During the Summer break, I had the opportunity to explore the Icones Americaines Exhibition that is currently travelling within France. This collection comes from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and also from the collection of Doris and Donald Fisher. It is currently being held here whist the SFMOMA is being refurbished. After the Grand Palais in Paris, the exhibition has come down to Aix en Provence where it is displayed until the 18th October 2015.

The exhibition was split over two floors and each room encompassed one or two artists depending on the amount of pieces or their theme. The first room looked at Pop art and Andy Warhol as one of the leading artists of this movement. We were privy to a lot of pieces I had previously never seen of even knew existed which made this part of the exhibition very resourceful for me. I took particular interest in Jackie Triptych completed in 1964 and showing Jackie Kennedy. I found this piece intriguing and very strong as a triptych, the materials he used, ink, aerosol and acrylic paint, not materials I would of thought would work as well together as they did, however they produced a sublime effect and the impression of a real photograph.

Moving on we discovered more about Minimalism with artists such as Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Ellsworth Kelly and Donald Judd. I took interest in the work by Carl Andre as it consisted of pieces of art on the floor, the viewer was allowed to walk over his pieces. This was stated at the entrance to the room as well as on the board with his name on it. However no one, including myself, could bring themselves to walk over them. They had the impression of being sections of flooring using geometric shapes and people would come by and contemplate but never use them in the way there were meant to be used. I found this incredibly interesting and stopped to look for a while.


Going into the next section of the exhibition it was time to descend to the floor below however on the stairs was work by Alexander Calder. I had recently read about him in the book Design as Art by Bruno Munari so it was really exciting to actually see the work in reality. I loved the way the mobiles hung and looked at structure and the way in which pieces can be brought together. Above all they made fantastic shapes and shadows on the wall creating what I can only describe as another dimension.

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The first piece we were confronted with on coming down the stair seems to be a photograph or large realist painting of a man. It filled up the area and had a big impact on the downstairs space even before I had descended completely the stairs. On a closer glance I was surprised to find out that this was in fact not a photograph nor realist painting but an abstract work by Chuck Close. Chuck Close suffers from prosopagnosia which disables him from recognising faces, however by creating these portraits using blocks of colour and a grid system he is able to tell people apart. The image below depicts his Roy Lichtenstein. WP_20150809_015 WP_20150809_018

The artist actually displayed next to him was Roy Lichtenstein. I had seen a couple of his pieces before but Figures with Sunset caught my eye. It was a long painting and was more abstract that I was normally used to seeing with this artist. The colours and boldness caught my eye and it filled up the wall on which it was placed.


The last paintings I saw of this exhibition were not I felt the best ones, for me they were very different to what I had seen previously and it was quite a shock for the eyes. Cy Twombly showed us paintings that were incredibly childlike and evoked a theme of innocence in his work. Up close to the work I highlighted sections which I found of interest however as a whole piece of work I could not bring myself to like it as much as what had gone before.


Overall I really appreciate the American Icons exhibition, it was really accessible especially as it was free for students. The lighting worked well as almost all of the exhibition was indoors with no natural light so the spotlight had to be well executed for us to be able to view the work. Each piece had enough space to breathe on the wall and the bigger pieces appropriately had their own wall to themselves. They had been put in a order which did not seem shocking for the viewer until the last moment which unfortunately spoiled the rhythm a little for me. Otherwise the curation of the show was on point and well done. I would definitely recommend this show to anyone who is interested in Pop Art, Minimalism and looking for something a little bit alternative to influence their practice.


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