Mercedes Matter: A Retrospective Exhibition

September 3, 2010 - January 1, 2011
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Mercedes Matter: A Retrospective Exhibition


This first major museum exhibition devoted to the Abstract Expressionist artist Mercedes Matter (1913-2001) spans her career from 1922 through 2000. Matter was the daughter of the famous American modernist Arthur B. Carles, and during the 1930s, she studied with the prominent art teacher and Abstract Expressionist master Hans Hofmann. She also worked for the mural division of the WPA (Work Projects Administration), assisting Fernand Leger with his mural projects. In 1939, she married the renowned Swiss graphic designer and photographer Herbert Matter, and the couple became active within the emerging avant-garde art scene in post-war New York. They were close friends and artistic collaborators with Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Willem and Elaine de Kooning.

Beginning in the early 1950s, Matter embarked on a successful teaching career; she taught at the Philadelphia College of Art, Pratt Institute, and New York University. In 1963, inspired by her critical views of standardized art education in the United States, Matter founded the New York Studio School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture, an alternative institution dedicated to fundamental principles of artistic training patterned after the European atelier system. 

Influenced by the artistic precepts of Hofmann, Matter was a proponent of painting directly from nature. Her works are characterized by vigorous angular marks and geometricized rhythms. Many of her pieces represent a unique fusion of advanced gestural abstraction and a sensitive perceptual observation of landscape and still-life motifs. As an indication of the Abstract Expressionist artists’ respect for the creative vigor and innovative character of her work, Matter was the only female artist invited to become a member of The Artists’ Club, a group of progressive artists, critics and poets associated with the New York Studio School in the 1950s. The club organized formal discussions on topics ranging from art theory to philosophy. This exhibition devoted to Matter is part of an increasing and significant art historical trend to examine the work of important women within the Abstract Expressionist movement, such as Lee Krasner and Hedda Sterne.

Through January 2, 2011

Learn more about the companion exhibition The Artistic Legacy of Mercedes Matter: The Knox College Students of Matter, located in the first floor orientation gallery at the museum.

Learn more about a special opportunity for your group or organization to explore this exhibtion dedicated to the influential femaie artist and teacher, Mercedes Matter. Lunch buffet is provided before or after tour.

Read a review in the Wall Street Journal or Artforum about this exhibition.

Artwork labels for this exhibition have been provided by Alpha Graphics.



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