Pure Shape and Color: Geometric Abstract Prints from the IMAS Permanent Collection

Pure Shape and Color: Geometric Abstract Prints from the IMAS Permanent Collection

Modern art and its increasing tendency to strip images down to pure shape and color has long led to the belief that art was dying away, dwindling to nothing more than a flat field of color. This exhibition of abstract prints from the Permanent Collection of the International Museum of Art & Science proves through geometric abstraction that even at its most reductive, art continues to be as vital and expressive as ever.

The impressive collection of geometric abstract prints held by IMAS is due almost solely to astute local collectors who purchased and then gave or sold works to the museum over many years. In 1979 and 1987, Dorothy and Charles Clark, very serious and knowledgeable collectors of modern prints, donated works by European and American abstract artists. In 1987, the Museum Guild provided funds for the museum to acquire two sets of prints produced in calendar form in Germany from the Clarks. Artist Ann W. Harithas donated several important prints in 1985, and in 1986 the museum purchased a set of prints from local collector Glen Bruner, Jr., by major artists including Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler and Ellsworth Kelly.

The artists here represent a variety of stylistic movements all based in abstract geometric form. The Concrete art movement, including Josef Albers and Victor Vasarely, concentrates on complete non-representation, removing any reference to the outside world and concentrating instead on the relationship of solid color and form in their most elemental forms. From the late 1950s to the 1970s, Geometric Abstraction developed alongside Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism and Pop Art. These styles all focus on the two-dimensionality of the surface plane, creating a non-illusionistic space that rejects the traditional role of art to create a sense of three dimensionality.

Although these works date from the 1960s and 1970s, they appear fresh and modern. This is in part because commercial artists readily adapted the bare shapes and bold color to marketing and graphic design elements still popular today. Pop artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana intentionally pushed art closer to advertising, blurring the distinctions between fine and commercial art. Over the decades, these works in the IMAS permanent collection have remained as visually powerful and intense as they were when first printed.

October 25, 2017