curated by Lauren Hinkson
7 February - 6 May 2012
Guggenheim Collection: The American Avant-Garde 1945–1980 examines major developments in American art during a transformative period in this country’s history, one marked by economic prosperity, political upheaval, and international conflict, as well as vibrant growth in the cultural sphere.
The exhibition begins with the years following World War II, when the United States emerged as a global center for modern art and the rise of Abstract Expressionism drew international attention to a circle of artists working in New York. From this time forward, the postwar era witnessed a rich proliferation of varied aesthetic practices by American artists: from Pop art’s irreverent embrace of vernacular imagery to the intellectual meditations on meaning that characterized 1960s Conceptualism; from the spare aesthetic of Minimalism to the lush visuals of Photorealism in the 1970s. Though resulting in widely divergent artworks, these movements all shared a fundamental commitment to interrogating the nature, purpose, and meaning of art.
As it examines this critical moment in the history of American art, Guggenheim Collection: The American Avant-Garde 1945–1980 also reflects on the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s role in shaping these developments through its long-standing support of emerging artists. Drawn primarily from the museum’s permanent collection in New York, the paintings, sculptures, photographs, and installations on view all embody the specific interests of individual curators, collectors, and scholars who championed the contemporary art of their day and left their stamp on the institution over time. Evident, too, is the Guggenheim’s evolution from its roots as a distinctive showcase for European abstract painting into an international venue for modern and contemporary art, underscored by the important selections of works by Jackson Pollock and Arshile Gorky from the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and Robert Rauschenberg’s Barge (1962–63) from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.