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Unfettered: Liberating Creative Expression


October 27 @ 11:00 am
December 17 @ 5:00 pm
Featured image: Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), The Persian II (detail), 1970, etching and aquatint on paper. MMoA permanent collection. Donated by James P. Quinn / Robert Brackman (1898-1980), My Wife, Francis (detail), 1937, oil on canvas, MMoA permanent collection. Donated by Francis Brackman and Family.

At Mystic Museum of Art (MMoA), 2023 is the year of “Art in Common”. As our world traverses a time of exceptional conflict, division, and insecurity, we illuminate the many ways in which art can bridge differences and facilitate healing.

Following the Museum’s presentation of eminent Modernist artists in Derrière le Miroir, the new exhibition Unfettered: Liberating Creative Expression traces the emergence of abstraction as a powerful new element in American art following the Second World War. The work of artists who migrated to art colonies, like Mystic, away from urban cultural centers reflects this trend. This exhibition follows the shift from Academic representation through looser, transitional styles, to fully abstract expression, as reflected in the MMoA permanent collection.

This artistic development follows an historical pattern. The ferocity of the Reign of Terror following the French Revolution shattered the confidence of artists and writers of the Enlightenment in its universal ideals and belief in the perfectibility of human nature. Neo-Classical art was widely challenged by divergent new movements such as Romanticism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Impressionism, for example.

Similarly, after the devastation of the Second World War, conventional representation no longer interested many artists and thinkers. Instead of representing a subject, artists sought intuitive ways to convey personal experience. The power of abstract art to arrest viewers’ attention, to reach them directly, appealed to artists who no longer aspired to compete for the top honors of the Academy, but to reach the broadest possible audience.

Thus, the model for the art world changed profoundly. Before the world wars, the Academy mediated the art world of Europe and the US. Established by royal patent in the capitals of Europe, academies functioned as hierarchies of fine art. Dedicated to classical ideals of beauty and the history and mythology of antiquity, the Academy ranked artists by means of annual juried exhibitions (the “salon”). After the Second World War, artists increasingly sought forms of expression that could reach viewers intuitively, irrespective of connoisseurship. They exhibited their art in the growing and diffuse network of private galleries that sprang up to compete with, and fill the gaps left by, the Academy. They addressed contemporary experience rather than historic models.

This trend emerged more slowly in the US, less torn by world wars than Europe, and more recently established as a world cultural power. In Mystic, the original art colony members reflected the beauty of their chosen natural environment in their art. As the region developed, Mystic artists also embraced the work of artists in New York and abroad, who sought more intuitive access to the inner life of others. Unfettered: Liberating Creative Expression follows this evolution.

Support for this exhibition has been provided by the
Kitchings Family Foundation and CT Humanities (CTH).

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Featuring artwork by:

George Adams (1912-1965)

Earl Kenneth Bates (1895-1973)

Gladys Edgerly Bates (1896-2003)

Beonne Boronda (1911-2012)

Lester D. Boronda (1885-1952)

Francis Brackman (1912-2006)

Robert Brackman (1898-1980)

Suzanne Caporael (b. 1949)

Beatrice Lavis Cuming (1903-1974)

Charles H. Davis (1856-1933)

Frances Darby Davis (1871-1962)

Lorinda Dudley (1845-1930)

Charlotte Fuller Eastman (1878-1965)

Katherine Forest (1883-1952)

Harvey K. Fuller (1918-2017)

Galed Gesner (1915-1960)

John Gregoropaulos (1921-2012)

G Victor Grinnell (1878-1946)

Joseph Gualieri (1916-2015)

Audrey Heard (1924-2012)

Bryan Hunt (b. 1947)

Julian Joseph (1882-1964)

Walter Milton Killam (1907-1979)

Carl Lawless (1894-1964)

Agnes Harrison Lincoln (1870-1954)

Stephen Macomber (1889-1983)

Dorothy Miller (1920-1986)

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)

Harry W. Nelson (1908-1989)

Todd Norsten (b. 1967)

Claes Oldenberg (1929-2022)

Bjorn Olson (20th Century)

Henry Ward Ranger (1858-1916)

Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002)

David Row (b. 1949)

Sean Scully (b. 1945)

Jose Maria Sicilia (b. 1954)

Fritz Stein (1932-2007)

Harve Stein (1904-1996)

Ruth L. Sussler (1928-2020)

David Suydam (20th Century)

Albert Thompson (1853-1906)

George Albert Thompson (1868-1938)

Margaret L. Triplett (1904-1991)

Daniel Truth (b. 1949)