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Abstraction: Modernist Masters from the Bennington Collection

Jul 14, 2014

On view through September 3 at Bennington’s Usdan Gallery are iconic abstract works from the College’s Collection, including works by David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler ‘49, Larry Poons, Pat Adams, Hans Hofmann, Pat Adams, and other influential figures. The exhibition includes a sculpture by Sir Anthony Caro, on view for the first time ever, which was created using David Smith’s metal after his death.

The exhibition, organized in conjunction with the current modernist exhibition at The Clark Art Institute and the modernist gallery at the Bennington Museum, offers a new way of looking at the College—through its art and through its connection to the rich artistic legacy of the region.

The paintings are hung in an unprecedented format. Instead of viewing each piece singly, the salon style allows the viewer to discover their own connections between works, and creates an installation further emphasizing the architectural space and the classic New England landscapes, visible through the large windows. The arrangement was chosen because at the Gallery and the College, the emphasis is on teaching and experimentation.

“The originality of the arrangement reflects the originality of the individual works themselves,” said faculty member Andrew Spence, who curated the show. “While the large scaled works look surprisingly small, and the smaller ones seem larger, the whole wall of artworks reads from left to right as a sentence. One of the first things I notice is how the gravity of downward drips in many of the painting contrasts with the paintings as entities that float one over another.”

The majority of the works in the exhibition were created by artists with direct ties to Bennington College: as students (Cora Cohen ‘64 and Helen Frankenthaler); faculty (Paul Feeley, Ralph Humphrey, Pat Adams, Vincent Longo, Jules Olitski, Larry Poons, Sir Anthony Caro and Peter Stroud); or artists exhibiting at the College in the Deane Carriage Barn (Josef Albers, Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell, David Smith, and Anne Truitt).

The exhibition is open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. The College is about 40 minutes by car from both The Clark and the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and 10 minutes from the Bennington Museum.