The Cleveland Museum of Art Announces Gift of Contemporary Artworks by Agnes Gund
Cleveland, OH (September 27, 2017)—Five important contemporary artworks––an early Brice Marden painting, a work by African American artist Robert Colescott, a monumental sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, a mixed-media work by Donald Sultan, and an Abstract Expressionist pastel drawing by Adja Yunkers––constitute a generous gift from Agnes Gund, a tremendous supporter of the Cleveland Museum of Art and a visionary collector of contemporary art.
“Our collection of contemporary art would not be what it is without the support of Agnes Gund,” said Director William Griswold of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Her most recent gifts to the museum are extremely welcome additions to area part of the CMA’s collection that we are eager to expand.”
Sea Painting I
Brice Marden is considered one of the most important painters of his generation. Sea Painting I exemplifies the brilliant innovations of his early period. Marden was interested in experimenting with color and inventing a wide range of unusual hues. In this work, two rectangular canvases were painted with a mixture of beeswax and oil, known as encaustic, creating a smooth, dense surface. Marden employed tones of gray-green that are reminiscent of water and atmosphere; the sharp split of color suggests the division between sky and ocean and a limitless view of the horizon. Sea Painting I exemplifies Marden’s introduction of a poetic dimension into an abstract painting, setting him apart from the dominant concerns of Minimalism during the 1960s and ’70s.
Sea Painting I, 1973–74. Brice Marden (American, b. 1938). Oil and wax on canvas; 182.8 x 137.2 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art
Tea for Two (The Collector)
Tea for Two (The Collector) is a superb example of Robert Colescott’s pictorial style and unique way of debunking stereotypical views. With raw imagery, garish colors, expressive gestures, and visual puns, Colescott questioned racial and sexual conventions. People of different ethnicities appear in his work, mostly as stereotypes in reversed situations. This work depicts a wealthy black collector with a white woman lounging in a living room while an Asian servant presents tea. They are surrounded by artworks reminiscent of Frank Stella, David Smith, Roy Lichtenstein and other well-known white and high-priced artists.
Robert Colescott’s status as a leading artist of the second half of the 20th century was acknowledged in 1997 when he was the first African American artist to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. This painting augments the museum’s holdings of works by important contemporary African American artists and works of art that address social and political issues. Tea for Two (The Collector) was included in the Robert Colescott retrospective organized by the New Museum, New York, and the San Jose Museum of Art in 1989.
Tea for Two (The Collector), 1980. Robert Colescott (American, 1925–2009). Acrylic on canvas; 215.5 x 185 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art
Standing Mitt with Ball
Claes Oldenburg is best known for creating artworks that reinterpret objects of our everyday lives, whether they are banal, bizarre, or curiously appealing. Standing Mitt with Ball is a key work within Oldenburg’s oeuvre. One of the artist’s most ambitious outdoor works, it represents a baseball mitt in a colossal dimension. Through the combination of rigid steel on the outside, soft lead on the inside of the mitt, and curved wooden planks for the ball, this work presents a monumental and playful distillation of America’s favorite pastime.
With this gift, the museum now has a second, key sculpture by Claes Oldenburg in the collection, the other being Giant Toothpaste Tube, created in 1964. Both Standing Mitt with Ball and Giant Toothpaste Tube are visitor favorites.
Standing Mitt with Ball, 1973. Claes Oldenburg (American, b. 1929). Steel, lead, and wood; 210.8 x 241.2 x 388.4 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art
Forest Fire, January 5, 1984
In the 1980s Donald Sultan began a series of industrial landscapes entitled the Disaster Paintings. He worked on the series for nearly a decade, using images of actual events drawn from the daily newspaper including forest fires, railway accidents, arsons, and industrial plants exuding toxic fumes. Sultan’s Disaster Paintings illustrate robust, man-made or natural structures as fragile constructs that can be undone by catastrophic events.
Sultan was one of the first artists of his generation to employ a wide range of industrial tools and materials in lieu of traditional brushes and paints. His works have a physical power as well as an emotional weight that keeps them suspended between painting and sculpture. Forest Fire, January 5, 1984 exemplifies this captivating series of large-scale paintings.
Forest Fire, January 5, 1984, 1984. Donald Sultan (American, b. 1951). Latex, plaster, and tar on vinyl tile over Masonite; 243.8 x 243.8 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art
Adja Yunkers studied in St. Petersburg, Berlin, Paris, London, and Stockholm before immigrating to New York in 1947, and his association with the avant-garde in each of these cities informed his work as an artist. Sestina II was created in 1958, after Yunkers had come to know many of the Abstract Expressionists painters in New York. Of particular importance to his work during these years were his friendships with Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Philip Guston.
Yunkers began working with pastel in 1956 with the intention to create something radically different from what had been done in the past. He used gestural strokes of color and worked on an unprecedented scale. Sestina II and Yunkers’s other pastels from the late 1950s conjured associations with history, religious experience, or music. Sestina II refers to a type of sung poetry common in Italy and France in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and is associated with troubadours.
Sestina II creates an interesting visual dialogue with the museum’s Figure (1949) by Willem De Kooning, and Sleeper I (1958) by Philip Guston. Mark Rothko was also a touchpoint for Yunkers’s work of the 1950s and Rothko’s No. 2 (Red Maroons) (1962) provides a contrast in the use of color to create mood.
Sestina II, 1958. Adja Yunkers (American, born Latvia, 1900–1984). Pastel on paper; 168.2 x 121.9 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art
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