Abstract Expressionist New York at the MoMA

An abstract expressionist piece in yellow, red and orange, blocks of color in this Mark Rothko piece

 The MoMA digs deep (and wide) into their extraordinary permanent collection for the blockbuster show of the season, Abstract Expressionist New York, a celebration of the creative explosion that burst through this town in the 1940s and '50s. Taking up the Museum of Modern Art's entire fourth floor–the first time an exhibition has done so since since the renovation–as well as select galleries on the third and second floors, Abstract Expressionist New York fills the space with more than 100 paintings and approximately 60 sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs, any one of which, with perhaps only a little bit of arguing, can safely be called a masterpiece.     

 Viewers look on at a Abstract Expressionist painting of gray, black and white splatter paint - a Jackson Pollock original

The big names are all here at the MoMA's exhibit, and even if you feel like you've seen most these pieces before, their impact both individually and, especially, all hung together as a group is undeniable. We lingered in the Mark Rothko room (especially before No. 5/No. 22, at top), for a good long time, soaking in the almost glowing colors of the eight big works presented here. Jackson Pollack's massive Number 1A, above, which you can't help but have seen a million times before in reproduction, is a completely different animal altogether viewed "live", dynamic and engaging and enveloping. And the gathering of Barnett Newmans, featuring seven of his trademark "zippered" abstract expressionist paintings (including the huge Vic Heroicus Sublimis shown below, of which the artist said is "intended to be seen from a short distance"), was another high point of our journey. 

Three gallery visitors looking at the Mark Rothko piece - a large scale abstract expressionist painting mostly red with thin black and white line


Robert Motherwell at the MoMA exhibition of abstract expression art - bulbous shapes to form the bottom half of a man and woman with cut out shaped of color in the background

There were some surprises here as well. Who knew how much we loved Robert Motherwell, for instance? Not us… until we were treated to four of his works scattered throughout the MoMA's Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition, including Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive, above. Other high points: Alfred Leslie's The Second Two-Panel Horizontal, below, and the wonderfully green and graphic Bradley Walker Tomlin's Number 9: In Praise of Gertrude Stein, even further below. But we're not being completely fair here, because a true highlight reel of Abstract Expressionist New York would inevitably include most everything. If this period, and this style, and these artists speak to you at all, then this exhibition is an absolute must.

Abstract Expressionist at the Museum of Modern Art - Alfred Leslies two panel with black and white blocks of color - a female dress in black gazing at it.


Gertrude Stein abstract expressionist painting green background with letter shapes and squiggly lines in blacks, whites and greens.

Abstract Expressionist New York at the MoMA Details

The Museum of Modern Art's Abstract Expressionistic New York is on display now until April 25, 2011. The MoMA is located on 53rd Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, and is open Monday, Wednesday Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Friday until 8:00 p.m., when admission is free after 4:00 p.m. Closed Tuesdays. For lots more information about everything, please see the MoMA's website.  


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