Blast from the Past: Art of the 1960s

Exhibit Preview
Pop Art
Abstract Expressionism
Figurative Expressionism
Color Field Painting
Geometric Abstraction
Op Art

Figurative Expressionism

Grace Hartigan Elaine de Kooning
 Grace Hartigan
(American, born 1922)
Interventions, 1967
Oil on canvas, 67 x 67”
Gift of Dr. Michael Linnan, 2005.4
 Elaine de Kooning
(American, 1918-1989)
Harold Rosenberg # 1, 1967
Oil on canvas, 28 x 22”
MSU purchase, funded by an Anonymous Donor, 2002.47

Abstract Expressionism was challenged by “a back to the figure” drive in the 1950s long before Pop art. The figure came back in two new ways: a bland, flat, ultra-simplified form of figuration, typified by Alex Katz, and a highly expressionistic one practiced by Lester Johnson, Elaine De Kooning, Robert Beauchamp, and Grace Hartigan among others, all of whom are represented in the exhibition. These artists loved everything about Abstract Expressionism except the demand that the painting not have recognizable subject matter, not be about something, but be pure painting. They found their images in the process of painting, brought them out and made them recognizable, albeit perhaps through a welter of brushstrokes. In the beginning, Johnson painted everymen, usually in groups, De Kooning painted portraits, Beauchamp painted a fantasy world of people and animals in the night, and Hartigan painted shop windows.

Kresge Art Museum | Michigan State University