Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s 

September 22, 2018 - September 29, 2019

Can abstract art be about politics?

In the early 1970s, that question was hotly debated as artists, critics, and the public grappled with the relationship between art, politics, race, and feminism. Many of those debates centered on bringing to light the roles that gender and race played in how “great modern art” was defined and assessed, and on employing art to advance civil rights. Within this discourse, abstraction had an especially fraught role. To many, the decision by women artists and artists of color  to make abstract art seemed to represent a retreat from politics and protest: an abnegation of a commitment to civil rights and feminism. Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s presents large-scale work by four leading American artists—Helen Frankenthaler, Sam Gilliam, Al Loving, and Louise Nevelson—who chose abstraction as a means of expression within the intense political climate of the early 1970s.
Acknowledgements
 
UMMA gratefully acknowledges the following donors for their generous support of this exhibition:
 
Lead Exhibition Sponsors
University of Michigan Office of the Provost, Michigan Medicine, and College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
 
Exhibition Endowment Donors 
Richard and Rosann Noel Endowment Fund, Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment, and Robert and Janet Miller Fund
 
University of Michigan Funding Partners
Institute for Research on Women and Gender, School of Social Work, Department of Political Science, and Department of Women's Studies
 
 

Images

Sam Gilliam, Situation VI—Pisces 4, ca. 1972, polypropylene painted multiform. Williams College Museum of Art Museum purchase, Otis Family Acquisition Trust and Kathryn Hurd Fund. Courtesy of Joseph Goddu Fine Arts, Inc., New York. © Sam Gilliam

 

Sam Gilliam, Situation VI—Pisces 4 (detail), ca. 1972, polypropylene painted multiform. Williams College Museum of Art Museum purchase, Otis Family Acquisition Trust and Kathryn Hurd Fund. Courtesy of Joseph Goddu Fine Arts, Inc., New York. © Sam Gilliam

Al Loving, Bowery Morning, 1971, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy the Estate of Al Loving and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

 

Helen Frankenthaler, Sunset Corner, 1969, acrylic on canvas. University of Michigan Museum of Art, Museum purchase, 1973/1.813. © 2018 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Timeline

Exhibition Timeline

SatSep 22
Exhibition Opens
Sun
Oct 7
2018
Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s
2:00pm3:00pm
Gallery Talks and Tours
Sun
Nov 4
2018
Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s
2:00pm3:00pm
Gallery Talks and Tours
Sun
Nov 18
2018
In Conversation: Can Abstract Art Be About Politics?
3:00pm4:00pm
Artists and Curators / Exhibitions Related / Gallery Talks and Tours
Sat
Dec 1
2018
Abstraction, Color, Politics: A Leisurely Look
2:00pm3:00pm
Exhibitions Related / Gallery Talks and Tours
Sun
Dec 2
2018
Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s
2:00pm3:00pm
Gallery Talks and Tours
Thu
Jan 10
2019
UMMA Book Club: Art, Ideas, & Politics
12:00pm1:00pm
Exhibitions Related / Student Events
Sat
Jan 12
2019
Family Art Studio: Don't throw it out! Let's make art with it!
11:00am1:00pm
Exhibitions Related / Family
Sat
Jan 12
2019
Family Art Studio: Don't throw it out! Let's make art with it!
2:00pm4:00pm
Exhibitions Related / Family
Sun
Jan 20
2019
Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s
2:00pm3:00pm
Gallery Talks and Tours
Sun
Feb 17
2019
Abstraction, Color, and Politics in the Early 1970s
2:00pm3:00pm
Gallery Talks and Tours
Thu
Mar 14
2019
UMMA Book Club: Art, Ideas, & Politics
12:00pm1:00pm
Exhibitions Related
Thu
May 9
2019
UMMA Book Club: Art, Ideas, & Politics
12:00pm1:00pm
Exhibitions Related
Thu
Jul 11
2019
UMMA Book Club: Art, Ideas, & Politics
12:00pm1:00pm
Exhibitions Related
Thu
Sep 12
2019
UMMA Book Club: Art, Ideas, & Politics
12:00pm1:00pm
Exhibitions Related
SunSep 29
Exhibition Closes