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Ballet of Heads: The Figure in the Collection

May 17, 2013 - August 25, 2013

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Reginald Marsh: Barrel of Fun, 1943; Maroger medium on panel; 24 x 30 in.; Bequest of Felicia Meyer Marsh. 1979.4.1. Photo: Sibila Savage.

The human figure has been a locus of artistic innovation and expression since the very first artworks were made. This focused presentation mines the permanent collection, bringing together paintings, sculptures, and works on paper that demonstrate the inexhaustible variety and texture of the human form in art. Seeking to explore the polymorphous nature of the figure, Ballet of Heads puts into dialogue the Baroque canvases of Peter Paul Rubens, the romantic illustrations of William Blake, the American Regionalism of Reginald Marsh, the sharp angles and expressive contours of George Grosz and Max Beckmann, and the cultural critique found in caricature works by Honoré Daumier and Philip Guston.

The exhibition takes as its point of departure the work of Nicole Eisenman, on view in MATRIX 248, teasing out many of the threads found in her paintings and works on paper—a blending of seemingly oppositional categories such as social realism, abstraction, folk art, and popular comics—and contextualizing it in the process. Eisenman cites many of the artists included as important influences, such as William Blake and Pablo Picasso, while the work of more recent artists, including as Joan Brown, Nancy Grossman, and Sue Coe, share striking affinities to Eisenman’s own.


Ballet of Heads: The Figure in the Collection is organized by Apsara DiQuinzio, curator of modern and contemporary art and Phyllis C. Wattis MATRIX Curator, in collaboration with Nicole Eisenman, and with Stephanie Cannizzo, assistant curator.