Series and Sequences
Romare Bearden, Stuart Davis, Robert De Niro, Sr., Nathan Oliveira
March 17 - April 30, 2011
Series and Sequences explores the idea of variations on a theme in the work of four twentieth-century artists who used related imagery or returned to similar imagery over time. Through a select group of paintings and drawings, the exhibit reveals some of the many ways in which artists enter into a dialogue with their own work through series. Organized in conjunction with Never the Same Twice, which features the work of contemporary artists, the exhibition provides a complementary view of a long-standing artistic practice.
In 1977, Romare Bearden (1911-1987) created a cycle of collages and watercolors based on episodes from Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey. In the complete set of twenty-four watercolors Bearden reinterprets Odysseus’ heroic quest by emphasizing the North African aspects of its Mediterranean setting and using imagery rooted in both classical mythology and African American culture. Bearden created these works at mid-career, perhaps reflecting on his own journey as an artist as well as the historic African American search for home.
The importance of process and of using earlier works as the basis for new compositions are key aspects of the art of Stuart Davis (1892-1964), whose ideas about jazz and improvisation in painting had a significant influence on Bearden. Drawings like those on view were central to his creative practice, just as the act of drawing was the foundation of both his art and his art theory.
For Robert De Niro, Sr. (1922-1993), an artist who maintained a vibrant consistency in his work for over three decades, a series often meant creating three or four versions of an idea or subject almost simultaneously. The three paintings in the exhibition, all from September 1968, are radical stylizations of architecture in a suburban or small town setting, done in his signature post-Fauve palette with freely brushed areas of color defined by strong outlines.
Nathan Oliveira (1928-2010) explored the theme of the solitary figure for over fifty years. For him, a series could derive from repeated sessions with a particular model for a brief period of time or a group of related works created over the course of several years. The nudes in the exhibition were done between 1965 and 1972. Their immediacy demonstrates that spontaneity was the essence of Oliveira’s method, resulting in bold, direct works that capture a momentary encounter between artist and model in a burst of creative energy.