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Full Circle: Works on Paper by Richard Pousette-Dart

September 13–November 30, 2014

Full Circle surveys the long and extremely prolific career of one of the twentieth century's most creative draftsmen, Richard Pousette-Dart (American, 1916–1992). Focused on his works on paper, the exhibition explores his remarkably varied use of materials and techniques, which often involved layering and scraping, scribbling and dripping, dotting and blotting. Over the course of nearly seventy years, his imagery evolved through various approaches in an attempt "to express the spiritual nature of the universe." In the 1940s and 1950s, Pousette-Dart was associated with Abstract Expressionists like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell, artists with whom he exhibited in New York galleries. During this period, he created densely layered, semiabstract images that incorporated pictographic, geometric, and organic shapes emerging among spontaneous markings and multiple layers of pigment. His methods included automatic drawing as well as layering and dripping paint, practices most associated with Pollock. He also painted small, glowing watercolors inspired by Byzantine mosaics and Gothic stained-glass windows. Forms from these early works—circles and concentric circles, rectangles and squares, ovals and eye shapes—endured throughout the artist's entire body of work.

In the 1960s, Pousette-Dart eliminated line and used carefully modulated dots of color to produce glowing auras of light. From about 1976 to the end of his career, his works on paper reveal myriad new approaches to radiant imagery along with an incredible diversity of materials often employed in novel combinations. These include evocative pencil drawings touched with white paint, delicate hand-colored etchings, bold black-and-white paintings of geometric forms, and colorful acrylics on handmade paper. Full Circle, which presents about sixty of the finest examples of Pousette-Dart's works on paper as well as six of his notebooks, demonstrates that no matter how varied and complex his approaches, the sources of his inspiration remained intensely focused throughout his entire career.

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The exhibition is generously supported by The Robert Montgomery Scott Fund for Exhibitions. The accompanying publication is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.


Innis Howe Shoemaker, The Audrey and William H. Helfand Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

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