Phyllis Sloane, Rose Room, 1979. Screenprint in colors. 1986.100.15. Gift of Richard and Harriet Liroff.
The Columbia Museum of Art presents the summer exhibition That ’70s Show: Cool Art from the Collection, featuring rarely seen works from a decade-sized slice of the CMA collection of contemporary art, on view from Friday, June 30, through Sunday, September 17, 2017. Drawing on the amusing nostalgia for the “decade that taste forgot” while showing a complicated portrait of art, current events, and identity in America, That ’70s Show is both a meaningful examination of art and history and a light and fun viewing experience.
“The 1970s is an area of nostalgia and personal interest of mine,” says CMA Curator Catherine Walworth, “possibly because it feels like the last time we lived simply, but we were also fighting like tigers to shift reality. I went to the vault to unearth works from our collection made in the ’70s and then stood back and listened to what they had to say. Some have been waiting decades for this perfect moment to go on view and shine in all their exquisite grooviness, and some have really serious things to say directly to our current time.”
The aesthetics of the decade combine the visual legacies of abstract expressionism, the psychedelic hippie movement, and modernism’s love of geometry. In 1970s visual culture, the lingering effects of hard-edged modernism rubbed elbows with the messiness of tie-dye, while pop art’s consumerist legacy existed alongside the simplicity movement. It was a time that demanded equal rights for all people and all forms of artmaking, from collage to op art.
Pulled exclusively from the CMA collection, the exhibition showcases 27 works — largely lithographs and other works on paper, but also paintings, glass and fabric art, and mixed media — from 26 artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, Alexander Calder, pop artists Andy Warhol, Marisol, and James Rosenquist, op artists Bridget Riley and Victor Vasarely, Harlem Renaissance icons Romare Beardon and Jacob Lawrence, and photorealists Audrey Flack and Sylvia Mangold. The exhibition covers a range of modern art developments as well as sociopolitical movements including civil rights, feminism, globalism, and the “back to the land” movement.
“For me, this exhibition is like a great miniskirt — it looks terrific, but it’s also political,” says Walworth. “As much as we ignore the 1970s, we have a lot of indebtedness to it, and it’s good to get into the way back machine and revisit how we got here. I invite visitors to pull up a beanbag and relax, reflect on some rarely seen gems from the collection, and consider what a long strange trip it’s been.”