Experiments in Form: Rethinking Abstraction and Materiality c. 1970 [Video]

On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, the Block celebrated the opening of the exhibition “Experiments in Form: Sam Gilliam, Alan Shields, Frank Stella”, on view through June 24, 2018. The exhibition uses works in the Block Museum of Art’s collection by Sam Gilliam (b. 1933), Alan Shields (1944–2005), and Frank Stella (b. 1936) as starting points to consider how artists of the 1960s and 1970s challenged the conventions of visual art. These three groundbreaking artists questioned the popular understanding of painting and printmaking by asking whether a painting had to be a flat, rectangular object, affixed to a wall, and by using innovative materials and processes in their work.

“Experiments in Form” is inspired by the recent gift to the Block Museum of the painting “One (1970)”, a quintessential example of Gilliam’s innovative “drape” paintings, which the artist began making in the late 1960’s.

During this opening conversation Block curator Janet Dees and Northwestern Alumna and Museum of Contemporary Art curator Naomi Beckwith discussed how their current projects have reinvigorated their thinking around the use of abstraction and materiality in 1970s American painting. The curators considered the work of artists Sam Gilliam, Howardena Pindell, and Alan Shields, among others.

“This evening we celebrate a distinguished new addition to the Block’s collection, Sam Gilliam’s One (1970) and we take a fresh look at other works by Alan Shields and Frank Stella that also have a home at the museum. These three artists changed art history and this evening’s speakers will tell us how.  The title of the exhibition “Experiments in Form” is also an excellent way to decribe the Block.  With our strong commitment to interdisiplinary inquiry and using art as a springboard for discussion of issues and ideas, the form the museum takes is constantly evolving to respond to the creativity of our faculty, students, and staff and to the innovative platforms that we create to ensure that you have encounters with art that are meaningful.”

– Lisa Corrin, Block Museum Director

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