerging artists. She was also known for exhibiting and collecting art of various styles, refusing to follow a single fashion. The gallery stayed opened until the 1970s, and following George’s death in 1974, Elinor continued to work as an art dealer from her apartment until her death in 1994.

Together, the Poindexters became art dealers for and avid collectors of many important, and lesser known, artists. While Elinor devoted her time to her gallery in New York City, George focused on getting the Poindexter collection seen in his home state of Montana. He started by donating paintings to the Montana Historical Society, believing that exposure could win over viewers to the challenges of abstract art. Because of space limitations at the Historical Society, paintings also were donated to the newly opened in 1964 Yellowstone Art Center (now Museum) in Billings.

The exhibit not only provides a glimpse into the New York gallery scene and the aesthetics of the Poindexters themselves, but the exhibition also offers new perspectives on the scope and development of American painting in and out of New York in the second half of the twentieth century. The exhibition also explores the significant contributions of these artists in refining our concepts of abstraction and figuration, as well as the evolution of abstraction in the midst of the pop art and minimalist movements. Although individual works and smaller selections from the Poindexter collections have been exhibited before, this is the first time that a large portion of this legacy is touring nationally.










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