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  • Writer's pictureStephen Clively

Last few days - American Masters at the National Gallery

There’s only a few days before the NGA’s American Masters 1940–1980 exhibition closes (free, closes 11 November). I paid a visit in September in the company of two visitors from Melbourne. This is not my favourite period of art – too abstract, too big, too grandiose for me. Even so, I got a lot out of this exhibition, which featured outstanding pieces from the gallery’s collection of works by the likes of Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Chuck Close.


I also wandered into some pats of the NGA that I had not seen before – such as James Turrell’s Within without 2010 skyspace, see the wonderful pool piece in the photo above.


An interesting feature of the American Masters show was that it allowed more room for the NGA to hang rarely seen pieces by the big names in the gallery’s collection. This meant that visitors could examine works on paper or smaller paintings in different styles by the same abstract expressionist artists.


Like them or not, this exhibition demonstrated that the NGA made some canny decisions when it was being established and has established one of the best collections of abstract expressionist art in the world. However, I would have loved an alternative world where the gallery had paid more attention to the San Francisco figurative artists who I believe have a stronger legacy – and produced more engaging paintings.


That said, do go and see this exhibition if you are in Canberra in the next couple of days – but definitely go and look at the Turrell skyspace on any day other than Christmas.


And there will be more from me on the Californians anon

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