America Painting a Nation (a short review)

The “America” show at the Art Gallery of NSW is a little lack luster. It was building up to be something quite epic. However it ended abruptly around the 1960’s. An exhibition about paintings and painters that created works that were influential to America as a nation and also leaving a mark on it’s people, trademark American painting. Where’s Basquiat, de Kooning, the other minimalists like Frank Stella. What about Julien Schnabel? What about Warhol and Lichtenstein?

It’s just cuts off right about halfway through the modernist era. There was no fullstop, almost felt like reading through the Harry Potter series and stopping at book four and calling it quits. It has left a bad taste in my mouth. As I sit here in the final two rooms, looking out at the directions to the book/gift shop I am a little shattered. My appetite was just beginning to grow, seeing work by O’Keefe, Rothko, Pollock and Krasner I was expecting to move on, but I was stopped dead in my tracks. Stuck in a modernist time warp.

Though on a positive note I did find the works on show to be of a high calibre, strong, bold, informative of their time and context. Works I haven’t seen before, some intimate examples of my favorites. Honorable mentions to Pollock and Rothko being hung together, brothers in arms and independent voices at the same time. Edward Hopper’s work stood out, quiet and stoic. Always the clever narrative that requires a quiet eye and an open mind to decipher. The works by Sargent, Homer and Whistled absolute monuments. Portraits and landscapes that have not lost their effect on the viewer.

Overall the quality of work shown was outstanding, however the curating of this show comes into question. It felt as though I was going for a nice walk through the woods and then suddenly faced with a white wall that had the words “Gift Shop” on it.

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ImageTodd Hunter, “Who’s that riding”, 2012, Oil on canvas, 140 x 134 cm.