Minimal to the Max: The Brownstone Collection
11/22/2003 - 3/7/2004
This is the international debut exhibition of one of the most
important gifts to the Norton Museum of Art in recent decades: the
Brownstone Collection of 62 Minimalist works assembled by Gilbert
and Catherine Brownstone of Palm Beach and Paris. More than 30 works
from this gifted collection will be on view from November 22, 2003
to March 7, 2004. Artists represented in the exhibition include
Josef Albers, Lucio Fontana, Gottfried Honegger, Imi Knoebel, Sol
LeWitt, Allan McCollum, Robert Mangold, Olivier Mosset, Jean-Pierre Raynaud,
and Ed Ruscha. According to the donors, additional gifts to the Museum
are also planned.
The Brownstone collection is unique for its inclusion of both
European and American artists. Few museums can boast such compelling
works of Minimalist art created on both sides of the Atlantic. The
collection's international perspective owes much to Gilbert
Brownstone's position as a gallery owner and curator in France,
which enabled him to see Minimalism's effect on the international
art world more clearly than most. As a whole the collection reflects
the intelligence, austere beauty, and international breadth of the
Christina Orr-Cahall, Museum Director, comments, "With the addition
of the Brownstone Collection, the Norton is now able to present its
audience with a fuller picture of late twentieth-century art. A
significant portion of the gift is comprised of work by artists not
previously represented at the Museum, particularly European artists.
The Museum is most grateful to Gilbert and Catherine Brownstone for
donating this collection to us."
Of the donated works Gilbert Brownstone writes, "I have never
considered myself a collector in the truest sense of the word. I
bought these paintings because I needed their inner power to get me
through a period of great loss in my life. Many of them are simple
to the point of complexity and evoke a very spiritual response from
the viewer. We had just bought a house in the area when we first
visited the Museum and I realized that these works of art could form
the foundation of an important collection to be shared with the
public. More important, many of these artists are not known in
America, and their presence at the Norton provides the ideal
opportunity for visitors to become familiar with their works."
The "simplicity to the point of complexity" of which Brownstone
writes is evident in many of the works he collected. Such simplicity
is easy to recognize in the bold, iconic crosses and circles painted
by the French artist Olivier Mosset, the clean lines and clear
geometry of sculpture and drawings by American Sol LeWitt, or the
broad planes of color in the paintings of German artist Imi Knoebel.
The complex nature of the work can be perceived in the mathematical
and geometric precision with which LeWitt maps out his sculptures,
the regularity and repetition of the painted squares of cardboard
that compose Gottfried Honegger's Relief Picture Z 769 (1977), or
the multiple meanings suggested by Ed Ruscha's No Wonder Humans
Can't Get Jobs (1984) or Hydraulic Muscles Pneumatic Smiles (1983).
Even a sculpture as unassuming as Larry Bell's Glass Cube (1987) can
offer myriad interpretations, as each step viewers take alters their
perception of the environment as seen through its glass sides.
As an awareness of Minimalism spread throughout the art world, its
spare aesthetics were also reflected in other movements, such as Pop
Art, which also emerged in the 1960s. This cross-pollination becomes
apparent when one looks at John Michael Armleder and Sylvie Fleury's
Untitled (Chanel) (1990), inspired by the packaging for Chanel No. 5
perfume; Andy Warhol's print Brillo (1970); or Allan McCollum's
anonymous conglomeration of Ninety-Six Plaster Surrogates No. 4
(1982/89), a tongue-in-cheek commentary on mass production and
seriality. Minimalist aesthetics can even be said to have informed
the production of such seemingly unrelated objects as conceptual
artist Robert Barry's Untitled (1988), a painting on paper in which
words in white letters float across a robin's-egg-blue background;
and earth artist Michael Heizer's Tool #15 (Awl III) (1988), a
tapering cylinder over seven feet long made of volcanic ash and
Published in conjunction with the debut exhibition of the Brownstone
Collection is an illustrated essay by internationally renowned
curator Eric de Chassey. Artists represented in the catalogue
include Josef Albers, Lucio Fontana, Gottfried Honegger, Imi Knoebel,
Sol LeWitt, Robert Mangold, Olivier Mosset, Jean-Pierre Raynaud, and
Ed Ruscha. As a whole the collection reflects the intelligence,
austere beauty, and international breadth of the Minimalist
Movement. The catalogue is available in soft cover for $18.95 at the
Norton Museum of Art store or online at www.norton.org.
*Gallery Tour by Gilbert Brownstone, Sunday, February 15, 2:00 p.m.
Free with general admission: $8 for adults, $3 for visitors ages
13-21, and free for Members and children under 13.