The exhibition, Prendergast to Pollock: American Modernism from the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute will open to the public at the Everson Museum of Art on February 7, 2015. The exhibition of 35 masterworks is drawn from the permanent collection of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY. Prendergast to Pollock features important paintings by many of the leading progressive and avant-garde American artists who shaped the history of American art in the first half of the 20th century, including, Charles E. Burchfield (1893- 1967), Arthur B. Davies (1862-1928), Arthur G. Dove (1880-1946), Arshile Gorky (1904- 48), Edward Hopper (1882-1967), George B. Luks (1866-1933), Reginald Marsh (1898- 1954), Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Maurice B. Prendergast (1858-1924), Theodoros Stamos (1922-97), and Mark Tobey (1890-1976). Additional works are drawn from the Everson Museum’s permanent collection.
“I am delighted that the first exhibition to open during my tenure as Executive Director will be a show that so perfectly complements the Museum’s rich collection, draws together some of the best artists working in the early 20th century, and allows the Everson to strengthen its relationship with the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute,” said Elizabeth Dunbar, Everson Executive Director.
Through these paintings visitors will explore three kinds of traditional artistic subject matter—landscape, still life and figurative work. Other works in the exhibition embody different manifestations of the mid-20th century art movement known as Abstract Expressionism—the first American art movement to receive international recognition and influence. In addition to the iconic beauty of the works in the exhibition, visitors will have an opportunity to observe how leading modern American artists depicted similar representational and abstract subject matter.
“The Everson Museum of Art and Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute have a longstanding collaborative relationship. It is a privilege to share our collection with the greater Syracuse region,” said Anna D’Ambrosio, MWPAI Museum of Art’s Director and Chief Curator.
Visitors will enjoy several additional ways to engage with the exhibition, including daily docent led tours at 2 p.m., a self-guided audio tour on iPods, and interactive iPad stations in the galleries.
Many of the paintings in Prendergast to Pollock were originally owned by Edward Wales Root (1884-1956) of Clinton, N.Y., a pioneering collector of modern American art who, over the course of nearly five decades, kept current with the contemporary art of his lifetime. In 1953 The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City displayed a large selection of works from his collection. This was the first private collection of contemporary American art ever exhibited at that institution. MWPAI Museum of Art Director D’Ambrosio noted, “Edward Wales Root is among the most important collectors of modern art of his generation. His personal relationships with artists and his keen eye resulted in an exceptionally strong representation of the transformation of the visual arts in the first half of the 20th century.”
In 1957 Root bequeathed his large collection of 227 American modernist pictures ranging in date from 1902 to 1953 by eighty different American artists to the Utica museum. Root’s bequest was one of the most important donations of American modernist art in its time. It brought national attention to the fledgling Munson-Williams- Proctor Institute, and profoundly influenced its subsequent collecting activity, its exhibition program, and the Institute’s decision to commission architect Philip Johnson (1906-2005) to design his first art museum, which opened to in international acclaim in 1960. Accompanying the Prendergast to Pollock exhibition is the extensively illustrated, 188- page catalog, Auspicious Vision: Edward Wales Root and American Modernism, featuring an essay that traces Edward Wales Root’s embrace of modernist aesthetics and his relationship with the artists in the exhibition written by Mary E. Murray, Paul D. Schweizer, and Michael D. Somple of the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute. A second essay in the catalog by Suzanne Smeaton and Lisa Koenigsberg uses pictures in the Root collection as a case study about modernist framing practice. The catalog will be available for sale in the Everson Museum Shop for $49.95. A variety of educational programs related to the exhibition, including a gallery walk and evening for educators will be featured in the Everson Bulletin, and posted on the museum’s website.
This traveling exhibition was organized by the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Utica, New York. The Henry Luce Foundation provided funding for the conservation of artworks in the exhibition.
Everson presentation made possible by Dr. Paul Phillips and Sharon Sullivan, M&T Bank, Everson Members’ Council, Upstate Medical University, Cadaret Grant & Co, Inc, Cannon Pools & Spas, Bonnie and Gary Grossmann, Louise Rosenfield, Catherine J. Winger, and Sedgwick Business Interiors.