Please enjoy this interactive map Robert Motherwell’s Notable Trips to Europe, 1938-1982. While this map is not a comprehensive list of all of Motherwell’s journeys to Europe, each red pin represents a location that had a significant impact on Motherwell’s life and artistic legacy.
Katie Yamasaki is a muralist, community artist, teacher, and illustrator based in Brooklyn. Her work as an artist has a wonderful way of sparking dialogues among diverse groups of people of all ages. Yamasaki’s artwork is known internationally; she has painted more than eighty murals in places all around world. She is also very familiar to our neighbors in Sunset Park, where two of her murals are located. One is on 3rd Avenue and 23rd Street, and the other is at PS 24, just two blocks away from the Dedalus Foundation’s Sunset Park location.
On March 31, 2017 the Dedalus Foundation’s Interns from Sunset Park High School visited Katie Yamasaki in her Red Hook studio. During their visit, students discussed immigrant heritage, the history of Japanese internment during World War II, and Yamasaki’s own career trajectory as a working artist.
This summer our Sunset Park office is proud host to an exhibition that includes twenty-seven of Yamasaki’s paintings from two series. Portraits from Yamasaki’s Pintando Postales series invite viewers to imagine life in two distinct cities from the perspective of middle school children. Pintando Postales are large-scale portraits that were inspired by correspondence between children in Santiago de Cuba and New York City. Yamasaki describes them as an attempt to illustrate childhood and adolescence from the voice of the child, catching the moment in life where identity, imagination, and expression are at once hugely important, and extremely fluid concepts.
Many of the works on view at the Dedalus Foundation are original illustrations from Fish for Jimmy, Yamasaki’s first book as both author and illustrator, which was published by Holiday House in 2013. In this book, based on Yamasaki’s own family history in Japanese internment camps, the often omitted experience of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War is explained and illustrated from the perspective of children. In a review of Fish for Jimmy, the New York Times praised Yamasaki’s illustrations, saying, “Yamasaki creates sweeping paintings that capture the story in a literal manner even as she makes bold metaphorical leaps. The overall result is a dramatic, visual feast.” McGraw-Hill recently purchased Fish for Jimmy to include in their textbooks, an achievement of particular significance to Yamasaki who remembers being corrected by her history teachers: “When I was in junior high school, I actually had teachers tell me that the internment didn’t happen – this after asking me to tell the class, because you’re Japanese – what happened on December 7, 1941 (Pearl Harbor). To have my work about the internment be included into the same textbooks that my former ignorant teachers would have used in the classroom is incredibly satisfying.”
Yamasaki’s artwork will be on view at the Dedalus Foundation until the end of August, allowing the students in our Summer Programs to use Yamasaki’s artwork as a direct source of inspiration. Local community groups are also invited to use the gallery as a classroom for guided visits. The exhibition is open to the public by appointment from 9:30am-5:30pm, Monday-Friday.
To schedule an appointment or group visit please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 212.220.4220.
To mark the beginning of summer, we honor Robert Motherwell’s strong connection to the beachside community of Provincetown, Massachusetts, where he lived and worked almost every summer for fifty years. Motherwell was happiest while at the Cape, and could engage in his work without the pressures of the New York art world and the distraction of everyday life.
In the summer of 1962, twenty years after he first started visiting Provincetown, Motherwell began his Beside the Sea series, while renting a studio at the Days Lumberyard. It was also the summer that he negotiated the purchase of 631 Commercial Street, which served as his summer home and studio until the end of his life.
In his 1978 essay “Provincetown and Days Lumberyard: A Memoir,” Motherwell praised the quality of Provincetown’s light, and described how living in Provincetown stimulated his creativity.
“People tend to forget that Provincetown is (roughly) on the forty-two degree meridian, as is Barcelona and Opporto and Cannes and Rome (almost exactly) and Macedonia and Istanbul and Peking (more or less), a distinctly warm southern light compared to Northern Europe, a light as seductive to painters in the Modernist tradition as geometry was to the ancient Greek philosophers and musicians, not to mention Mohammedan designers.
At any rate, the Days barn was filled with lovely light, and with clean, open, large, aged space. In 1962 I painted there one of my finest of the series of paintings called Elegy to the Spanish Republic (the one now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York); and also began a series of very free oils on paper, collectively called Beside the Sea… Then I owned the old farmhouse on the Northeast corner of Allerton and Commercial Streets (No. 622). Catty-corner from it for sale was a c. 1900 tiny A-house summer cottage on the water, for which I was negotiating all that summer. The price was reasonable enough ($13,000 I think, i.e., $4,500 down payment), but it was owned by numerous heirs, each of whose share would not amount to much, so there was much hesitation and consultation. After painting at Days barn all day, in the late afternoon I would sometimes sit on the seaside steps of the unoccupied A-cottage, hypnotized by the ever-changing tidal flats, hoping against hope that those beautiful thirty-three feet of bayside might end up mine, to convert into windswept studios for Helen and me, and into a beachhouse for my young daughters, Jeannie and Lise. The property (until 1976) had a massive concrete seawall, and, sitting dreaming on the steps, I used to be struck by the beauty, the force and the grace, at high tide with a strong Southwest wind of the seaspray spurting up, sometimes taller than a man, above the seawall.
After a time, I began experimenting with painting the seaspray, at Days barn. I quickly discovered that I could not imitate the spray satisfactorily—as Arp says, “I like nature, but not its substitutes.” It then occurred to me to use nature’s own process: after all, I was using liquid oil paint mixed in a bucket, not much more viscous than salt water. So, with dripping brush, I hit the drawing paper with all my force. There was indeed painted spray, but the physical force with which it was produced split the rag paper wide open. The next day, at Jim Forsberg’s marvelous Studio Shop, I bought a package of five-ply (that is, paper sheets made of five sheets laminated together, tougher to tear than playing cards) Strathmore one hundred percent rag paper. I also made yard-long handles for my brushes. I hit the laminated paper with the full force of my one hundred eighty pounds, with the paintbrush moving in a six-foot arc—I remember the sensation as that of cracking a bullwhip. An adequate equivalent of the pounding summer seaspray appeared, in deep sky blue, on that lovely kid finish, creamy white laminated paper, without splitting or tearing, to my delight. I made thirty or so more . . . I write this now, sixteen years later, sitting exactly where I sat then, observing the savagery again of a sunlit summer sea driven hard at high tide by the prevailing Southwest wind against the massive bulkhead Bill Fitts built for me two years ago, following the structured principles laid down by the late Jimmy Thomas forty years ago.”
My daughter Jeannie has her own studio next door, and if she lives to a normal age, she may be watching, beside the sea, the spray half a century from now. Summer people are never wholly accepted by natives, but that does not prevent us from absorbing the light and the sea air as deeply as any, almost into one’s blood, certainly into one’s eye and mind and painting wrist.”
The Montclair Art Museum’s exhibition Matisse and American Art (on view through June 18, 2017) examines Henri Matisse’s profound impact on American modern art from 1907 to the present. The exhibition juxtaposes 19 works by Matisse with 44 works by American artists including Robert Motherwell , Max Weber, Alfred Maurer, Maurice Prendergast, Stuart Davis, Richard Diebenkorn, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Romare Bearden, John Baldessari, Sophie Matisse, Faith Ringgold, and Helen Frankenthaler.
Motherwell first encountered Matisse’s paintings in the fall of 1935 at the home of Michael and Sarah Stein. He later recalled that the works he saw there, “[w]ent through my heart like a golden arrow and I had one real intuition immediately. I thought this is what I want to belong to.” That initial response carried through Motherwell’s life, influencing his works across media but especially in his collages. For the last two decades of his life, Motherwell had a Matisse cutout, La Danseuse, hanging in his home.
Matisse and American Art includes Motherwell’s 1977 collage Cathedral II. The work reflects Motherwell’s familiarity with Matisse’s method of collage, especially the act of cutting and arranging which added a physicality to the to the composition.
Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design is currently on view at the Jewish Museum until March 26, 2107.
French architect and interior designer Pierre Chareau spent the final years of his life in exile and relative obscurity in New York. Despite being a member of the prestigious Société des Artistes Décorateurs (an extraordinarily talented group of artists who specialized in creating unified interiors) in France, traces of his final years spent in America are limited and his American designs have received relatively little attention. He designed two built works in the United States: La Colline in Spring Valley, New York for the pianist Germaine Monteux and the writer Nancy Laughlin in 1950; and Robert Motherwell’s East Hampton studio and home in 1947.
Motherwell was introduced to Chareau and his wife Dollie by Anaïs Nin in the summer of 1944. Motherwell connected with Chareau in part because he believed that they both worked using “the collage principle, inspired by materials,” in their respective fields. In 1946 Motherwell asked Chareau to serve as the architecture editor for his review Possibilities, which he coedited with the critic Harold Rosenberg and the composer John Cage.
In 1947, Motherwell asked Chareau to design a house and studio on his two-acre property in East Hampton. For his fee, Chareau received a small piece of the Motherwell property on which he built a cottage that followed the so-called “primitive hut” concept later used by the French architect Corbusier in his Petit Cabanon. The Motherwell home and studio were built using surplus Quonset huts and utilized low cost materials like an industrial greenhouse window; concrete blocks for the retaining walls; plywood; and brick and oak logs for the floor.
The house gained some notoriety when it was photographed for Harper’s Bazaar in June of 1948. The photographs in the magazine show Chareau and the Motherwells as well as Anne Clark, and her young twin sons (including a young Gordon Matta-Clark) in the different rooms around the house.
The Chareaus were early collectors of Motherwell’s work and owned several of his paintings and drawings, including Line Figure in Beige and Mauve, 1946 and Constructed Figures, 1944 both of which are on display at the Jewish Museum until March 26.
To learn more about Robert Motherwell’s relationship with Pierre Chareau make sure to visit the Jewish Museum before March 26. More information about the exhibition can be found here.
The Dedalus Foundation is home to thousands of Motherwell’s professional and personal papers and photographs, including correspondence, datebooks, and interviews. The material in the archives not only allows us to reconstruct the artist’s daily activities and studio practice, but it also gives us a clear picture of Motherwell as an individual.
The images in the archives span Motherwell’s career and contain everything from his old lecture slides to photographs of works and exhibitions. Some of the most enlightening and engaging images are of Motherwell’s personal life and his travels, especially during the 1960s when he was married to the painter Helen Frankenthaler.
In the fall of 1961, Motherwell and Frankenthaler traveled to France where they each had solo exhibitions, he with Galerie Heinz Berggruen and she with Galerie Lawrence. On October 9, Frankenthaler wrote to friends, “Bob’s vernissage was last Tuesday the show is something to be proud of, great crowd and lots of familiar faces. We’re busy and feeling splendid (Even had a drink atop the Eiffel Tower today—gevalt!).”
Motherwell’s personal photographs sometimes shed light on his creative process. Photographs taken by Motherwell and Frankenthaler in Alassio, Italy illustrate how Motherwell incorporated the shapes of the landscape and the color of the beach umbrellas into Summertime in Italy No. 3, 1960.
Travel served as an inspiration for a number Motherwell’s works throughout his career, including the collage The French Line, 1960. Motherwell meant the title to be a multiple pun, which he explained in the catalogue for his 1963 Smith College exhibition: “The French advertisement is from a box of diet-crackers (the French always talk about one’s line in relation to weight); the line of the Riviera coast is visible; it is one of the most ‘French’ pictures I have ever painted (and in this sense follows the ‘French Line’ in painting); I travelled on the French line to Europe to paint it.” There is a photograph of a French Line ship in the slides from Motherwell and Frankenthaler’s trip, perhaps meant to commemorate the literal inspiration for the collage’s title.
The Dedalus Foundation archives are currently closed to the public, but research requests may still be directed to email@example.com. To learn more about the Foundation’s archives, or to view digitized materials, please click here.
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY.
Each year, the Dedalus Foundation offers twelve scholarships in fine art and art history to graduating seniors from New York City public schools. The fine art scholarship acknowledges technical skill as well as creativity in forms and materials, while the art history scholarship rewards clear writing, insight, and creativity in subject matter. These scholarships honor Robert Motherwell’s lifelong interest in arts education at all levels.
Below is a selection of work from the 2016 fine art scholarship winners. Applications for the 2017 scholarship competition are live on our site here.
As a part of our commitment to the neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where our community education programs are based, we also offer a fine art scholarship specifically to a graduating senior from Sunset Park High School.
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.
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.
He made significant revisions soon after this, and it looked quite different when it was photographed again on October 27, 1975.
He made major revisions again before it was 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.
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.
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.)
To commemorate Robert Motherwell’s birthday, please enjoy this interactive map Robert Motherwell’s New York City. Each red pin represents a significant location in Motherwell’s life and legacy in New York City.