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Notations/Forms of Contingency: New York and Turin, 1960s-1970s

April 24–September 26, 2010

In collaboration with the Sonnabend Collection, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presents Notations/Forms of Contingency: New York and Turin, 1960s-1970s, an installation charting the changing attitudes toward sculptural practice in a formative period that marked the shift from the severe geometry of Minimalism to the unbounded, eccentric, elemental, energetic, and expressive forms of Post-Minimalism and Arte Povera. Forms of Contingency will include seminal works by artists engaged in the radical reinvention of art that took place during these two decades in the cultural epicenters of New York and Turin, Italy—including Eva Hesse, Robert Morris, Mel Bochner, Alan Sonfist, Bruce Nauman, Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, Barry Le Va, Giovanni Anselmo, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Robert Smithson, and Lawrence Weiner. Bringing together works that articulate a vocabulary of tenuousness and ephemerality while foregrounding procedure and materials, Forms of Contingency reflects on the urgency of recasting form as both an index of process and an object of experience.

Deploying an innovative use of unconventional media such as felt, glass, neon, and organic elements, these artists created works inherently dependent upon the effects of weight, gravity, impact, and movement. In New York, these developments arose in part as a reaction to the rigid and absolute forms of Minimalism that had become prevalent in the early 1960s. Artists in Turin simultaneously responded to this aesthetic discourse through the creation of Arte Povera—a movement in which similar ideas of impermanence, itinerancy, and an intense focus on materials abounded. The diverse approaches represented in Forms of Contingency share a sensibility of form as an open, expandable, and conditional measure of both art and life.

Forms of Contingency has been organized in collaboration with the Sonnabend Collection. The exhibition is part of an ongoing series of gallery installations titled “Notations,” named after the 1968 book by the American composer, writer, and visual artist John Cage, who was widely celebrated for his experimental approach to the arts. Cage’s Notations was an international and interdisciplinary anthology of scores by avant-garde musicians, with contributions from visual artists and writers. It was also an exhibition in book form, in which the scores doubled as drawings. The Notations series at the museum serves as a flexible tool to explore contemporary art.

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Erica Battle, Project Curatorial Assistant

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