The Georgia Museum of Art at UGA showcases the work of well-known abstract expressionist artists in the exhibition Advanced and Irascible: Abstract Expressionism from the Collection of Jeanne and Carroll Berry, on view until April 30.
Organized by the museum’s curator of American art, Sarah Kate Gillespie, the exhibition features Jeanne and Carroll Berry’s efforts to gather one work by each of the so-called “Irascible” painters of abstract expressionism. The Irascibles earned their nickname after sending a signed, open letter to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to protest the lack of what they called “advanced” art in its exhibition of contemporary artists in 1950. A photograph of them that appeared in Life magazine in 1951 became the defining image of the abstract expressionists.
In their letter, the artists wrote, “For roughly a hundred years, only advanced art has made any consequential contribution to civilization.” This collection of works embodies what they thought contributed to the advancement of art.
Advanced and Irascible includes 19 works by 18 different artists, all borrowed from the Berrys’ collection. Artists such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Willem de Kooning, Hedda Sterne and Ad Reinhardt are represented. Characterized by large, gestural paintings, this group of painters defined the abstract expressionist movement and influenced the trajectory of modern art. This exhibition includes mostly smaller works, many of which are on paper, as well as a charcoal drawing by Armenian artist Arshile Gorky, who was not a member of the Irascibles but was a strong influence on the group.
Gillespie also is teaching a split-level undergraduate and graduate art history course on abstract expressionism at the Lamar Dodd School of Art this semester. The class will make heavy use of both Advanced and Irascible and its companion exhibition, Artists of the New York School, allowing students to study original works of art in person rather than reproduced art in a textbook.
Related events include a film series beginning Jan. 26; a gallery discussion with associate curator of education Callan Steinmann Feb. 8 at 2 p.m.; 90 Carlton: Winter, the museum’s quarterly reception (free for members, $5 for nonmembers) Feb. 10 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.; a Family Day focused on abstract valentines Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to noon; and a public tour with Gillespie Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. All events are open free to the public unless otherwise indicated.