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Making Visible the Invisible: Abstract Art from MMoCA’s Permanent Collection

September 8, 2007 – July 13, 2008


The paintings, sculpture, and works on paper in the Making Visible the Invisible explore the tradition of abstraction in the visual arts. Abstract art is an expression of pure form and color, analogous to music. It has carried a rich variety of meanings since its inception in the second decade of the twentieth century, and its history continues to the present. The exhibition presents works by important modern and contemporary artists, including Alexander Calder, Paul Caponigro, Sam Francis, Mary Heilmann, Sol LeWitt, Barbara Hepworth, and Ellsworth Kelly, among others.

Abstract art was a radical departure in Western art. For nearly five centuries, art had been based upon faithful recreations of the visible world as seen by the human eye. This core idea, initiated by the Italian Renaissance, was challenged in the later nineteenth century by the Post-Impressionists. They argued through their paintings that non-naturalistic color and exaggerated shape could portray the feelings of the artist toward his subject. It was only a short time before artists of a new generation allowed expressive color and form to stand on their own, pried free from describing the perceived world.

Making Visible the Invisible reveals abstract art to have a language of great stylistic breadth that yields ambitious meaning in a series of dialects: geometric, biomorphic, and gestural. As a challenge to the senses and the mind, abstract art has received interpretations from both artists and critics that range from the perceptual to the metaphysical. The selected works from MMoCA’s permanent collection demonstrate the array of poetic meanings that have been ascribed to abstract forms, including a concern for the effect of abstract shape on our perceptions; a wish to map conceptual structures; and attempts to make visible the invisible world of nature’s underlying patterns and forces.

Los Grandes del Arte Moderno Mexicano will be on view on the Museum’s Henry Street Gallery.

Exhibition Support

Exhibitions in the Henry Street Gallery are generously funded through an endowment established by the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.