New YorkKnotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture after Abstract Expressionism
Knotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture after Abstract Expressionism features sculptural work in the Guggenheim collection from the 1960s and ’70s by six artists who helped redefine the legacy of postwar art in the United States. The works in this exhibition—produced by Lynda Benglis, Maren Hassinger, Robert Morris, Senga Nengudi, Richard Serra, and Tony Smith—respond to and critique the innovations of Abstract Expressionist painters by emphasizing process, material, and performance.
In the 1940s, Abstract Expressionist painters like Jackson Pollock developed signature approaches to mark-making that many critics understood as registering existential struggle and individual subjectivity. In conjunction with the Guggenheim’s presentation of Pollock’s groundbreaking, large-scale painting Mural (1943), Knotted, Torn, Scattered illustrates how many younger artists saw Pollock’s art as an impetus to experiment with new creative techniques in three-dimensional space. Richard Serra, for example, describes Belts (1966–67), his seminal installation of industrial rubber coils and neon, as “structurally related to Pollock’s Mural. If my origins culminated in anything, they culminated in Pollock. Then I felt I needed to move into literal space.”
Robert Morris also employed industrial materials that carry the indices of physical actions, while Tony Smith sought to translate spiritual ambitions through organic and essential geometries in his human-scaled forms. Lynda Benglis’s “Knot” pieces are painted surfaces that she twists and pushes into sculptural objects in an attempt to “get off the wall with the canvas.” Influenced by dance and collaborative performance, Maren Hassinger’s and Senga Nengudi’s works demonstrate how process-oriented practices can also register a social experience beyond the singular actions of the artist.
Knotted, Torn, Scattered: Sculpture after Abstract Expressionism is organized by Lauren Hinkson, Associate Curator, Collections.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)