“Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection” Exhibition

Guggenheim Museum

poster for “Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection” Exhibition

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Guggenheim Presents First Artist-Curated Exhibition, Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection, the first artist-curated exhibition ever mounted at the museum. On view from May 24, 2019, through January 12, 2020, this full-rotunda presentation celebrates the Guggenheim’s extensive collection of twentieth-century modern and contemporary artworks, with an exhibition selected by six contemporary artists, all of whom have contributed to shaping the Guggenheim’s history with their own pivotal solo shows. Curated by Cai Guo-Qiang, Paul Chan, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Richard Prince, and Carrie Mae Weems, the presentation brings together collection highlights and rarely seen works from the turn of the century to 1980. On view during the 60th anniversary of the Guggenheim’s iconic Frank Lloyd Wright–designed building, Artistic License honors the museum’s artist-centric ethos and commitment to art as a force for upending expectations and expanding perspectives. This exhibition offers a critical examination of the Guggenheim’s collection on the occasion of a significant milestone in its history.

Artistic License is organized with the artists by Nancy Spector, Artistic Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator; supported by Ylinka Barotto, Assistant Curator; with Tracey Bashkoff, Director of Collections and Senior Curator; and Joan Young, Director, Curatorial Affairs.

Creating unique and timely dialogues with the Guggenheim’s history—and with the broader history of modern and contemporary art—the six artist-curators each interpret the collection through their own individual perspectives. Working with the museum’s curators and conservators, they have probed the Guggenheim collection in storage, encountering renowned artworks while also bringing to light singular contributions by lesser-known artists. Artistic License presents nearly 300 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and installations, some never before exhibited, that engage with the cultural discourses of their time—from the utopian aspirations of early modernism to the formal explorations of mid-century abstraction to the sociopolitical debates of the 1960s and ’70s. Drawing on their own practices, influences, and concerns, each of the artist-curators has selected thematically, conceptually, or formally relevant artworks to populate one of the six ramps in the museum’s rotunda, creating markedly distinctive sections and new readings of the collection. As a whole, the exhibition provides an opportunity to reflect on the museum’s own history, challenge accepted understandings of twentieth-century art, and reveal eclectic, even eccentric, comparisons and juxtapositions.

Cai Guo-Qiang: Non-Brand 非品牌
High Gallery and Rotunda Level 1
This presentation explores the primordial passion that ignites the creation of art by examining early figurative and otherwise unpredictable paintings and works on paper by artists known for their abstract or conceptual practices. Featured artworks, which will be installed salon style, include Vasily Kandinsky’s Munich (ca. 1901–02), Piet Mondrian’s Blue Chrysanthemum (ca. early 1920s), Mark Rothko’s still life Untitled (Still-Life with Rope, Hammer and Trowel) (ca. 1937), and works on paper by artist Hilla Rebay, who was also the Guggenheim’s first director. In addition to exhibiting such “unbranded” works by renowned artists—artworks that predate the iconic periods in these artists’ careers, as well as works by artists who did not enter the art-historical canon—Cai includes examples of his own early figurative painting. On the occasion of this exhibition, he is also creating new gunpowder paintings in homage to select iconic abstract canvases in the Guggenheim collection. These new works comment on Cai’s own trademark style, wittingly revealing the complicity of artists, curators, and museums in the exhibition of brands so sought-after by visitors.
Cai Guo-Qiang (b. 1957, Quanzhou, Fujian Province, China) draws upon Eastern philosophy and contemporary social issues as the conceptual basis of his art; through a site-specific approach, the artist aims to respond to the history of local cultures. His explosion art and installations are imbued with a force that transcends the two-dimensional plane to engage with society and nature. Cai’s solo exhibition at the Guggenheim, I Want to Believe (2008), revealed his nuanced explorations of art’s relationship to the cosmos and his methodological approach, which attempts, through visible means, at representations of the unseen world.

Paul Chan: Sex, Water, Salvation, or What Is a Bather?
Rotunda Level 2
This presentation investigates the theme of bathers in Western art history and attendant ideas about water, relationships between pleasure and the human body, and exile in the canon of twentieth-century art. Chan’s selections range from Fernand Léger’s late painting Starfish (1942) to Lawrence Weiner’s conceptual work (1970), and from Willem de Kooning’s canvas …Whose Name Was Writ in Water (1975) to Laurie Simmons’s photographs of dollhouse-scale bathroom scenes from the 1970s.
Paul Chan (b. 1973, Hong Kong) is known for a diverse practice that ranges from animated video projections to charcoal drawings, public performances, and haunting pneumatic sculptures, and for founding the experimental publishing house Badlands Unlimited in 2010. The artist’s solo exhibition at the Guggenheim, The Hugo Boss Prize 2014: Paul Chan, Nonprojections for New Lovers (2015), presented an installation that reimagined the very concept of the moving image and the illusory nature of representation.

Jenny Holzer: Good Artists
Rotunda Level 6
This presentation illuminates gender disparity and the exclusion of women from the art-historical canon. Holzer has selected works made exclusively by female artists including Lee Bontecou’s sculptural relief Untitled (1966), Louise Nevelson’s monumental wall sculpture Luminous Zag: Night (1971), Adrian Piper’s performative self-portrait The Mythic Being: Smoke (1974), and a selection of Chryssa’s neon works and a canvas from the 1960s and ’70s.
Jenny Holzer (b. 1950, Gallipolis, Ohio) has used language to deconstruct how meaning is created in Western culture’s patriarchal, consumer-oriented society for much of her career, whether on wheat-pasted posters, electronic signage, light projections, or paintings of redacted documents. Her 1989–90 retrospective at the Guggenheim consisted of a site-specific LED sign that wound its way around the interior walls of the museum’s rotunda, creating a dizzying electronic arcade of aphorisms and declarations comprising all of her work to date. This installation was accompanied by the artist’s granite and marble benches inscribed with darkly poetic statements.

Julie Mehretu: Cry Gold and See Black
Rotunda Level 4
This presentation reflects on how trauma, displacement, and anxiety in the decades after World War II found expression across cultural boundaries and in a wide range of art. Featured works include Francis Bacon’s Three Studies for a Crucifixion (March 1962), Romare Bearden’s gelatin silver print (photostat) Evening 9:10, 461 Lenox Avenue (1964), Matta’s painting Years of Fear (1941), and David Hammons’s body print Close Your Eyes and See Black (1969)—a recent acquisition.
Julie Mehretu (b. 1970, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) is best known for large-scale paintings and works on paper that layer and integrate abstract forms and schematic architectural imagery. Mehretu’s work is inspired by the topography, energy, and sensibility of global urban landscapes, political unrest, and modernist history. Her Guggenheim exhibition Julie Mehretu: Grey Area (2010) featured a suite of large-scale paintings commissioned by the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.

Richard Prince: Four Paintings Looking Right
Rotunda Level 3
This presentation investigates the uncannily coherent formal qualities of the museum’s international holdings of abstract painting and sculpture from the 1940s and ’50s, questioning, ultimately, how taste is formed. Featured works include those by Martin Barré, Conrad Marca-Relli, Georges Mathieu, Kenzo Okada, and Judit Reigl, among others. Prince has also included two canvases by Stuart Sutcliffe (an early member of the Beatles), whose work emulates and contributes to the abstract style of his time, as well as a formerly attributed Jackson Pollock painting once in the collection of Pollock’s close friend, the artist and collector Mercedes Matter.
Richard Prince (b. 1949, Canal Zone, Panama) is a member of the group of conceptual artists known as the Pictures Generation, pioneering the use of appropriation in his early photo-based works and “Monochromatic Joke” paintings to comment upon the way desire is created and perpetuated in the mass media. His survey exhibition at the Guggenheim, Richard Prince: Spiritual America (2007–08), featured artworks from this critical early chapter in his career, and from his subsequent forays into the history of twentieth-century painting—including meditations on the work of Pablo Picasso and Willem de Kooning—as well as an embrace of pulp imagery.

Carrie Mae Weems: What Could Have Been
Rotunda Level 5
This presentation focuses on the formal and metaphoric resonances of a strictly black-and-white palette across different decades, mediums, and genres, and as a conduit to expose inherent biases of museum collections focused on the Western art-historical canon. Featured works include Joseph Beuys’s installation Virgin (April 4, 1979); Franz Kline’s Painting No. 7 (1952); Mark Rothko’s Untitled (Black on Gray) (1969/70); examples from Ana Mendieta’s Silueta Series, which she began in 1973; and Martin Puryear’s sculpture Bask (1976).
Carrie Mae Weems (b. 1953, Portland, Oregon) is known for her artistic interrogations of systems as they relate to the constructions of power, race, gender, and class in visual representation. The survey exhibition Carrie Mae Weems: Three Decades of Photography and Video (2014) at the Guggenheim Museum traced the evolution of Weems’s career over thirty years, from her early documentary and autobiographical photographic series to the conceptual and philosophically complex works that have placed her at the forefront of contemporary art.



from May 24, 2019 to January 12, 2020

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