Recent Exhibitions
Approaching Abstraction
October 6, 2009–September 12, 2010
It is commonly assumed that contemporary self-taught artists work solely in a representational style, eager to engage in storytelling and personal memory. But while the narrative tradition often is a primary impulse, a significant number exhibit a tendency to be seduced by material, technique, color, form, line, and texture, creating artwork that omits or obscures representation. “Approaching Abstraction” highlights the work of more than forty of these artists and includes European art brut masters, such as Aloise Corbaz, Rafael Lonne, and Adolf Wolfli; self-taught artists from the American South, such as Thornton Dial Sr., Bessie Harvey, J.B. Murry, and Purvis Young; and lesser-known artists, such as Johnny Culver, Hiroyuki Doi, and Melvin Way. This first exploration into nonobjective expression within this field is selected entirely from the museum’s permanent collection.

Brooke Davis Anderson, curator

Note: The museum was saddened to learn Purvis Young died April 20, 2010. Read the artist’s obituaries in the New York Times, the Miami Herald, and Time magazine. His work Untitled (Horses), illustrated above, was on view in this exhibition.
Reviews & Related Media
Art in America interview with curator Brooke Davis Anderson
New York Times review
Financial Times review
Time Out New York review
THIRTEEN’s SundayArts News video tour of the exhibition
THIRTEEN’s SundayArts News video tour of the exhibition with curator Brooke Davis Anderson
“Approaching Abstraction” is supported in part by the Leir Charitable Foundations in memory of Henry J. & Erna D. Leir; the Gerard C. Wertkin Exhibition Fund; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; and with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State’s 62 counties.