Strathmore opens its 2014-2015 season of fine art programming with the museum-caliber exhibition Grace Hartigan: A Survey 1966-2007, a highlight of the art center’s 2014-2105 Season featuring 22 of the artist’s works on view in the Mansion at Strathmore from Saturday, September 6 through Sunday, November 9, 2014.
Though her career started with the fabled New York School and friendships with contemporaries such as Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, and poet Frank O’Hara, this exhibit focuses on her decades of independent aesthetic development, leading to the years just prior to her passing in Baltimore in 2008. The exhibition was organized with the generous support of C. Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore; Maryland Art Place, Baltimore; the private collection of Suzi and David Cordish; and an anonymous collector. This is the first exhibition of its kind presented in the Mansion since 2005, when The Art of Music debuted with 45 musically-inspired works from the Baltimore Museum of Art. A free Opening Reception will be held Friday, September 19 from 7-9 p.m. For more information, call (301) 581-5100 or visit www.strathmore.org.
Largely a self-taught painter, Hartigan was initially introduced to the work of Henri Matisse by a peer at the Newark College of Engineering, which sparked an enduring interest in modern art. She relocated to New York after World War II and moved into the world of Abstract Expressionism. She began to form her own artistic identity after seeing a Jackson Pollock exhibition in 1948. Pollock encouraged Hartigan to look at the work of Willem de Kooning, who would become a lifelong friend. She began to combine the large scale of Pollock’s works with de Kooning’s commitment to the Old Masters of art history, inserting recognizable imagery into her abstractions. This departure earned her a solo debut at New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1951.
Hartigan was also intensely dedicated to literature, which provided themes and a broad cultural overview—a passion tied to her association with such poets as Frank O’Hara and Barbara Guest.
Her paintings were included in the 1956 exhibition 12 Americans at the Museum of Modern Art, and in the international touring exhibition The New American Painting from 1958-1959. Hartigan was one of few women painters to garner this level of exposure and recognition.
Hartigan’s work continued to evolve. Though she had distaste for Pop art, some stylistic elements were incorporated into her landmark works of the period, while her later work, beginning in the 1980s, was more representational. However, she continued to reference the Old Masters and to experiment with balancing figuration and abstraction.
Her marriage to Dr. Winston Price, research professor at the Johns Hopkins University, led to a move from New York to Baltimore in 1960. From 1965 until her death in 2008, she served as a teacher at and director of the Maryland Institute College of Art’s LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting.
While relocating to Baltimore denied Hartigan the regular New York exhibition opportunities that she had been afforded previously, it might be argued that it benefited her artistic vision. Hartigan became a keen observer of urban culture in Baltimore—a major theme in her art. Her distance from New York also allowed her to take a circumspect view of the rapidly changing art climate.
Strathmore will enhance the visitor experience of Grace Hartigan: A Survey 1966-2007 with public education programs.
The panel discussion Grace Hartigan: A Unique Force on Sunday, September 21, 2014 at 11 a.m. convenes experts and acquaintances of Grace Hartigan to discuss her work and impact on the world of modern art. Panelists include Virginia K. Adams, art historian and Trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art; Rex Stevens, Chair of the Drawing and General Fine Arts departments at the Maryland Institute College of Art, a longtime friend of Hartigan’s, as well as her studio manager for 30 years; and Terence Diggory, curator, author and former Chairman of the English department at Skidmore College.
Art & Wine Night: Grace Hartigan on Friday, October 17, 2014 from 7-9 p.m. includes a guided tour of the exhibition and hands-on art activity reflecting Hartigan’s aesthetic, with wine and snacks. Admission is $35 per person and can be purchased through Strathmore’s website.
On Saturdays, September 13 and October 25, 2014 at 10:15 a.m., Children’s Talk & Tours invite children and their families to explore the exhibition and exercise their creativity through a hands-on abstract arts activity with professional working artists. Admission is $5 per child, with no charge for parent chaperones. Reservations are required for the Children’s Talk & Tours and can be made on Strathmore’s website.
At the Art Talk & Tour on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 1 p.m., adults will learn about the artwork in the exhibition from curator Harriet Lesser. This event is free, but registration is required and can be done on Strathmore’s website.