Hornets' Nest: Abstract Expressionism on Paper

JUNE 22 – SEPTEMBER 23, 2012

Hornets—buzzing and dangerous insects—chew wood, mix it with their saliva, and excrete a paperlike substance to make their nests. Arthur Deshaies’ relief engraving of a hornet’s nest, which suggested the title of this exhibition, is emblematic of the stinging combination that resulted when the fundamentally opposite early 20th-century Modernist strategies of Abstraction and Expressionism collided at midcentury to produce Abstract Expressionism. Around 1940, artists responded in a personal way to the pervasive anxiety in the post-World War II period. For them, traditional picture-making became inadequate to express their disillusionment about the failed promise of modernism and science, horror at man’s inhumanity to man, the existential threats of the atomic age, or the demons in their own lives. Printmakers found new graphic equivalents and new spontaneity to cut blocks, engrave plates, and draw on stones. Hornets’ Nest includes 27 works on paper from the Des Moines Art Center’s Permanent Collections.

Artists in the exhibition include: Pierre Alechinsky, Henry Callahan, Minna Citron, Jean Dubuffet, Sam Francis, Hans Hartung, Lee Krasner, Henri Matisse, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Anne Ryan, and Mark Tobey.

Hornets’ Nest is organized by Amy N. Worthen, curator of prints and drawings.

This exhibition and lecture are supported in part by the Des Moines Art Center Print Club.

Lee Krasner (American, 1908 – 1984)
Black and White Collage, 1953
Collage and oil on paper
30 x 22 1/2 inches
Des Moines Art Center’s Louise Noun Collection
of Art by Women, 1992.2
Photo courtesy Rich Sanders


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