Blanton Museum of Art

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  • Brady Dyer, Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, (512) 232-5171

BLANTON OFFERS DISTINCTIVE NEW LOOK AT THE ART OF THE 1960s

Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York

September 28, 2008 – January 18, 2009

"It was impossible to identify what we were. That was our freedom."
–Dean Fleming

Dean Fleming
Lime Line, 1965
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 66 in. (121.9 x 167.6 cm)
Collection of the artist, Gardner, CO

Austin, TX– This fall the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin presents a groundbreaking exhibition of work by artists associated with the Park Place Gallery, a prominent artists' cooperative space in 1960s New York. With their commitment to space, the group was often at odds with the predominant aesthetics of many artists of the era, and as a result, their work has largely been ignored in chronicles of 1960s art. Organized by the Blanton, in collaboration with the University's College of Fine Arts, the exhibition features approximately 40 works and examines the impact of this little known but influential cadre of artists. Ann Wilson, interim director of the Blanton Museum states, "This exhibition is a model of what a University museum can accomplish. We are fortunate to be able to draw on the expertise of guest curator Linda Dalrymple–Henderson – a University of Texas professor and expert in this field– and combine her scholarship with that of the Blanton curators. Reimagining Space is testament to the richness and productivity of the Blanton – UT College of Fine Arts collaboration."

History of the Park Place Group

Initially located on the top floor of a five–story loft building at 79 Park Place in downtown Manhattan, the gallery began in 1962 as an informal gathering place for artists who shared similar aesthetic and social concerns and a passion for jazz. The group later developed into a more formal organization, opening in 1965 as a cooperative gallery in Greenwich Village under the name Park Place, the Gallery of 'Art Research, Inc.' Five sculptors (Mark di Suvero, Peter Forakis, Robert Grosvenor, Anthony Magar, and Forrest Myers) and five painters (Dean Fleming, Tamara Melcher, David Novros, Edwin Ruda, and Leo Valledor) comprised the group, and Paula Cooper served as the gallery's director for most of its existence.

Members of the group were united by a multifaceted exploration and interest in space. Their abstract paintings and sculptures, with dynamic geometric forms and color palettes, implied a depth of space that created optical tension, and were partially inspired by the architecture and energy of the built urban environment. Ruda recalls, for example, walking down the streets of the city , responding to di Suvero's excitement about the changing masses of buildings. They admired Mondrian's Boogie–Woogie paintings and Russian Constructivist art for similar reasons. Topics of discussion at the gallery regularly included the visionary theories of Buckminster Fuller, Space Age technologies, science fiction, and the psychology of expanded perception.

Mark Di Suvero
The “A” Train, 1965–67
Wood and painted steel
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

Theoretical ideas of space, specifically the multifaceted "fourth dimension" or "4D," as the group titled one show in spring 1965, was also a major concern to all members of the Park Place Gallery group. The "4D" could be many things–from geometry to mystical "cosmic" consciousness, science fiction, and even time. The idea of another invisible physical dimension of space had been crucial for early 20th–century artists such as the Cubist Picasso, while the idea of a "cosmic consciousness" had been central to painters like Malevich. During the 1920s, Einstein's Theory of Relativity, which posited time as the fourth dimension of "space–time," became the dominant mode of thinking about this complicated subject. Park Place artists explored these ideas both formally and conceptually in their work. For instance, Dean Fleming's paintings of shifting, contradictory spaces were intended to transform viewers by rejecting three–dimensional logic as a step toward expanded consciousness. Di Suvero's allegiance, by contrast, was to Einstein, and he incorporated time directly into his kinetic works, which explored gravity and momentum in space.

Between 1963 and 1967 the Park Place Gallery group was at the center of contemporary artistic activity in New York. In addition to the gallery's steady schedule of shows, members were included in such landmark exhibitions as Primary Structures (Jewish Museum, New York, 1966, organized by Kynaston McShine) and Systemic Painting (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1966, organized by Lawrence Alloway). Both exhibitions served as a platform for what would later be defined as "Minimalism," but as Reimagining Space argues, the members of the Park Place Gallery Group eluded categorization into the dominant movements of the 1960s, specifically Minimalism and the reigning focus on flat painting. As Fleming has stated, "It was impossible to identify what we were. That was our freedom."

By assembling a selection of major works not seen together since that era–as well as photographs and documents chronicling the group's activities–this exhibition opens a new window on the art world of the 1960s. In doing so, it reveals the decade to have been a period of much richer artistic possibility than standard art histories suggest. "Reimagining Space is meant to encourage new, more subtle readings of the 1960s and to direct attention to the superb Park Place artists who have not received the critical attention they deserve," states Guest Curator Linda Dalrymple–Henderson, David J. Bruton Jr. Centennial Professor, Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas.

The Park Place Gallery Group has several important connections to Texas, both through its members and its patrons. When “Art Research, Inc.” was formed in 1965, it was supported by five patrons: Virginia Dwan, Vera List, Patrick Lannan, and, from Dallas, Betty Guiberson [Blake] and Lupe [Mrs. John D.] Murchison, who each received works from the ten artists at the end of the year. Five works in the exhibition come from the estate of Mrs. Murchison, and a Dean Fleming painting was given to the Blanton Museum in 1966 through Betty Guiberson Blake. (In 1968, another Fleming painting was donated by James Michener, whose collection forms the core of the Blanton's collection of 20th century American painting.) Novros paintings from the Lannan Foundation were conveyed to the museum in 1999, and Ruda's Reo–Reo was a gift in 2004. Ruda actually taught at the University of Texas in 1956–59 after a brief stint at Texas Western in El Paso in 1953, and a major Forakis sculpture, Tower of the Cheyenne (1971), stands on the campus of the University of Houston.

The exhibition will be on view in the Blanton's special exhibition galleries with paintings, sculptures and miscellaneous ephemera highlighting the Group's history. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition, with an essay by Linda Dalrymple–Henderson and a preface by Claudine Humblet, and will be available in the Museum Shop.

Public Programs

In conjunction with the exhibition there will be an artist panel on Friday, September 26, at 3:30 PM Moderated by Linda Henderson, the panel will present artists from Park Place in conversation with the audience. They will discuss the origins, goals, and activities of Park Place as well as the position of the artists within the greater context of the New York art community at the time. A symposium on "The Counter–Culture in the 1950s and 1960s: From the Beats to Bucky Fuller" is scheduled for November 1, 2008, featuring invited scholars and University of Texas faculty.

Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group, in 1960s New York is organized by the Blanton Museum of Art in collaboration with the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin..

Guest Curator: Linda Dalrymple–Henderson, David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor, Department of Art and Art History, College of Fine Arts, The University of Texas at Austin

The Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin is one of the foremost university art museums in the country, and has the largest and most comprehensive collection of art in Central Texas. The museum welcomes and engages all visitors by offering personal, extraordinary experiences that connect art and ideas, reaching within and beyond The University of Texas campus to stimulate the thriving, creative community that is Austin, Texas. The Blanton's permanent collection of more than 17,000 works is recognized for its European paintings, an encyclopedic collection of prints and drawings, and modern and contemporary American and Latin American art.

Located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Congress Avenue, the museum is across the street from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum and is adjacent to downtown Austin. The museum is open Tuesday – Friday from 10–5, Saturday 11–5, and Sunday from 1–5. Thursday is free admission day and the museum is open until 9 PM on the Third Thursday of each month. Admission is free to members, all current UT ID–holders and children under 12, $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $3 for college students with ID, and $3 for youth (13–25). For information call (512) 471–7324 or visit www.blantonmuseum.org.