Motherwell: product. placement.


Motherwell: product. placement.

This exhibition will focus on the collages and collage-prints of Robert Motherwell which employ the material and visual elements of product packaging and printed text fragments as crucial elements in their composition. Emerging from the long history of still life in both European and American art, Motherwell’s use of materials from everyday life is distinct from the more ironic or less personal approaches of his contemporaries Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and Robert Rauschenberg.

The concept of “product” underlying this presentation of Motherwell’s collages is not limited to branded items, such as the iconic Gauloises cigarette packages. Rather, the materials introduced into these works from the “outside world” apply more broadly, signifying the sensual, the artistic, and the intellectual concerns and experiences of the artist, layering and blending meaning and materiality within the collages. This approach also reflexively calls attention to intellectual and aesthetic “products,” such as music and literature, and to the product-ness of art itself.

Motherwell’s collages directly and expressively incorporate the mundane and quotidian material evidence of a burgeoning consumer culture at the point where it intersects the creative life of a highly self-aware artist. These collected fragments are often obliquely diaristic, and lend specificity to Motherwell’s abstract compositions. The materials consistently activate the planar spaces and join the gestures of his work with tangible immediacy; however improvisational their presence in the compositions may seem, their placement is always carefully intuited. 

Some of the collaged elements recur with such frequency that they become part of Motherwell’s formal lexicon, part of a personal iconography. In the collage-prints, a transformation occurs as the collaged elements shift, from being “unique” aleatory or collected objects introduced into painted, glued or drawn compositions, to replications and iterations of these objects-become-signs, without losing their specific resonance for the artist. Motherwell, in the collage-prints, was meta, almost avant la lettre, collaging replications and facsimiles of commercially produced packaging, often varying their scale or coloration, and drawing our attention to the complex layers of significance embodied in the “found” versus the “made,” the “unique” and the “replication,” the object, the gesture, the icon, and the sign.

Organization: Curated by Paul Bright with the assistance of Claire Altizer/Dedalus Foundation. Support provided by WFU’s IPLACe and Office of University Advancement. Special thanks to John Metz and JP Morgan Chase.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery
1775 Wake Forest Rd. Winston-Salem, NC 27109

Event Type

Arts & Entertainment

Target Audience

Alumni, Faculty, General Public, Parents/Guests, Staff, First-Year Undergraduate Students, Students, Prospective Students


Contact name

Katie Wolf

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