Big and Bold from the Permanent Collection

October 26 - January 20, 2019

Curated by:
Christine McCarthy
Opening Reception:
Friday, November 9, 6pm

About the Exhibition

This exhibition highlights PAAM collection works primarily from the 1960s to the 1990s.  The chaotic events of the sixties, including war and social change, seemed destined to continue into the seventies.  Major trends included a growing disillusionment of government, advances in civil rights, increased influence of the women’s movement, a heightened concern for the environment, and increased space exploration.  Many of the more radical ideas of the sixties gained wider acceptance in this decade and were mainstreamed into American life and culture which flourished.  The events of the times were reflected in and became the inspiration for much of the art, music, literature, entertainment and even fashion of the decade.

Seventies art reflected a refinement of some of the avant-garde trends which were prominent in the sixties.  Earth art, a movement that combined environmental and minimalist ideas on a grand scale, was promoted by artists such as Walter de Maria, Robert Smithson, James Turrell, Claes Oldenburg and Richard Serra.  Pop art was still represented by Andy Warhol and David Hockney; Georg Segal continued to sculpt with white plaster, and the influence of the women’s movement was brought to the forefront by artists such as Lynda Benglis and Judy Chicago.  Andrew Wyeth began painting his Helga pictures and performance art challenged the traditional, static aspect of art.

The eighties represented a huge decade for art, art museums and artists, especially Jasper Johns, Willem De Kooning, Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg and Frank Stella.  Artists were pushing the envelope and during this decade, many Americans protested against the art of the time.

Huge numbers of people lined up outside of the Corcoran to protest Robert Mapplethorpe and veterans opposed a Chicago Art Institute exhibition that had the American flag draped on the floor; Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc was removed from New York City’s Federal Plaza and Andrew Wyeth’s Helga paintings were refused by several museums, but in 1987 were exhibited at the National Gallery of Art, the museum’s first exhibition of works by a living artist.

The robust art market of the 1980s was devastated in the wake of a stock market crash in 1987 and a severe recession in the early nineties. As a result, at the beginning of the decade, artists tended to look more outside the art world for their subject matter, which ranged from current issues such as the AIDS crisis, gun control, and homelessness to often-charged explorations of class, race, gender and sexual identity. This coincided with an emerging notion of the artist as an examiner of people and culture, as well as an exploration of broken or grotesque bodies and identities, by the likes of artists Paul McCarthy and Kiki Smith.

The most recognized movement of the decade, the Young British Artists (YBAs), rose to international recognition through ambitious and provocative works such as Rachel Whiteread’s House and Damien Hirst’s formaldehyde-encased animals, highlighted in the exhibition, Sensation.  In the 1990s, video art became more and more influential, especially due to works like Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle and large-scale video installations by artists such as Doug Aitken.  Concurrently, artists such as Andreas Gursky and Jeff Wall used the increasingly sophisticated tools of photo-manipulation to blur the lines of fact and fiction.

Embedded into PAAM’s mission, the collection is truly at the heart of our organization. A glance at the newly released Permanent Collection catalog shows how many hundreds of people have been moved to express their generosity through contributions that make up virtually the entire collection.  Bringing the art of Provincetown back to Provincetown ensures that PAAM will continue to uphold this incredible responsibility of maintaining the legacy of the oldest continuous art colony in the United States.

Image: George McNeil, Decisions, (detail), 1992, oil on canvas, PAAM Collection, Gift of the George McNeil Charitable Trust, 2004