David Owsley Museum of Art

Aspects of American Painting from the 1970s

Untitled, 1976
Philip Hanson
Acrylic painting on masonite

Art and life are undeniably intertwined, and never more so than in the decade that was the 1970s. While contemplation of the 1960s may conjure up images of turbulent social change, it was during the next decade that American society began to feel the impact of civil rights legislation, the women’s liberation movement, the sexual revolution, and so much more. These societal changes are reflected in the works of art celebrated in Aspects of American Painting from the 1970s.

“For artists, the 1970s was a rather pluralistic decade, with a lot of individualism afoot,” says Director Peter Blume. “Artists were searching for a personal language and trying out new things.”  

Some of those new things can be found in the work of the Chicago Imagists, a group of artists who relied on popular cartoons and cheap advertising to inform their work.

“The Chicago Imagists really loved their lowbrow inspirations, and you can see the warmth and passion they were putting into their imagery,” says Blume. “They were making the obscene seen, giving the things we tend to ignore or avoid a stage and an audience.”

Two of the original Chicago Imagists, Ed Paschke and Barbara Rossi, are featured in the exhibition.

Women were front and center in the 70s, with important female artists like Katherine Porter using art to make political statements (Chalatenango, 1980). Joan Snyder (To Grow, 1973), whom Blume calls “the darling of the 70s,” would continue to produce art for more than four decades and go on to be named a MacArthur Fellow in 2007. 

Blume feels the time has come to take another look at the paintings from this decade.

“It’s been thirty years, and upon reflection we can see it was a very interesting time,” he says. “There was minimalism, which was a very dogmatic way of looking at what art could be, but at the same time there were other more experimental and expansive things going on at the same time.”

Exhibition Date: May 20, 2011 - August 28, 2011

David Owsley Museum of Art
2021 W. Riverside Ave.
Fine Arts Building, Ball State University
Muncie , IN 47306

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