An Artist’s Eye: A Journey through Modern and Contemporary Art with Sigmund Abeles

July 21, 2011

Sigmund Abeles. Photo by Lunch and Recess.

For the first time in history, the Columbia Museum of Art opens its Modern and Contemporary vaults to famed South Carolina artist Sigmund Abeles to present An Artist’s Eye: A Journey through Modern and Contemporary Art with Sigmund Abeles.  The major summer exhibition is on view June 17 through October 23, 2011.

South Carolina Landscape, George Biddle, 1931, oil on canvas.

As an invited guest curator, Abeles selected over 80 works from the Museum’s esteemed Modern and Contemporary collection.  His selection is based on his personal taste, preferences and attitudes about contemporary art, which he developed over a 50-year career.

Mother and Daughter, Paula Rego, 1997, 8 color screenprint on paper.

An Artist’s Eye broadens the visitor’s understanding by providing a unique perspective.  “The premise is that an artist brings a different ‘eye’ and set of criteria in evaluating art than does a curator or an art historian, whose training tends toward historical context rather than artistic practice.  This different viewpoint – born from a background of method, process, creation and materials – can yield a new and interesting perspective to the selection and display of modern and contemporary artwork from our collection,” chief curator Todd Herman said.



Phil/Fingerprint, Chuck Close, 1981, lithograph.

Abeles was part of the art scene when many of the pieces in the show were created and in some cases knew the artists, including Jasper Johns, personally. He provides a rare look into the lives of the exhibition’s artists by engaging visitors with personal anecdotes and offering first-hand accounts of the artists and their work.  Abeles’ ability to bring vast experience as an artist, a South Carolinian, a teacher, and his deep connections to the early years of the Columbia Museum of Art promises an exhibition full of variety.

Diane’s Vase, Janet Fish, 1998, oil on canvas.

“I would love to own and live with the sassy and bold Paula Rego colored lithograph, to take it home with me,” Abeles said.  “The Chuck Close is sheer magic, his engaging portrait of Philip Glass created with Close’s fingerprints, for sure is innovative, fresh, and contemporary. I adore the rich painterly way Paul Wonner wrought a space-filled landscape with Abstract Expressionist means.  To include some heroes I actually knew was so satisfying, namely, Jack Levine, Paul Cadmus, and Isabel Bishop, a teacher who became a friend.”



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