Block Museum announces exhibitions for 2019-2020 “Year of Global Modernisms”

Museum’s season includes art from Latin America, Southeast Asia and Middle East

The Block Museum of Art announces its exhibition schedule for 2019 – 2020. Four major shows, highlighting the diversity of global modernisms, will present a mid-20th-century view of art as it is entwined with culture and politics around the globe.

“Each of these exhibitions contributes to the recalibration of modernism’s presentation in the art museum,” said Kathleen Bickford Berzock, associate director of curatorial affairs at The Block. “The shows invite us to look at modernity, and the response of artists to its pressures and innovations, from different vantage points and to understand that there are many modernisms, rather than a single European-dominated movement.”

The season aligns with the museum’s commitment to present art across time, cultures and media. “The exhibitions encourage an important conversation about the global nature of modernism,” said Lisa Corrin, The Block’s Ellen Philips Katz Director. “These artworks exemplify a spirit of visual and political revolution that crossed beyond national borders and inspired a generation of artists. This is a crucial moment to revisit these histories and explore the fundamental connections between them.”

Pop América, 1965 – 1975
Sept. 21 to Dec. 8, 2019

Hugo Rivera-Scott, Pop América, 1968. Collage on cardboard,
30 x 21.5 inches (76.5 x 54.5 cm). Courtesy of the artist. ©
Hugo Rivera-Scott. Photo by Jorge Brantmayer.

“Pop América, 1965 – 1975” is the first exhibition to unify Latin American expressions of Pop and explore how its bold and colorful imagery, references to mass culture and representations of everyday objects, signs and symbols were embraced by artists working across the Western hemisphere. The exhibition makes a timely and critical contribution to understanding impulses behind Pop Art from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s.


The exhibition reshapes debates over Pop’s perceived political neutrality and aesthetic innovations and expands ideas of Pop beyond the U.S. and Britain. “Pop América” features nearly 100 artworks by artists working in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and the United States. The artists in the exhibition, including Antonio Dias, Rubens Gerchman, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, CildoMereiles, Anna Maria Maiolino, Marta Minujín, Hugo Rivera-Scott and Andy Warhol, create vital dialogues that cross-national borders. United by their use of Pop’s visual strategies, these artists have made bold contributions to conceptualism, performance and new-media art, as well as social protest, justice movements and debates about freedom.  Read More

Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Grey Collection
Jan. 21, 2019 to April 5, 2020

Faramarz Pilaram, Mosques of Isfahan (B), c. 1962, Ink, watercolor, and
gold and silver paint on paper, 45 3/4 x 34 3/4 in. (116.2 x 88.3 cm). Grey
Art Gallery, New York University Art Collection. Gift of Abby Weed Grey,

“Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Grey Collection” surveys art from three nations where unique and vibrant forms of modernism sprang forth in the 1960s and 70s. Challenging histories of artistic modernism that too often begin and end in the West, “Modernisms” explores an under-recognized flowering of innovation and risk-taking in art beyond Europe and North America.


Influenced by local traditions, cultural exchange and the sights and sounds of modern life, artists in Iran, Turkey and India forged distinctive new modes of expression. From Iranian and Turkish artists who explored calligraphy and ornamentation through avant-garde abstraction, to Indian painters whose expressive canvases drew upon Hindu iconography, the 114 works in “Modernisms” reflect the lively dialogue between East and West, past and present. Folk dances and weavings inspired Turkish painters Mustafa Esirkuş and Adnan Turani, while Iranian artist Faramarz Pilaram freely translated Islamic architecture into glittering geometric forms. These works testify to both the continuity of culture and the disruption of modernity.

Organized by New York University’s Grey Art Gallery, “Modernisms” draws from the collection of curator and patron Abby Weed Grey. Grey traveled widely in Asia and the Middle East, searching for art that brought the visual language of modernity into dialogue with non-Western heritages. With a robust collection of some 700 paintings, sculptures and works on paper, she founded the Grey Art Gallery in 1975, stimulating learning through cross-cultural exchange. Through her collection, this exhibition tells a story of “multiple modernities,” reflecting the diversity of formal and cultural responses to the changing world of the 1960s and 70s. Read More

Terence Gower: Ciudad Moderna
Opens Jan. 21, 2020

Terence Gower, Ciudad Moderna, still, 2004
Digital Video, 6:20 minutes

Working in video, sculpture, drawing and photography, New York-based artist Terence Gower (b. British Colombia, 1965) investigates the material and intellectual histories of postwar positivism in art and architecture. The contemporary built environments of 1960s Mexico are the focus of his 2004 video, Ciudad Moderna. A kinetic, six-minute montage of clips drawn from the 1966 Mexican comedy film “Despedida de Casada,” Ciudad. Moderna wittily transforms its source material to examine the film’s modernist architectural backdrop.

Throughout much of the 20th century, Mexico City was fertile ground for progressive architects and urban planners seeking development and social reform through design. Using freeze frames, projection drawings and clever digital composites, Gower analyzes some of the most celebrated monuments of this utopian moment in Latin American history, from Mexico City’s famed Museum of Anthropology to the Hotel Presidente in Acapulco. Pop culture and high modernism collide as Gower shifts from depersonalized interiors to swinging musical numbers, presenting architecture as a visual abstraction as well as a space of lived experience. Read More

Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s – 1980s
April 28 to July 26, 2020

Mohamed Melehi (Moroccan), Composition, 1970, Acrylic
on panel, 47 1/4 x 39 3/8 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art
Foundation, Sharjah, UAE

From the 1950s through the 1980s, painters and sculptors throughout the Arab world explored the challenges and possibilities of abstraction in art. “Taking Shape”, an exhibition of works from the collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), presents the work of Middle Eastern and North African artists whose creative visions stretched beyond the boundaries of representation. Including artists originating from or working in Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia and the UAE, this exhibition, organized by the Grey Art Gallery at NYU, reveals the global reach and regional importance of abstraction in the 20th century.

Ranging from the hard-edged to the dreamlike, the nearly 80 works in “Taking Shape” reveal a variety of formal approaches and cultural sources. Compositions by Omar El Nagdi of Egypt and Hussein Madi of Lebanon take inspiration from Arabic calligraphic forms, while human and animal contours emerge from the canvases of Iraqi painter Dia Azzawi and Kuwaiti mixed-media artist Munira al-Kazi. Elsewhere, the exhibition explores intricate geometries of color and line, as in the silkscreens of Palestinian artist Kamal Boullata. From earthly to celestial, fluid to precise, the works in “Taking Shape” suggest the inexhaustible richness of non-objective approaches to painting, sculpture and printmaking.

Though abstract, these diverse works reflect the larger cultural, intellectual and spiritual negotiations of the Arab world in the 20th century. “Taking Shape” illuminates these broad horizons, introducing visitors to the diverse schools and movements that developed within and across these nations in a time of heightened international dialogue and diaspora. Read More

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