Ad Reinhardt “Arte + Satira” at Galleria Civica, Modena

Ad Reinhardt, Untitled, 1943-1947
© 2015 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong

 

Galleria Civica di Modena presents the exhibition Ad Reinhardt. Arte + Satira (Art + Satire), the first and largest presentation in an Italian institution of a still largely unexamined aspect of Ad Reinhardt’s visual practice. Although the American artist is predominantly known as an abstract painter, this exhibition comprises over 250 of his original political cartoons, satirical art comics and collages selected from the archives of the Estate of Ad Reinhardt, New York. These works on paper are accompanied by a slide show of digitised 35mm colour photographs by the artist, as well as a number of his travel journals, sketches and pamphlets.

Most widely known for his minimal “black” canvases of the 1960s that were revered by a roster of internationally recognised younger contemporaries such as Sol LeWitt, Frank Stella, and Robert Irwin, and Joseph Kosuth, Reinhardt’s singular career continues to resonate today. As the South African painter Marlene Dumas recently stated: “Anyone interested in the difference between paintings and pictures has to address Ad Reinhardt. [...] Anyone who enjoys critical writing about art and appreciates irony and humour [...] cannot but love Ad Reinhardt.”

Reinhardt first developed an interest in painting and cartooning as a child, talents he first put to practical use in numerous school publications and summer jobs from grade school through college. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, both during and after the four years he was employed by the United States Federal Art Project in the Easel Division as an abstract painter, Reinhardt created over 3,000 witty cartoons and cover illustrations, which appeared in a wide range of American publications. These included the periodicals New MassesThe Student Advocate and The Fight Against War and Fascism; magazines as diverse as GlamourListen, and Ice Cream Field; as well as baseball yearbooks and The Races of Mankind, an anti-racist pamphlet that sold over a million copies. Most notably, Reinhardt served as the staff artist for the daily newspaper PM beginning in 1943, producing distinctive collage-cartoons that combined hand-drawn elements with cut-outs from second­hand books, a striking technique never seen in daily newspapers before.

Having studied and taught art history most of his life, Reinhardt stated in 1958: “I don’t believe in originality. I believe in art history.” Such declaration is substantiated in his celebrated and widely reproduced series, the art comics How to Look. The popular full-page series appeared in the Sunday edition of PM every two weeks throughout 1946 and served as a platform upon which Reinhardt could adamantly defend the development and understanding of abstract art in America. The comics present a didactic approach—in which Reinhardt satirises the role of ‘explainer-entertainer’—that was directed not only at the readers, but also at his fellow artists. After securing a full-time teaching position at the Brooklyn College in 1947, Reinhardt only occasionally published additional art comics in the art periodicals ARTnews, trans/formation and Art d’aujourd’hui, among others, in which he expressed his biting, satirical observations of the contemporary art world of his time.

In 1952, Reinhardt began travelling the world extensively. On various trips to Europe, the Middle East, Japan and Southeast Asia, he took over 12,000 colour photographs that were presented in his legendary ‘Non-Happenings’. These were lengthy slide-lectures that responded critically to the university tradition of teaching art history through educational slides as well as to the concurrent emergence of performative ‘Happenings’ in the New York art scene. Reinhardt’s marathon-like presentations remixed geographies and periods in unlikely, unexpected sequences, thus shifting from art history lecture to a humorous parody of the artist’s personal travelogue. A vast array of images drawn from distant cultures would disclose analogous and playful visual patterns, such as the buttocks of statues erotically rhyming with the features of an urban fire hydrant. Their formal compositions demand the viewer’s prolonged attention, similar to the way his paintings and writings encourage an active awareness when looking at and experiencing them. Evident across Reinhardt’s career, including the artworks presented here, is an ability to expand current definitions of what the aesthetic domain of art is, and can be.

Ad Reinhardt. Arte + Satira (Art + Satire) is realised in collaboration with Ad Reinhardt Foundation, New York, and the museum Mudam Luxembourg, and with the support of David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong. The exhibition was originally presented from 12 June to 6 September 2015, under the title Art vs. History, curated by Diana Baldon, at Malmö Konsthall, Sweden.

 

Ad Reinhardt (Buffalo, 1913 – New York, 1967) was one of the most significant American artists of the twentieth century. His paintings encourage the viewer’s active engagement in the act of looking at and experiencing “art as art.” As he declared, “Art is art. Everything else is everything else.” His work was included in numerous important museum exhibitions during his lifetime, including Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America (1951-1952), Americans 1963 (1963-1964) and The Responsive Eye (1965-1966), The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The New Decade: 35 American Painters and Sculptors, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1955-1956); Abstract Expressionists Imagists, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (1961); Painting and Sculpture of a Decade: 1954-64, Tate Gallery, London (1964); and Black, White and Grey, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut (1964); among others.  In 1966, the Jewish Museum in New York mounted Reinhardt’s first major retrospective. In 1991, The Museum of Modern Art in New York organised a comprehensive survey that travelled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Reinhardt’s work has been included in recent exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2017), Haus der Kunst, Munich (2016-2017), the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2016-2017), Royal Academy of Arts, London (2016-2017) and Fondation Beyeler, Basel (2016). In 2013, on the occasion of the centennial anniversary of Ad Reinhardt’s birth, David Zwirner presented an exhibition of the artist’s cartoons, photographic slides, and “black” paintings in collaboration with the Ad Reinhardt Foundation and curated by Robert Storr. The cartoons, art comics, and slideshow then formed the basis of a series of exhibitions curated by Diana Baldon: at Malmö Konsthall in Sweden (2015), at EMMA – Espoo Museum of Modern Art in Finland (2016) and at the museum Mudam Luxembourg in Luxembourg (2017). In 2017, David Zwirner, New York, presented an exhibition of the artist’s blue paintings in collaboration with Ad Reinhardt Foundation, the largest presentation of this body of work to date and the first since 1965.

 

Ad Reinhardt, Untitled, 1943, Published in PM, 23 april 1943
© 2015 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong

 

Ad Reinhardt, Untitled, 1946, Published in PM, 31 January 1946
© 2015 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong

 

Ad Reinhardt, Untitled, 1940, Published in New Masses, 24 December 1940
© 2015 Estate of Ad Reinhardt / Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York
Courtesy David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong

 

Ad Reinhardt
Arte + Satira
10 March–20 May 2018

Galleria Civica di Modena | corso Canalgrande 103, Modena
+39 059 2032911/2032940
galcivmo@comune.modena.it
www.galleriacivicadimodena.it