Clyfford Still Museum

The Language of Abstraction: Still's Path of Discovery by Jennifer Davey

The War Begins: Clyfford Still's Paths to Abstraction at The Clyfford Still Museum from Oct 10th - January 18th, 2015 is an illuminating and exciting exhibit that pulls the curtain back to reveal Still's fervor and struggle to discover a new language in paint.  I was fortunate enough to gain a behind the scenes tour with David Anfam, the curator of this show and Dean Sobel, director of the Still museum.  

The show highlights Still's paintings, drawings, and sketchbooks from 1939-1944, revealing a complex constellation of events that swirled into Still's incredibly focused mind, leading him to discover an abstract, all-over, simplified visual language that would mark the shift of the art world from Paris to New York and a beginning to the lineage of a Western fully abstracted visual  language.

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Still Committed by Jennifer

Clyfford Still

One year after the opening of The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, my admiration for the artist only continues to grow.  I just returned from a class at The Clyfford Still Museum, graciously taught by the director, Dean Sobel.  It was two hours filled with the joy of soaking up the beauty and depth of Still's work.  I am astounded by the insights uncovered when I give time to just be with one of Still's paintings.   His gift to the world stretches far beyond most artists imaginations or capabilities.  This gift came about largely because of his incredible commitment to his vision and purpose in painting.  As he was gaining fame and recognition in the art world in the 1940s and 50s, he became increasingly wary of the business of art.  Seeing that continuing to show and sell his work without strong leadership on his part would lead to a diminishing of his artistic vision, he pulled back. His decision to stop showing work unless it met his stringent guidelines and criteria was a profound and bold decision to remain true to his creative spirit.  Although he did sell some paintings and showed work at a few select museums, mostly he painted alone in his Maryland barn.  At the end of his life he wrote a simple will bequeathing his entire body of work to an American city willing to house it together as a whole to be open to the public in perpetuity for exhibition and study.  Some call him arrogant for such a wish.  Seeing the museum and continuing to learn more and more about his work, I call him committed and incredibly generous.  He had the vision to understand the importance of remaining true to his artistic voice, without interference of trends, critics, gallery sales.  He also had the vision to see his lifetime of work as one entity, only understood as a whole.  Still died in 1980.  Now I stand in Denver, in front of his ever unfolding collection in 2012, in awe of a man who was able to see his artistic vision through to its completion. I highly recommend a visit to The Clyfford Still Museum, situated directly behind the Denver Art Museum.