If we are open to it, the experience of viewing these sculptural and installation works may become an immersive, even meditative process. By offering a space for reflection on the tensions and balance in the relationships of their forms, and between form, space, and self, these works create opportunities for finding balance within.
As human beings with a body that teaches us the nature of gravity, contraction, strength, and so on, we gather the experience that enables us to identify with the conditions of other forms.
— Heinrich Wölfflin
Being in relationship with the world around us
All of the major modern and contemporary American artists represented in this exhibition invoked the universal language of minimalist geometry, color, line, and composition to explore the power of abstraction throughout their long and overlapping careers. Within that language, each artist developed a unique and iconic personal vocabulary of forms and styles. Each of the works seen here, selected from the Hood Museum of Art’s permanent collection, is similarly emblematic of the artist’s oeuvre and representative of his major contributions to modern abstraction.
The instinctual familiarity of the forms they employ makes all of these works seem deceptively simple, but each offers complex and poetic reflections on perception, forces of nature, and the function of art in the modern world. Through a distilled, abstract aesthetic, they access universal truths about the experience of being human in our physical, natural, and social reality—that is, being in relationship with the world around us.
By using relatable geometry and symbols, the artists draw us into a deeper level of intellectual and physical relationship with the work, each in his way reshaping the process of viewing art from a passive experience to a responsive interaction. For Sol LeWitt, this means engaging our minds and challenging perception through the conceptual structure of Incomplete Open Cube 8-14 (1974). In Ellsworth Kelly’s Dartmouth Panels (2012) installation, the powerful presence of the brilliant color spectrum structures and transforms the entire space around it. Richard Serra’s Two-Plate Prop (1975–76) uses a much more subtle, inner energy to inspire reflection on the immense weight of gravitational force. George Rickey’s Two Horizontal Lines (1966) and Alexander Calder’s Mobile (about 1953) engage responsive motion in revolutionary ways to establish relationships with nature and the observer, while Joel Shapiro captures a psychological state in the implied movement of untitled (Hood Museum of Art) (1989–90).