Des Moines Art Center presents groundbreaking exhibition focusing on Queer Abstraction

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019

For Immediate Release
Contact: Barbara Briggie-Smith
Tel: 515.271.0343

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Des Moines Art Center presents groundbreaking exhibition focusing on queer abstraction

DES MOINES, IOWA (May 2019) – 

On June 1, the Des Moines Art Center will open Queer Abstraction, on view through September 8, 2019 in the Anna K. Meredith Gallery and the I. M. Pei building. Queer Abstraction will be the first exhibition in the Des Moines Art Center’s 70-year history to focus exclusively on queer sexuality and gender identity. It marks a substantial shift in the Art Center’s programming by purposely including queer voices that have largely been left out of art history. Furthermore, it is the first museum exhibition in the U.S. to focus on this subject matter. Assistant Curator Jared Ledesma is organizing the exhibition.

For more than a century, many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer artists have turned to the language of abstraction to illustrate diverse facets of sexuality and gender. In response to specific struggles — such as the criminalization of homosexuality, the Civil Rights Movement, and the AIDS crisis — queer artists have embraced abstraction to communicate their unauthorized desires and identities through an accepted mode of art. Marsden Hartley’s modernist portrait of his fallen lover, Louise Fishman’s queer feminist canvases, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ tender, conceptual works are but a few examples. Currently, abstract art that embodies this mode of expression has gained the moniker “Queer Abstraction,” and has become a growing aesthetic force during the present, unsettling era. This exhibition unites contemporary artists who utilize the amorphous possibilities of abstraction to convey what it means to exist on the margins.

Installed in the Art Center’s Anna K. Meredith Gallery will be a large-scale canvas by Mark Bradford, a suite of paintings and drawings by Edie Fake, tapestries by John Paul Morabito, and table-top sculptures by Sheila Pepe. Critical works by Math Bass, Elijah Burgher, Mark Joshua Epstein, Harmony Hammond, Nicholas Hlobo, Carrie Moyer, Prem Sahib, and Jade Yumang will also be included. Featured in the Art Center’s brutalist I. M. Pei wing will be an immersive installation of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ beaded curtain “Untitled” (Water) — spanning a total of 114 ft. — partially surrounding Tom Burr’s significant sculpture Deep Purple, which extends beyond a section of the building’s glass windows and travels over the reflecting pool. Situated in the Pei wing’s lower level will be two of Jonathan VanDyke’s freestanding “net” paintings, which both disrupt and parallel the building’s architecture. 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue with an introduction and artist entries by Jared Ledesma, and an essay by David Getsy, the Goldabelle McComb Finn Distinguished Professor of
Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Getsy is the author of Abstract Bodies: Sixties Sculpture in the Expanded Field of Gender (2015), and the editor of Queer (Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series, 2016).

Queer Abstraction will travel to the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas, opening on November 21, 2019, and closing on March 8, 2020.

About the Des Moines Art Center

Recognized by international art critics as a world-class museum in the heart of the Midwest, the Des Moines Art Center has amassed an important collection with a major emphasis on contemporary art. The collection’s overriding principle is a representation of artists from the 19th century to the present, each through a seminal work. This accounts for an impressive collection that ranges from Edward Hopper’s Automat to Jasper Johns’ Tennyson, Henri Matisse’s Woman in White, Georgia O’Keeffe’s From the Lake No. 1, Francis Bacon’s Study after Velásquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, Bill Viola’s Ascension, and Cecily Brown’s Half-Bind.

The Art Center’s physical complex marries with the collection for a totally integrated experience. The collection is housed in three major buildings, each designed by a world-renowned architect – Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei, and Richard Meier. With the exception of special events, admission to the museum is free.

In September 2009, the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park opened in Des Moines’ Western Gateway Park. Philanthropists John and Mary Pappajohn have provided funding for and donated 28 sculptures by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists to the Des Moines Art Center. The collection of sculptures by such artists as Louise Bourgeois, Deborah Butterfield, Willem de Kooning, Olafur Eliasson, Keith Haring, Ellsworth Kelly, Jaume Plensa, Richard Serra, Joel Shapiro, and Mark di Suvero, is the most significant donation of artwork to the Art Center in a single gift in the museum’s history. The Pappajohn Sculpture Park was created in collaboration with the Pappajohns, the City of Des Moines, the Des Moines Art Center, and numerous corporate and private donors.

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