HUNTINGTON, N.Y.- The Heckscher Museum of Art Museum presents A New Narrative: Marden, Fitzpatrick, Stella, Warhol, through May 1, 2005. The Heckscher kicks off a new year with A New Narrative: Marden, Fitzpatrick, Stella, Warhol, an exhibition featuring suites of work by four exceptional twentieth-century artists – Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Brice Marden, and Tony Fitzpatrick. Each uses narrative imagery to explore subjects ranging from literature, history, and mythology to current events and personal experience. Opening February 5, A New Narrative includes forty prints that vary from intimate etchings to larger-than-life-size portraits rendered in bold silkscreens.
Narrative art has been with us since the time of cave paintings that portray hunting expedition or Egyptian murals that depict the triumphs of a king, but it has been reinvented through the ages. The tradition of creating allegories based on biblical subjects or classical mythology began in the Renaissance and continued well into the nineteenth century. By the end of that century and into the mid-twentieth century, modernists abandoned historical themes, and many artists rejected even the concept of storytelling in art.
A New Narrative picks up the latest reinvention of the tradition in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s. The quartet of artists represented here employ traditional methods of printmaking in a highly individual manner, working in styles ranging from figurative illustration to geometric abstraction and minimalism and choosing subjects as diverse as they themselves are.
Andy Warhol’s Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century addresses historical painting as narrative. His representational approach in depicting ten historical Jewish figures – Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Franz Kafka, Marx Brothers, Golda Meir, and Gertrude Stein – places them in the larger historical narrative of leaders who shaped literature, film, philosophy, music, medicine, law, and science in the twentieth century.
Tony Fitzpatrick’s The Infinite Wager series contains colorful, symbolic, and personal elements along with text and poetry to develop narrative content. Playing with the theme of luck and its role in his own career, the artist acknowledges, “All of life is guided by chance; luck is a very real thing and I like trying to put a face on it.”
Frank Stella’s Had Gadya series, inspired by El Lissitzky’s series of the same name, is based on a traditional song included in the Haggadah, a compilation of texts relating to the Passover celebration. Rather than telling a literal story, Stella’s use of shape, color, and line acts upon each other to illustrate a personal, pictorial story with divergences and movement through space.
The minimalist Brice Marden, known for his spare style, monochromatic palette, and non-representative vocabulary of rectangle and grid, focuses on the very nature of the two-dimensional surface, denying all allusions to three-dimensional space. The narrative is found in the unfolding of the work over Ten Days, the title of his series.