Abstract Drawings

Media - 1996.104.55 - SAAM-1996.104.55_1 - 55872

Gene Davis, Saber Dance, 1952, ink and ink wash on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Abstract Drawings presents a selection of forty-six works on paper from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s permanent collection that are rarely on public display. From simple sketches to highly finished compositions, these works represent the rich possibilities of abstraction as a mode of artistic expression.

Description

American artists began to experiment with abstraction in the early twentieth century. This installation includes works from the 1930s to 2009 by artists such as Joseph Cornell, Willem de Kooning, Gene Davis, Jacob Kainen, Man Ray, Theodore Roszak, and Sean Scully, among others. Most abstract drawings were created as independent works of art in which the artist explored an idea or the relationship of forms and colors, as in Bones by Andrea Way or Saber Dance by Gene Davis. In many of the drawings, references to objects, figures, or places remain visible, but they have been transformed into compositions that have only passing resemblance to their source of inspiration, such as Charles Seliger’s series of fourteen illustrations for the unfinished satire An Island in the Moon by poet William Blake. The collages by Joseph Cornell were based on Rorschach inkblots that were then transformed into images by the artist’s imagination and deft addition of line. Some of the featured drawings were preparatory for works of art in another medium, such as Al Held’s Untitled (Study for Order/Disorder/Ascension/Descension) (1975), which he created for an enormous two-part mural commissioned for the Social Security building lobby in Philadelphia.

The artworks on display were selected by Joann Moser, senior curator.

Visiting Information

June 14, 2012 January 6, 2013
Open Daily, 11:30 a.m.–7:00 p.m
Free Admission

Online Gallery

Media - 1991.155.362 - SAAM-1991.155.362_1 - 76477
D” in Descartes
Date1971
collage with ink, pencil and stamps on paperboard
Not on view
Media - 1991.155.331 - SAAM-1991.155.331_1 - 76474
On the Name of Susan
Date1971
collage with ink, paint and pencil on paperboard
Not on view
Media - 1991.155.335 - SAAM-1991.155.335_1 - 76480
They Say the Owl is a Baker’s Daughter” Ophelia
Date1971
collage with ink and pencil on paperboard
Not on view
Media - 1996.104.55 - SAAM-1996.104.55_1 - 55872
Saber Dance
Date1952
ink and ink wash on paper
Not on view
Media - 2000.43.3 - SAAM-2000.43.3_1 - 70492
Untitled
Date1952
pen and ink, brush and ink and ink wash on paper
Not on view
Media - 1986.44 - SAAM-1986.44_1 - 72616
Monolith
Date1965
pen and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1990.89.1 - SAAM-1990.89.1_1 - 88336
Untitled
Date1940
pastel on paper
Not on view
Media - 1999.85.6 - SAAM-1999.85.6_1 - 55833
Untitled
Date1930
ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 2004.31.1 - SAAM-2004.31.1_1 - 69799
Confrontation
Date1945
ink and gouache on paper
Not on view
Media - 1998.24.4 - SAAM-1998.24.4_1 - 55830
Branding
Date1943
India ink, colored pencil, pencil and watercolor on paper
Not on view
Media - 1986.92.22 - SAAM-1986.92.22_1 - 10173
Untitled
Date1934
watercolor on paper mounted on paperboard
Not on view
Media - 1986.92.35 - SAAM-1986.92.35_1 - 82159
Contrathemis”, Frame 2401
Date1941
crayon on paper
Not on view
Media - 1981.137 - SAAM-1981.137_1 - 88235
Amusement Land
Date1956
pastel and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1990.79.1 - SAAM-1990.79.1_1 - 66078
Metamorphosis
Date1950
pen and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1981.93.3A - SAAM-1981.93.3A_1 - 79805
(Untitled D 233a)
Date1949
pen and ink and brush and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1980.102.1 - SAAM-1980.102.1_1 - 50104
Untitled
Artist
Date1947
felt-tipped pen and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1980.102.2 - SAAM-1980.102.2_1 - 50145
Untitled
Artist
Date1954
brush and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1969.35.29 - SAAM-1969.35.29_1 - 69706
Spring Song
Date1955
brush and ink and ink wash on paper
Not on view
Media - 2010.63 - SAAM-2010.63_1 - 74564
Before Adam and Eve
Date1954-1955
ink and ink wash on paper
Not on view
Media - 1978.39.5 - SAAM-1978.39.5_1 - 53190
Aerodynamics
Date1947
ink and gouache on paper
Not on view
Media - 1986.6.73 - SAAM-1986.6.73_2 - 135139
The Great Moth
Date1955
pen and ink, ink wash, and pencil on paper
Not on view
Media - 2009.19 - SAAM-2009.19_1 - 70973
Untitled (Bathroom)
Date1961
pastel crayon and collage on paper
Not on view
Media - 2011.7.1 - SAAM-2011.7.1_1 - 77162
Munich 3.18.09
Date2009
watercolor on paper
Not on view
Media - 1986.92.85 - SAAM-1986.92.85_1 - 88273
Organization No.16
Date1942
watercolor on paper
Not on view
Media - 1984.158.2 - SAAM-1984.158.2_1 - 67805
Untitled
Date1960
brush and ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1988.58.2 - SAAM-1988.58.2_1 - 75203
Untitled (NMG 1,264)
Dateca. 1945
pastel on paper
Not on view
Media - 2009.38.3 - SAAM-2009.38.3_1 - 72291
Bones
Date1987
ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.1 - SAAM-1992.53.1_1 - 52475
Title page, Illustrations to the songs from William Blake’s…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.2 - SAAM-1992.53.2_1 - 52476
Little Phoebus, from Illustrations to the songs from…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.3 - SAAM-1992.53.3_1 - 52477
Old Corruption, from Illustrations to the songs from…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.4 - SAAM-1992.53.4_1 - 52478
Birth of the Babies, Scurvy, and Spotted Fever, from The…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.5 - SAAM-1992.53.5_1 - 52479
Phoebe and Jellicoe, from Illustrations to the songs from…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.6 - SAAM-1992.53.6_1 - 52480
In Matrimony’s Golden Cage, Illustrations to the songs from…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.7 - SAAM-1992.53.7_1 - 52481
Dr. South, Locke, Sherlock, Sir Isaac Newton and Thomas…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.8 - SAAM-1992.53.8_1 - 52482
The Mayor, from Illustrations to the songs from William…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.9 - SAAM-1992.53.9_1 - 52483
O, I Say You Joe, Throw Us the Ball, from Illustrations to…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.10 - SAAM-1992.53.10_1 - 52484
Til I am nothing but a Spirit, and lose this form of clay,…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.11 - SAAM-1992.53.11_1 - 52485
Dr. Clach and Signor Falalasole, from Illustrations to the…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.12 - SAAM-1992.53.12_1 - 52486
Sip Sop, the Pythagorean, from Illustrations to the songs…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.13 - SAAM-1992.53.13_1 - 52487
Suction, the Epicurean, from Illustrations to the songs of…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view
Media - 1992.53.14 - SAAM-1992.53.14_1 - 52488
Quid, the Cynic, from Illustrations to the songs from…
Date1945
white ink on black ink on paper
Not on view

Artists

Media - portrait_image_114968.jpg - 137918
Joseph Cornell
born Nyack, NY 1903-died New York City 1972

A premier assemblagist who elevated the box to a major art form, Joseph Cornell also was an accomplished collagist and filmmaker, and one of America's most innovative artists. When his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. John A.

Media - davis_gene_2.jpg - 89981
Gene Davis
born Washington, DC 1920-died Washington, DC 1985

[Gene Davis was] a major figure in 20th-century American painting whose contribution was invaluable in establishing Washington, D.C., as a center of contemporary art.

Media - portrait_image_114398.jpg - 90459
Willem de Kooning
born Rotterdam, Netherlands 1904-died East Hampton, NY 1997

Born in Holland, moved to the United States in 1924.

Media - 1981.115 - SAAM-1981.115_1 - 52742
Jacob Kainen
born Waterbury, CT 1909-died Washington, DC 2001

Printmaker who worked in woodcut, silk screen, and other media; his style gradually evolved from the social realism of the 1930s to more abstract portraits in the 1950s and later.

Charles Sullivan, ed American Beauties: Women in Art and Lite

Media - portrait_image_113733.jpg - 90405
Man Ray
born Philadelphia, PA 1890-died Paris, France 1976

Born in Philadelphia, lived intermittently in the United States, but preferred Paris.

Media - roszak_theodore.jpg - 90525
Theodore Roszak
born Poznań, Prussia (now Poznań, Poland) 1907-died New York City 1981

After art school, Roszak received a fellowship to go to Europe in 1929.

Sean Scully
born Dublin, Ireland 1945

Scully was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1945 but was raised in London, where his family moved in 1949.