The most original abstract expressionist was also the most deeply versed in art history.
The world’s most intact public collection of any major American artist delves deep into Clyfford Still’s practice and ideas this fall. Still & Art presents the most widely investigative survey mounted by the Clyfford Still Museum, which enters its seventh year in Denver this November. The first exhibition to extensively juxtapose Still’s art with numerous reproduced images by more than 30 other artists, the display also features the museum’s first augmented reality experience.
Occupying the museum’s nine galleries with 79 artworks by Still created over a span of sixty years, Still & Art brings new meaning to Still’s provocative 1979 declaration, “My work is not influenced by anybody.” Scholar and critic David Anfam has studied the artist for over four decades. His installation enables visitors to discover both direct connections and subtle correspondences that reveal the complexity driving Still’s imagination. References as diverse as Hollywood’s two Frankenstein films from the 1930s, the great Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco, Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, popular cartoons, ancient and modern sculptures, and more besides, were grist to the mill of Still’s powerful vision, which recast them into extraordinarily novel new syntheses.
Since mid-October, twelve works by ten key figures feature in the galleries by means of augmented reality. Through a custom handheld device, these virtual images screened on gallery walls recreate the hues, textures, and presence of the original pieces to a degree unmatched by traditional two dimensional reproductions. Featured are Leonardo da Vinci, Willem de Kooning, Théodore Géricault, Anselm Kiefer, Morris Louis, Barnett Newman, Gottardo Piazzoni, Robert Rauschenberg, Philip Taaffe, and Van Gogh. This experience is made possible through a partnership with Google, the software developer GuidiGO, and media company RYOT.
Still & Art begins with Still’s acknowledgment of several Old Masters whom he admired, including Leonardo, Rembrandt, J.M.W. Turner, and Van Gogh; progresses to his interrogation of near-contemporaries in Europe and the United States such as Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Picasso; and concludes with epic canvases and intimate pastels that show the artist meditating on his own past production as well as anticipating or paralleling color-field painting, minimalism, and comparable avant-garde directions in the 1960s and 70s. In sum, Still & Art is an unfolding visual drama that chronicles the visual acumen at the crux of Still’s long creative trajectory.
“This exhibition explores how Still’s incredible originality stems from the sheer diversity of his mind and eye, which roved far and wide across painting, sculpture, photography, cinema, literature and the world around him,” said David Anfam, senior consulting curator and director of the Clyfford Still Museum Research Center. “The most singular and revolutionary abstract expressionist was also, without irony or apology, the most deeply immersed in the history of art and keenly attentive to both popular culture and the artistic vanguards of his time. Still & Art illustrates how he channeled these perspectives into his own intensely personal style.”
The 34 artists featured with Clyfford Still through reproductions are Arnold Böcklin, Georges Braque, Charles Burchfield, Paul Cézanne, Leonardo da Vinci, CharlesFrançois Daubigny, Willem de Kooning, Eugène Delacroix, Max Ernst, Walker Evans, Al Frueh, Théodore Géricault, Alberto Giacometti, Robert Henri, Anselm Kiefer, Morris Louis, Henri Matisse, Jean-François Millet, Joan Miró, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Barnett Newman, Georgia O’Keeffe, José Clemente Orozco, Gottardo Piazzoni, Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Richard Serra, Philip Taaffe, J.M.W. Turner, Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Grant Wood.