Art isn’t something out there…It is not a “picture” of an artistic experience. It has to become experience itself, and in that sense it can only be earned by one’s own body rhythms, one’s own color sense, one’s own sense of smell, of light, of texture being so automatically articulated there is no possibility not to make a work of art, in the sense that it is impossible to think of any other choice.
You see, in a way you have a mental picture, an amorphous impulse. But when you actually start working on a canvas, there is no way for a person like me to draw it and then paint it and then have it. You have a kind of dumb vision, and then you start working; and what you work on in turning it into paint so transforms it, it is basically unrecognizable from the original vision. It takes on a life of its own. The mind can’t think abstractly in paint. It only thinks in paint when there is actually paint in your hand. But that is the whole problem: how to convert beingness into brushstrokes; and so long as you succeed in that, it doesn’t matter what the ostensible subject is.
– Robert Motherwell, interview Evergreen Review
Andrea Rosen Gallery is delighted to announce a comprehensive exhibition of Robert Motherwell’s seminal Open series. The gallery has an ongoing commitment to timely presentations of historical material, in this case highlighting a point in the artist’s trajectory when a confluence of institutional, intellectual, and market attention brings renewed appreciation to a significant body of work. The gallery is particularly interested in creating historical exhibitions that expand the reading and understanding of an artist’s work. While Motherwell’s significance may have been perceived primarily through the gestural Elegies, presenting the Opens now not only allows us to compare these masterworks against the present-day focus on abstraction, but also encourages us to reconcile the breadth of Motherwell’s rigor and clarity. They are undeniably fresh, beautiful, and bold.
– Andrea Rosen Gallery press release, Robert Motherwell “Open Series”
The Open series is also crucial for a complete understanding of Motherwell’s work. He began the Opens in 1967, responding to the impulse in European and American visual arts to regard painting as a window. The notion of the window had figured into his work from the beginning of his career, as early as 1941, when he painted the Museum’s Spanish Picture with Window. The Open series represents Motherwell’s joining of his longstanding interest in the window with his new notion of how to a make a painting. Each of the Open works, which are characterized by sparse visual components and serene, uncomplicated color, contain a charcoal-delineated rectangle (or three-sided rectangle), which the artist acknowledged partially derived from whitewashed adobe facades. He said, “I’ve always loved Spanish houses with those big, plain, stark facades, with a dark doorway cut out of the expanse, or say, two windows beautifully cut out of a magnificent whitewashed wall.”
– The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Robert Motherwell, from The Collection