Media Arts Program

Friday, October 8, 1976 — Wednesday, October 27, 1976


Presented at:

Documentation of work by artists including Barbara BaracksLynda Benglis & Stanton Kaye, Lizzie Borden, Ree Morton (August 3, 1936–April 30, 1977), Jim Roche, George Smith, James Surls, George Trakas, Joseph Panone, Margaret Wharton, Connie Zehr, Michael Zwack (1949–2017), and more than a dozen other artists who had participated in Artpark's 1976 season. Including solo shows by Linda Brooks, Diane Bertolo, Helen Brunner, Charles Clough, Ann Rosen, Cindy Sherman, Bob Dick, Peter Levine, and Paula Logendyke.

An article from the New York Times, Sept. 17, 2009, on the occasion of the Ree Morton retrospective at The Drawing Center:

ART & DESIGN | ART REVIEW | 'Ree Morton'

The Clues Left Behind in Works on Paper

Then in 1977—just shy of her 41st birthday—Morton died in a car accident. Her death, coming not long after those of Eva Hesse in 1970 and Robert Smithson in 1973, dealt another cruel blow to postminimal sculpture. The art world recognized her achievements with a Morton retrospective at the New Museum in 1980.

Since then her art has turned up in the odd gallery show and in 1970s surveys like WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (which opened in 2007 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) and High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975 (a touring show that stopped at the National Academy Museum in New York in 2007). Europeans were ahead of the curve; last year the Generali Foundation in Vienna mounted the most comprehensive Morton show in recent memory.

Most of these exhibitions featured Morton’s later sculptural work and focused on its relationship to feminism or to Pattern and Decoration. So expectations have been running high for the Drawing Center’s Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World, an exhibition to highlight her drawings.

Alas, the show is a missed opportunity. It fails to penetrate the quixotic, introverted world of these items, which were a key part of her creative process but are in many ways her least influential works.

At the Still Point of the Turning World has been organized by João Ribas, a former curator at the Drawing Center who this month assumes the post of curator of exhibitions at the List Visual Arts Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His show, which fills the main galleries at 35 Wooster Street and the Drawing Room project space across the street, has its charms. For one thing it finds multiple personalities within roughly seven years’ worth of art.

The earliest drawings, from 1969–1970, deploy the Minimalist grid in playful ways. Some resemble smudged or crossed-out Agnes Martins; others make illusionist mischief with trompe l’oeil holes and slashes.

The next gallery is devoted to maplike, diagrammatic drawings like the Newfoundland series (1973), made during a summer in that Canadian province. Here dotted lines and nested forms with irregular contours evoke borders and boundaries in a generic, affectless way.

More striking, and original, are the drawing-sculpture hybrids that spill from wall to floor. In “Paintings and Objects” (1973), a dotted yellow line extended into three-dimensional space invites the violation of road rules.

Around 1974 Morton’s art took a whimsical turn. Made with crayon and colored pencil, her text-based drawings from this period have a fairy-tale, storybook sensibility. The best of them reveal twin interests in botany and wordplay, in teasing riffs on the names of plants and flowers: bitter buttons, trumpet weed, jack-in-the-pulpit.

Also here is the sprawling sculpture “Devil Chaser” (1975-76), which refers to an ancient name for St. John’s wort. Its curlicues of wire, festooned with painted, claylike foliage, expunge the Minimalism of Morton’s earlier work with evident delight. The show could have used more of these pieces and less of the twee scrap-wood figures that make up the bulk of the sculpture on view.

The exhibition does show off Morton’s love of language and semiotics. The show’s evocative title comes from a line of verse she kept above her desk, a quotation from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. She also admired Raymond Roussel, the punning French novelist and poet whose work supplied the titles for some of her drawings.

Her own writing, some of which is in the show, is slightly more accessible. One notebook page records a list of likes and dislikes and has a charming, diaristic quality. Among the likes: “Roman Villa Murals,” “Sculptors—Real,” “Printed Circuits.” Among the dislikes: “Greek Hellenistic Sculpture,” “Painters—Phony,” “Elegance,” “Good Taste.”

Also telling is the mantra that appears on another scrap of paper: “Light and ironic on serious subjects without frivolity.”

The catalog, like the show, takes Morton’s influence for granted. It includes a conversation among Mr. Ribas, the independent curator Allan Schwartzman, and the Museum of Modern Art’s drawings curator, Cornelia H. Butler. All three tend to assume that readers know Morton as well as they do.

They comment astutely on Morton’s regard among her peers but don’t name a single young artist under her sway. And no one seems to know what to do with Morton’s mom-turned-artist biography, which is alternately celebrated and played down.

The most useful information comes from Ms. Lippard’s 1973 essay, reprinted with a new introduction. Her supportive but critical take on Morton has held up remarkably well. It sheds light on some of the vexations of the current show:

“Morton’s work conveys a highly abstract and hermetic narrative quality. Signs and shapes repeated again and again as though to say ‘Now do you see?’ are islands in a landscape, things that seem imbued with meaning, but what meaning?”


t: 716-854-1694
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Tues.—Fri. 11-6
Sat. 11-2
Sun. & Mon. closed

from Jan. 10, 2020
through Feb. 28, 2020

Sarah Sutton
Knots and Pulses

This exhibition by Ithaca-area artist Sarah Sutton will feature a series of monochromatic oil paintings that combine representational imagery with distortions and abstractions that create scenarios in flux. They are essentially landscape paintings, but Sutton's treatment of the landscape toys with its sense of space and the notion of the built vs. the natural environment.

Katie Bell
Abstract Cabinet

Katie Bell’s exhibition is a site-specific installation conceived of as a one-act drama starring anonymous artifacts. Functioning like a theatrical set, the gallery holds static characters that reference the interior architecture of corporate and commercial spaces. Sculptural objects are often fractured or untethered to a contextual structure. Functioning as a whole, the individual artefacts are a nod to players on a stage, held captive in space and time.