The Newark Museum of Art Presents Major Retrospective of American Abstract Painter Norman Bluhm

  • NEWARK, New Jersey
  • /
  • February 11, 2020

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Norman Bluhm, Persephone, 1995, oil on canvas, triptych, 305 x 762 cm. overall. The Estate of Norman Bluhm ©The Estate of Norman Bluhm, Photo by Richard Goodbody

On February 13, 2020, The Newark Museum of Art opens Norman Bluhm: Metamorphosis, an exhibition showcasing five decades of the artist’s abstract paintings. One of the most forceful American painters of the post-war period, Bluhm, who was born in Chicago in 1920, was a central figure in both the Parisian and New York art worlds. He is revered for his grand-scaled canvases in which he combines vigorous and expressive brushwork with a lavish sense of color and formal experimentation. The first museum exhibition to explore the full range of his prolific career, Norman Bluhm: Metamorphosis is an unprecedented, overdue reconsideration of his artistic production, with works dating from 1947 to 1998.

Norman Bluhm in his studio, 333 Park Avenue South, New York City, 1958. Photo by George Moffett – Lensgroup, courtesy The Estate of Norman Bluhm

With many examples from the artist’s estate, along with loans from public and private collections, the exhibition features 46 paintings and works on paper, including a number of rarely seen late works. Epically scaled, these multi-panel paintings from the 1990s will occupy two floors of the museum.

“We are thrilled to present the provocative Norman Bluhm: Metamorphosis as the first major exhibit to debut under our institution’s new branding,” said Linda C. Harrison, CEO and Director of The Newark Museum of Art. “Visitors will be awestruck by the scale of this showcase and inspired by the vibrancy of Bluhm’s work.”

A transnational artist with global interests, Bluhm’s creative output reflects his multidisciplinary interests in mythology, poetry, and world history. He was profoundly shaped by the avant-garde movements and cultural histories of the post-WWII era. While Bluhm is best known for his Action paintings of the 1950s and 1960s, the exhibition draws attention to the formative decade
he spent in Paris from 1947 to 1956. In addition to works from The Newark Museum of Art collection, the checklist includes loans from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, among others.

With a largely chronological layout, Norman Bluhm: Metamorphosis presents several distinct bodies of work that trace the artist’ stylistic evolution through the second half of the 20th century. Over time his energetic gestural paintings—classic works of Abstract Expressionism—gave way to works that increasingly referenced the human body, reflecting a lifelong practice of drawing from the female nude. Newark’s installation integrates works on paper throughout the exhibition and celebrates Bluhm’s process by featuring his actual work table—his surrogate palette—piled high with paint.

Norman Bluhm, The Anvil, 1959, oil on canvas, 213.3 x 183 cm.; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Purchase, with funds from the Friends of the Whitney Museum of American Art 60.22 ©The Estate of Norman Bluhm

Norman Bluhm: Metamorphosis is organized by The Newark Museum of Art and curated by Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Curator of American Art at The Newark Museum of Art, and Jay Grimm, Guest Curator. A fully illustrated catalogue will be co-published by The Newark Museum of Art and Giles, Ltd. of London and available for purchase in the Museum Shop.
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