BALTIMORE, MD. — The Baltimore Museum of Art’s newly reopened Contemporary Wing is the setting for an exhibition of more than 25 works that illuminate seldom seen aspects of Baltimore-born painter Morris Louis’s artistic practice. On view September 8–February 9, “Morris Louis Unveiled” includes Louis’s iconic “Dalet Beth,” a 1958 “veil” painting, and “Silver III,” 1953, and “Untitled 5-76,” 1956, two bold gestural paintings that reveal the artist’s little-known exploration of Abstract Expressionism. Louis’s range of influences is also vividly shown through related works on paper by Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock.
The exhibition was inspired by a gift of two large-scale paintings and a number of surprising drawings that came to the museum last year from the estate of the artist’s widow.
These are presented along with other works drawn from the museum’s collection and from a Baltimore private collection.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the museum will present important examples of works by Louis’s influences, peers and followers, including Helen Frankenthaler’s majestic “Madridscape,” 1959. The era of the Washington Color School is represented through works by Sam Gilliam, Kenneth Noland, Howard Mehring and Anne Truitt.
The exhibition is curated by BMA curator of contemporary art Kristen Hileman with guest scholar Antonia Pocock, a PhD candidate at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, who conducted new in-depth research on Louis through the project.
“Louis’s commitment to experimenting moved painting in a new direction, and his art ever forward,” said Hileman. “We see in these beautiful, expansive paintings the artist reconciling two very different approaches to abstraction — chaotic layers of spontaneous expressive marks, and flat expanses of pure, pulsating color at times taken to a radically minimal extreme.”
Pocock has been investigating Louis’s approach to abstraction in the late 1940s through the mid-1950s and wrote the essay for a small publication that accompanies the exhibition. She will also hold a free lecture about her research on Saturday, November 9, at 2 pm,. in the museum’s Woodward Gallery.
Morris Louis (1912–1962) is considered an influential originator of the Washington Color School, a group of mid-Twentieth Century painters who explored the language of abstraction using new materials and a focus on color. A pioneer of Color Field painting, Louis gained renown for his method of staining raw canvases with washes of newly developed acrylic paint to create vibrant, large-scale works.
Born in Baltimore and a graduate of what is now known as the Maryland Institute College of Art, Louis had a long history with the BMA, having exhibited in the museum’s annual Maryland artist exhibitions four times in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and having served on the BMA’s advisory artists’ committee.
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