Inspired: Innovation, Pop Culture, and Material
Abstract Expressionism is a form of abstract art developed by American painters in the 1940s and 1950s with several different subcategories, including Action painting and what would later be called Color Field painting. Pop art was an American movement that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, drawing inspiration from sources in commercial and popular culture. Dan Budnik (American, 1933–2020) photographed Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists in their studios during the height of these artistic movements. Some of his photographic portraits are currently on view in Kemper Museum’s Meeting Room Gallery.
This companion exhibition presents works of art from Kemper Museum’s Permanent Collection that were created by Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists working in New York City that Budnik photographed in the 1950s and 1960s. These works highlight important themes, including an interest in pop culture, a focus on non-traditional art-making materials, and innovation with media.
Looking to pop culture and iconography, Pop artist Jasper Johns (American, born 1930) created the series The Seasons (1987) including optical illusions like the old woman/young woman, duck/rabbit, snowflakes, snowmen, and other symbols to represent the different stages of life and the cycle of aging and growth. Robert Rauschenberg (American, 1925–2008) and David Smith (American, 1906–1965) used non-traditional media found in commercial culture, like metals and steels, and blended materials and methods of art making. Focusing on found objects, Louise Nevelson (American, 1899–1988) created Untitled (date unknown) with wood scraps she collected while walking around the streets of New York City. She then painted the piece monochromatic black, suggesting that the color makes any material appear more distinguished; these materials ended up resembling the buildings and cityscape. Interested in movement and light, Larry Bell (American, born 1939) used mixed media on canvas in Too Tall (1989) to investigate the properties of light on surface.
Inspired: Innovation, Pop Culture, and Material is curated by Jade Powers, assistant curator at Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.