Color as Field: American Painting 1950-1975
at the National Portrait Gallery through May 26
The Smithsonian American Art Museum at the National Portrait Gallery is currently hosting a major exhibition of color field painting. It's a good exhibition, well worth your time, but I find myself more interested in how it's been presented curatorially.
Most exhibits of this nature tend to lead visitors by the nose via audio tours or extensive on-site documentation. "Color as Field" goes in the opposite direction — the works are presented as-is, with little in the way of contextual information. On one hand, I like this approach — it lets the work speak for itself and allows the viewer to develop his own critical faculties. But it's a strange approach to take for this exhibition. The general public is notoriously ambivalent towards abstraction, and especially this sort of minimalist, post-painterly abstraction. A few gallery cards and a more rigorous timeline might have helped win over some of the patrons I saw listlessly wandering from piece to piece.
Fortunately, there's plenty of sensuous work on hand by Morris Louis, Jules Olitski, and Gene Davis to win over even the most hardened heart. Hell, the exhibition is worth seeing just for the Morris works alone.
The American Federation of Arts has conducted a series of interviews with Larry Poons to help promote the exhibition. They make for some great viewing.
Photographs after the cut...
This is the first time I've really had a chance to use my zoom lens with my new camera body. For some reason, it wasn't locking into position right. Fortunately, I was able to fix that by adding a few layers of duct tape to the lens body. Ah, duct tape, is there anything you can't do?