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Curator Lecture: "Abstract Expressionist Laments: Robert Motherwell's Elegies and American Art at Mid-Century", by Emma Acker

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Robert Motherwell, At Five in the Afternoon, 1950

Robert Motherwell, At Five in the Afternoon, 1950. Oil on hardboard. FAMSF, bequest of Josephine Morris, 2003.25.4

Koret Auditorium

Presented in collaboration with the Dedalus Foundation in New York and mounted in celebration of the centennial of the artist’s birth, the exhibition Between Life and Death: Robert Motherwell’s Elegies in Bay Area Collections will present thirteen works by the pioneering Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) from his seminal series Elegies to the Spanish Republic, and will be on view at the de Young Museum from September 5, 2015–March 6, 2016. Ranging from smaller-scale, intimate works to monumental, mural-sized canvases, the over 250 works Motherwell produced from 1948 until his death that are associated with the series became a vehicle for him to express in visual form what he described as "a funeral song for something one cared about,” and are inspired by his passionate engagement with the moral and political cause of the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).

This lecture will place Motherwell and his Elegies within the context of American abstract art in the post-World War II era, drawing upon works in the collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco to discuss the Abstract Expressionist movement. Reflecting the turmoil and moral uncertainties of the mid-twentieth century and the existential outlook it engendered, the works in the Elegies series ultimately addressing more timeless and transcendent aspects of the human condition, such as the dualities of joy and pain, hope and suffering, and life and death.

Emma Acker is assistant curator of American Art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. She has a BA from Brown University and an MA in Art History and Museum Studies from the University of Southern California, and has worked in curatorial departments at the Getty Research Institute and the National Gallery of Art. She is the curator of the forthcoming exhibition Between Life and Death: Robert Motherwell's Elegies in Bay Area Collections, and  authored an essay for the catalogue that will accompany the exhibition Jewel City: Art from San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Ticket Information

Complimentary lecture passes are distributed beginning at 6 pm at the Koret Auditorium entrance. Seating is limited. Passes are first come, first served.

Programming and general admission to the permanent collection galleries are free of charge during Friday Nights at the de Young. A discounted $15 ticket is required to visit the special exhibition galleries.


Contact Information

Mitzi Mathews
mmathews@famsf.org
(415) 750-7694

Sponsors

Support for Friday Nights at the de Young is provided by Hanson Bridgett and the Koret Foundation. During Friday Nights, funding from The Hearst Foundations makes possible free general admission to the permanent collection galleries. The media sponsor is the San Francisco Chronicle.