A Case Study of Robert Motherwell’s Reworking Method

Motherwell frequently revised his works, some over long periods of time, and some after they were reproduced in publications or exhibited. One of the most complicated histories of reworking involved Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, which was repainted several times both before and after being exhibited. Begun in 1975, this painting was originally based on the composition of an earlier, small-scale work, Spanish Elegy with Orange No. 3 but it subsequently underwent a number of permutations and revisions that lasted from the mid-1970s well into the next decade.

 

Spanish Elegy with Orange No. 3, 1944. Acrylic and graphite on canvas board, 8 x 10 in.
Spanish Elegy with Orange No. 3, 1944. Acrylic and graphite on canvas board, 8 x 10 in.

In its very first version, it contained areas of orange, like the small picture on which it was modeled, but Motherwell repainted it entirely in black and white shortly afterward, and it was photographed on September 19, 1975.

 

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on September 19, 1975
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on September 19, 1975

He made significant revisions soon after this, and it looked quite different when it was photographed again on October 27, 1975.

 

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on October 27, 1975
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on October 27, 1975

He made major revisions again before it was photographed on February 10, 1976.

 

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on February 10, 1976
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on February 10, 1976

It was revised yet again before it was shown at his 1977 retrospective exhibitions in Paris and Edinburgh. In 1982 Motherwell reworked it again, adding large areas of pink and yellow ochre, before it was shown at his 1983 retrospective at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where it was reproduced in the catalogue.

 

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on December 22, 1982
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 132, as photographed on December 22, 1982

After it was returned to him in 1985, he revised it yet again, painting over the pink areas with ochre as you can see in the final image.

In many cases, it is difficult to say exactly what prompted Motherwell to rework a given picture at a certain time. It was not simply a matter of “perfectionism,” since he himself accepted as a kind of philosophical truth that a work of art could never be perfect. The most surprising thing is how many pictures he revised—mostly paintings on canvas and panel, but also collages and paintings on paper— and also how many times he chose to repaint a picture when it would have seemed easier simply to start a new one, and how much time and effort he gave to the revision of both important and minor pictures. It was as if he was constantly trying to find, redefine, and find again an elusive reality not only within the world, but within himself.

Note: This blog post was adapted from the Robert Motherwell Catalogue Raisonné.

Artist Profile: Monica Chulewicz

In Winter 2016, the Dedalus Foundation was pleased to partner with the John F. Kennedy Center to present the exhibition (Re)Invention at our Sunset Park location. The exhibition features artists whose work exemplifies themes of renewal and self-discovery—of reinvention. From the unexpected whimsy of an animation, to a bold series of self-portraits, this work engages, challenges, and delights us. Collectively, these works of art captivate us on many levels: we are asked to explore ideas of self, community, legacy, and collective memory.

(Re)Invention is the 15th exhibition presented by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program, a Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program. The result of a longtime collaboration with Volkswagen Group of America, this national art competition and exhibition gives fifteen artists with disabilities, ages 16-25, the opportunity to display their work in venues across the nation where each artist’s individual talent, mode of expression, and view of the world is showcased and valued.

We wanted to highlight one of these artists— Monica Chulewicz from Seaford, NY— whose work I’m Not Here For You To Taunt won the competition’s grand prize.

Chulewicz is a Polish-American artist who was born and raised in New York. A printmaker and collagist, she uses vintage found materials in both digital and traditional hand-printing processes. Chulewicz was born with a progressive disease that has caused several secondary illnesses, and uses her chronic health issues as a means of inspiration for her work.

The cast of anonymous women depicted in I’m Not Here For You To Taunt represent collected memories from unknown histories, and evoke a continuum of loss and renewal throughout the generations. Chulewicz experiments with fiction of the past, using vintage photographs to create dialogues between memory and time, and address themes of existence, fragility, and mortality.

Image: Monica Chulewicz, I’m Not Here For You To Taunt, 2016. Cyanotype prints on vintage dress (90 in x 35 inches.)

Meet ISCP Dedalus Foundation Resident Betty Yu

The Dedalus Foundation is pleased to announce that we have chosen artist and community organizer Betty Yu to be our 2017 Dedalus Foundation Resident at the International Studio and Curatorial Program. Yu will develop a public engagement project and exhibition in Sunset Park with the support of Dedalus Foundation and its staff.

This residency will build on Yu’s years of experience as a nationally recognized community leader and social justice artist. She has worked extensively with community-driven culture, media and art organizations such as the Chinatown Art Brigade, a cultural art collective of Asian American social justice artists, cultural workers and media makers which she co-founded in 2015; the Laundromat Project; and the Center for Media Justice. She cofounded the first NYC Field Office for the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture where she organized two successful community-based art events, “Imagining: Creative Strategies to Fight Gentrification” in June and July 2015 bringing together over 300 artists, cultural workers, media makers, housing rights activists, organizers, community residents and other stakeholders to imagine a future where adequate housing is seen as a human right.

Raised in Sunset Park by immigrant parents, Yu approaches social issues through her own personal story, family narrative, and community’s history. During her six-month residency, Yu will create a site-specific based exhibit and multi-media interactive website called, “The Future of Sunset Park: Through the Voices of Immigrant Stories.” The project will engage Latino and Chinese immigrants in the neighborhood, allowing them a platform to tell their own story of immigration and their journey to living or working Sunset Park. The goal of the project is to allow a creative space for everyday people who are impacted directly by immigration and gentrification to have an outlet to express what Sunset Park has meant to them and what their hopes are for the future. It will be a forum for community members and the general public to hear the rich and varied stories of Sunset Park’s residents.

Intergenerational Dialogues at the Dedalus Foundation

When Motherwell founded the Dedalus Foundation in 1981, its purpose was stated as follows, “To serve the public interest by endeavoring to foster, cultivate, develop, and support public understanding and appreciation of the principles of modern art expressed through the theories of modernism as expressed in the works and writings of Robert Motherwell and other artists.”

In order to further Motherwell’s legacy, the Foundation has begun to expand its educational programs for children and adults in our Sunset Park location. The Dedalus Foundation’s President and CEO, Jack Flam, sat down with Programs Director Katy Rogers to discuss the organization’s mission and how it is enacted through a dynamic roster of evolving programs.
Continue reading “Intergenerational Dialogues at the Dedalus Foundation”

Welcome to the Dedalus Foundation Blog

Welcome to the new blog feature on the Dedalus Foundation website. We are very excited to introduce this new forum, which will allow us to present information related to the Foundation’s programs and the art of Robert Motherwell. The blog will include short essays, scholarly articles, and reflections about modern art and modernism, and the role of arts education in contemporary society.