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Albright-Knox to Exhibit Clyfford Still’s Abstract Masterpieces This Summer

June 17, 2010

Buffalo, NY – This summer, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will open an exhibition of its paintings by Clyfford Still—one of the world’s largest public collections of the Abstract Expressionist master’s work—organized by Chief Curator Douglas Dreishpoon.

The primarily large-scale works will be on view from June 25 to August 29 in the special exhibition Clyfford Still.

Still was an important force in the development of Abstract Expressionism, the movement that brought international attention to American art in the 1940s and 1950s. The artist’s dramatic use of scale and turbulent, flame-like imagery were critical aspects of the revolution in abstract painting.

Born in 1904 in North Dakota, Still graduated from Spokane University in Washington, taught at Washington State College in the 1930s, and worked in defense factories in California during World War II.

In San Francisco in 1943, during his first solo art exhibition, Still met the artist Mark Rothko, who later introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim in New York. Guggenheim gave Still a solo show at her gallery in 1946, launching his New York career.

Still spent the remainder of the 1940s and 1950s alternately living, working, and exhibiting in New York and San Francisco. With Rothko and other artists from the period, including Jackson Pollock, Still continued to develop the fiercely individual style and outlook that came to characterize the work of the Abstract Expressionists.

“Still makes the rest of us look academic,” Pollock said of Still’s work at the time.

Still also became notorious for distrusting much of the art world, rejecting the politics of the New York art scene. He finally moved to a secluded farm in Maryland in 1961.

Still nevertheless developed a unique relationship with the Albright-Knox in the late 1950s. The Gallery’s director, Gordon M. Smith, and its legendary patron of Abstract Expressionist art, Seymour H. Knox, Jr., gained Still’s trust and convinced the artist of their sincere interest in his work.

This relationship, initiated in 1957 with the purchase of the painting 1954, 1954, for the Permanent Collection, continued in 1959 with a second purchase of a Still work, 1957-D, 1957, and a major one-artist retrospective exhibition at the Albright-Knox. The Gallery granted Still complete control both in the selection of works and their installation.

Convinced that the Albright-Knox would make a respectful home for a carefully chosen group of paintings, Still gave thirty-one canvases to the Gallery in 1964.

“These paintings span the most critical developments of his career from 1937 to 1963 and, as a unified group, tell us a great deal about his primary concerns (aesthetic and philosophic) during a seminal period of activity,” said Dreishpoon.

A selection of letters, photographs, and publications, gleaned from the Gallery’s extensive archives by Head of Research Resources Susana Tejada, documents the fascinating story of Still’s association with the Gallery, and will be presented as part of the exhibition. Gusto at the Gallery features a variety of free programs for visitors of all ages. For additional information, visit www.albrightknox.org.

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