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Modernism from the National Gallery of Art at the deYoung Museum

Forty-six artworks by 27 artists form the deYoung Museum’s newest show: Modernism from the National Gallery of Art: The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection. 




Its dichotomy struck me most — seeing how different all the celebrated artwork from this same half-century was turned out to be a nice surprise for an exhibit on modernism in the very post-post modern 2014.

Renowned, visually distinct comparisons were hung side by side, which turned viewing into an internal, art historical spot-the-differences game. It was fun to play, even if it was just in my own head. National Gallery curator Harry Cooper played the game too, but publicly as he toured the group around the gallery.



Curator Harry Cooper in front of Josef Albers’ “Study for Homage to the Square: Light Rising”


Jasper John’s “Archive” beside Ellsworth Kelly’s “Orange Green” was like sitting in a room with one person who’s sleeping soundly and another that’s having a panic attack. Not all the artistic trends of the late 20th century are my favorite, but seeing them all in one space doesn’t let you deny how important they are to art history as a whole.

The differences in style so apparent by the gallery’s curation was attributed to the couple that collected them: Robert and Jane Meyerhoff, who gave the more than 300 works they collected between 1958 and 2004 to the National Gallery in D.C. in one of the largest single donations ever received by an institution.



“Coming and Going” by David Salle, 1987


Robert Rauschenberg’s “Archive,” 1963 (left) and Ellsworth Kelly’s “Orange Green,” 1966 (right)


The curator told us that the couple’s tastes suited their personalities, Jane opting for hushed, introverted works and Robert choosing the loud, extroverted ones. Modernism from the National Gallery of Art runs from June 7 – October 12, 2014 at the deYoung Museum. 


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