Lee Krasner painting to be unveiled at Sheldon Friday
L. Kent Wolgamott, Lincoln Journal Star
(September 01, 2012)On Friday, the Sheldon Museum of Art will unveil one of the most significant paintings to enter its permanent collection in decades.
The painting is “Invocation,” a 1970-71 piece by Lee Krasner, the abstract expressionist who was married to Jackson Pollock but was an important artist in her own right.
Sheldon’s acclaimed collection of 20th century American art contained only one notable painting by a female abstract expressionist -- Helen Frankenthaler’s “Red Frame” from 1964. The Krasner, to a large degree, fills a large gap in Sheldon’s collection while continuing the museum’s effort to increase the representation of women artists.
“This is a huge acquisition for us,” said Sheldon director J. Daniel Veneciano.
Purchased from the Robert Miller Gallery, which represents Krasner’s estate, “Invocation” had a seven-figure price tag.
“It’s probably the most expensive work of art purchased by the museum,” Veneciano said. “By the museum and the art association," he added. "The museum couldn’t purchase this alone. So it is really a community effort that brings something so important here.”
The Krasner purchase is the first time the Sheldon Art Association and museum have partnered to buy a painting. The Sheldon Art Association, which began as the Haydon Art Club, is marking its 125th year. The Sheldon Museum of Art will be 50 years old next year.
“This purchase was in celebration of those two anniversaries,” said Sheldon Art Association president Lisa Smith. “We are thrilled to make an acquisition of the caliber the Lee Krasner is. It has been on our wish list for a long time. It certainly partners well with the Jackson Pollock.”
The Pollock that Smith refers to is “Untitled (Composition with Ritual Scene),” a small 1938-41 painting Sheldon purchased in the mid-1990s.
“Invocation,” a large vertical, abstract painting is featured in a pair of pictures in a Krasner book printed by the Miller gallery. In one, it leans against the wall with other paintings. In the second, a studio portrait, Krasner, wrapped in a fur coat, sits in front of “Invocation.”
“To me, that tells us something about how important the painting was to Lee Krasner,” Veneciano said. “She kept it for years before she showed it. That she would want to be portrayed with the painting tells us what it meant to her. That’s another reason it’s so special.”
“Invocation,” which was likely begun in the late 1960s, is part of a group of paintings that marked a change in Krasner’s work. After having done a nature-based series of works called the “Earth Green” paintings in the late 1950s as well as a dark series called “Night Journey,” Krasner suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm in late 1962 and battled ill health for several years.
“In the 1960s and '70s, Krasner continued to refine the nature-derived imagery she had first explored in the gestural arabesques of the ‘Earth Green’ paintings, emphasizing their calligraphic qualities and later sharpening their edges to resemble cutout collage elements,” reads her Pollock Krasner House and Study Center biography.
The calligraphic qualities can be seen in the strong lines and tightly rendered orange and purple orbs of “Invocation,” while the green swash of color connects it to the nature/floral-based work.
The “Invocation” unveiling is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday during Sheldon’s First Friday event, which is celebrating “Five Decades of Collecting,” a rehanging of the museum’s permanent collection galleries to contain artwork acquired in the five decades of the Philip Johnson building.
“Invocation” hangs in one of the six chronologically arranged gallery spaces.
The First Friday celebration will include five decades of music from the band Release Time.
The Sheldon event and the First Friday at the Lux Center for the Arts also will showcase the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce’s Fourth of July signs. Guests can bid on the signs from the new Lincoln branding campaign in a silent auction. Proceeds will go for Lincoln Arts Council project grants.
The Lux First Friday opening will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Sheldon's reception is from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday.