The Neuberger Art Museum, in Purchase, NY, is located in the heart of a college campus. Its austere architectural style, best described as post-apocalyptic, belies the treasures to be found there. Portions of wealthy investment banker and avid 20th century collector, Roy R. Neuberger’s collection will soon be reconfigured in a new permanent show, “Framing American Art”, on view in the Stairway Gallery, in celebration of the museum’s thirty-fifth anniversary (targeted for July, ’09).
left: Richard Diebenkorn, Girl of a Terrace, 1956, o/c, Collection Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase college, State Univ. NY, Gift of Roy R. Neuberger. photo credit, Jim Frank
A beautifully-lit and voluminous second-floor gallery provides the current collection with lots of room to stretch out and make its point. Roy Neuberger, a visionary collector (born in 1903), was there at the creation—of the American modernist movement, that is—and leveraged his interest in emerging contemporary artists of the second half of the century to acquire other seminal works of earlier periods. As a result, his collection relates the story of American modernism as told through the visual arts from a unique, first-hand vantage point.
The show’s works lead the viewer through a range of painting and sculptural styles and themes that nimbly illustrate the emergence of the distinctively American, Abstract Expressionist movement, known as the New York School. While many apply the term ‘modern’ inclusively to describe the entire 20th century art scene, there are critical lines of distinction differentiating creative output in the visual arts in the decades leading up to and following World War II. In this well-conceived installation, what may have been a study in contrasts becomes the story of how abstract expressionist painting is firmly rooted in the earlier phases of the modernist movement. The social and political influences at work during three distinct, but related periods– spanning nearly 60 years—is lent some clarity by the passage of time and a dose of historical perspective. The point being that, in spite of an apparent break from tradition and the seemingly radical shifts in painting style by some artists after the war, there were also shared influences that often bound these artists together over time– becoming the common thread that weaves its way through this exhibition.
With works carefully selected from the museum’s extensive permanent collection, the text panels allow for a self-guided tour of modern American art, from its socially-conscious inception in the first two decades of the century, to the assertive, make-new-rules, color splashes and drips of the post-war Abstract Expressionists.
The exhibition’s three sections include: The evolution of realist practices through WW II (American Scene Painting); the relationship of U.S. painters to their peers in Europe and their efforts to define a native form of abstraction (Early American Modernism) and the critically-heralded invention of abstract expressionism in the period after WW II (Post-War Abstraction).
According to Helaine Posner, Chief Curator, this newly-hung, permanent Neuberger show (including additional works from the permanent collection by Marsden Hartley, Arthur Dove and others) will provide an excellent opportunity for a thumb-nail overview of art and sculpture being created during a period of rapid social and political upheaval in the world . That, along with a constantly-changing and imaginative series of exhibits in its other galleries, makes a trip to the ‘Neu’ on the outskirts of White Plains, NY and in the heart of the State University of New York (SUNY), well worth the trip.
By Richard Friswell
For, “Speaking of Art”
For more information on current exhibits, go to: www.neuberger.org/exhibitions
Learn more about Roy R. Neuberger and his book, So Far, So Good, written at age 94 at:
 Art Since 1914, brief & beautifully written: http://www.jonatack.com/writings/art/1914.php