On View: JT joins the Hang "Epic Abstraction" at the Met

Jack Tworkov, “Transverse,” 1957-58, Oil on canvas, 72 x 76 in. (182.9 x 193 cm) Collection of Ambassador and Mrs. Donald Blinken, New York (CR 321)

Epic Abstraction

Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York

On going

New York, NY—In this ongoing exhibition, beginning June 24, 2019, Epic Abstraction will feature a selection of newly installed works, including major examples by Sam Gilliam, Lee Krasner, and Frank Stella, among others.

Epic Abstraction: Pollock to Herrera begins in the 1940s and extends into the twenty-first century to explore large-scale abstract painting, sculpture, and assemblage through more than fifty works from The Met collection, a selection of loans, and promised gifts and new acquisitions. The installation is anchored by iconic works from The Met collection, including Jackson Pollock's classic "drip" painting Autumn Rhythm (1950), Louise Nevelson's monumental Mrs. N's Palace (1964–77), and Joan Mitchell's panoramic La Vie en Rose (1979). This ongoing and changing display is punctuated with special loans of major works by Helen Frankenthaler, Kazuo Shiraga, Joan Snyder, and Cy Twombly.

In the wake of unprecedented destruction and loss of life during World War II, many painters and sculptors working in the 1940s grew to believe that traditional easel painting and figurative sculpture no longer adequately conveyed the human condition. In this context, numerous artists, including Barnett Newman, Pollock, and others associated with the so-called New York School, were convinced that abstract styles—often on a large scale—most meaningfully evoked contemporary states of being. Many of the artists represented in Epic Abstraction worked in large formats not only to explore aesthetic elements of line, color, shape, and texture, but also to activate scale's metaphoric potential to evoke expansive—"epic"—ideas and subjects, including time, history, nature, the body, and existential concerns of the self.

Of this painting, Tworkov wrote:

In such paintings as Water Game, Pink Mississippi, Cradle, Transverse and others the mood is anything but lyrical—if I take lyrical to mean singing, subjective, moody. The central image of these paintings [is] an action brought near by a telescope but out of earshot, silent and meaningless. In a thicket the actors might be lovers, or a murderer and his victim—the anxiety is that of silence of an action without sound, without meaning. When the spectator identifies himself as one of the actors he wakes up screaming and nothing is there...I see an opposition between action and time, as between life and death.

I see action from a distance as action in stillness. The thing in flight is silent. The bang comes from the object hitting the target. My painting is a painting of motion before the collision—its anxiety comes from being before the collision. My painting is always a work of long progression of action absorbed by time. The scene of the pictures is artificially near as if brought close by a telescope—an action seen but out of earshot.

—Jack Tworkov, From “Notes 54-63," February 2, 1959