Los Angeles, CA - Oranges and Sardines, at the Hammer Museum, examines art through the eyes and minds of artists and is a testament to the persistence of the visual art object, particularly abstract painting. In this exhibition six contemporary abstract painters— Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool— were asked to select one or two of their recent paintings to be shown alongside works by other artists who have had a significant impact on their thinking and the development of their practice. The show, on view at the Hammer through February 8, 2009.
This exhibit is comprised of six separate rooms presenting each artist’s selection in a constellation of diverse works by artists including Paul Klee, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Pablo Picasso, and Dieter Roth, as well as artists less well-known to the public. Many works in the exhibition are drawn from major museums and galleries across the United States and Europe, and a number of paintings are borrowed from private collections, some of which have rarely been on public display.
“By asking artists to share their influences and inspirations with us, Oranges and Sardines reflects an ongoing commitment of the Hammer Museum to produce artist-driven exhibitions. What we can learn from artists about their influences is often revelatory and we are delighted to be able to gather such an extraordinary group of masters of the 20 the century for this unusual exhibition,” said Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin.
The artists’ selection of artwork developed through many conversations with curator Gary Garrels, in which they discussed the issues of their work, their individual studio practices, their appraisal of art history, and the current status of contemporary art. Throughout this process a distinct distillation of choices developed for each artist that is wide-ranging but particular: both figurative and abstract, sculptures and some works on paper have been selected in addition to paintings, and historical as well as contemporary works, are juxtaposed. The choices were made in part to encourage a visual “conversation,” provoking fresh insights into artists who are well-known and opening new consideration of artists that may be more obscure.
“I chose these six artists because I admire both the objects they make and the character of their thinking. They were selected as artists of distinction, representing the range and complexity, and the vitality and potential of abstract painting today.” said curator Gary Garrels. “Working on this exhibition has been a pleasure and a privilege – all six artists have been incredibly generous with their time and with allowing me closer access to their creative processes, opening their studios and sharing their thoughts with me. I hope the experience has been as revelatory to each of them as it has been for me.”
The title for the exhibition is taken from American poet Frank O’Hara’s poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” which reflects on the elusiveness of the creative process, often resulting in a finished work that bears no resemblance to its initial inspiration. O’Hara was not only a poet, but a curator and critic who grounded his critical approach to art, not in theory or philosophy, but in a direct appraisal of the art works themselves, the cultural situation of the time, and the circumstances of the artist.
Mark Grotjahn has selected works by Josef Albers, Andre Cadere, Paul Klee, Yayoi Kusama, Sherrie Levine, John McLaughlin, Ad Reinhardt, and Clyfford Still. Wade Guyton has selected works by Isa Genzken, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Robert Morris, Cady Noland, and Andy Warhol. Mary Heilmann has selected works by Francis Bacon, Joseph Beuys, David Hockney, and Bruce Nauman. Amy Sillman has selected works by Forrest Bess, John Chamberlain, Willem de Kooning, Philip Guston, Eva Hesse, Howard Hodgkin, Lee Krasner, Juan Mele, and Alice Neel. Charline von Heyl has selected works by Carla Accardi, Lucio Fontana, Jorg Immendorf, Malcolm Morley, Paul Thek, Rosemarie Troeckel, Franz West, and Wols. Christopher Wool has selected works by Philip Guston, Otto Muehl, Albert Oehlen, Pablo Picasso, and Dieter Roth.
No attempt was made to coordinate the choice of artists. The only artist to be selected for more than one gallery is the painter Philip Guston, who will be represented by a painting from the early 1960s chosen by Christopher Wool and a painting from the mid-1970s chosen by Amy Sillman.
The catalogue for the exhibition includes an introductory essay by curator Gary Garrels and extended interviews with each of the artists. All the works in the exhibition are reproduced in full-page color, and additional works are reproduced in tandem with the interviews.
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