Off Kilter, On Point • Art of the 1960s

Marshall Fredericks Sculpture Museum Presents Expansive Exhibition Showcasing New Forms of Art Surfacing During a Turbulent Era

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Artist Feature,   From Issue 942   By: Robert E Martin

23rd February, 2023     0

Continuing and expanding upon their focus of bringing world-class artworks to the Great Lakes Bay Region, currently the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Gallery Is presenting an expansive cross-section of mid-century art with their new special exhibition titled Off Kilter, On Point: Art of the 1960s from the permanent collections at Colorado State University

Running through May 27th, Off Kilter showcases both the depth, breadth, and wide range of media and styles that emerged from that turbulent decade. The artwork that was generated from this decade demonstrates both the disruption and the continuity present in the major styles and strategies at play, with late abstract expressionist paintings and Neo-Dada collage giving way to Color Field painting, shaped canvases, Minimalism, Light & Space, kinetic art, Op Art, and Pop Art that looked to exemplify, but also complicate the existing history of this dynamic era, presenting novel juxtapositions that reflect the turmoil and innovations occurring during that singular time of history.

Pivotal artists who both advanced and defined these artistic movements with works that are represented in this exhibition include Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Robert Motherwell, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, and many more.

While the 1960s marked a definitive time of strife, revolution, and demands for societal change, it also marked a remarkable period of cultural and artistic awakening. The decade saw the civil rights movement and the Civil Rights Act, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam conflict, political assassinations, the moon landing, the first televised presidential debate, “The Pill,” and, arguably, a more rapid rate of technological advancement and cultural change than ever before. This accelerated pace of change was well reflected in the art of the time, where styles and movements were almost constantly established, often in reaction to one another.

This exhibition presents most of the major stylistic trends that evolved out of that time, which according to Marshall Fredericks Curator of Education, Andrea Ondish, all fall under the classification of ‘POP ART’.

“Art from this period can be broken out into separate movements such as ‘Minimalism’ and ‘Optical Art’, which are all part of what we now classify as ‘Pop Art’, yet all of them are distinguished by their intent to simplify the fundamentals of what these artists saw coming out of this massive commercialism that was going on not only in the United States, but also abroad in the 1960s,” she explains.

 “What they all share in common is the decade they emerged from.  I grew up in the 1960s and am from Pennsylvania so remember that dynamic time,” she continues.  “It was not hard to find a job, the economy was booming, yet you had the horrors of the Vietnam War going on and all these cultural things happening, with consumerism at an all-time high and all these new products being sold daily to people through the commercial artistry of Madison Avenue, which is what an artist like Andy Warhol specialized in.

“What artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein, Bridget Riley, and Duchamp shared in common was a desire to not be elitist.  In the early 1960s much of the art world was perceived as being elitist, so the goal with much of this work is to be anti-elitist. The artist Ray Johnson pulled a group of artists together to create a small series of pieces - little portfolios if you will - and asked each artist to produce a print or a wood carving. Yoko Ono was one of the artists he asked to participate. So these portfolios were created in 1968 and 2000 of them were printed and each artist that contributed a piece were paid $100.00 each. Some of the artists wee well-known, some not so much, but the point was that everybody would be paid the same.”

“Within this exhibition we have a number of at least twenty artists featured in every art history book that’s ever been published,” she notes. “And what’s interesting is that at the turn of the century in the late 1800s and early 1900s you had maybe one major style of art happening, then a little later you had two or three style evolving, but by the time you get to the 1960s and 1970s things got kinetic and you have all these different Op Art, Minimalist, and Pop art styles exploding that are more non-representational.”

Indeed, one of the more unique items on display is ‘The Souper Dress’,  which was inspired by Andy Warhol’s iconic Campbell Soup Can silkscreen portraits. The one featured was produced in 1967 and was available for the price of two soup can labels and $1.00. The dress is made of cellulose and cotton and was meant to be worn one time and then discarded.

According to Marshall Fredericks director Megan McAdow, the genesis of this movement started mostly on the East & West coast, yet was not all distinctly American. “The Bauhaus movement shared similar values and objectives, but got broken up in Germany when Hitler came to power and many of those artists came to the United States,” she explains. “One of the areas they set up shop was in Chicago. Victor Vasarely was the Godfather of the Op art movement and back in 1933 after Hitler shut them down they emigrated to America. Artistically, Europe always tended to be ahead of us in the United States, but at one point it shifted and the United States became the center in terms of innovative art movements.”

Special programs behind the Off Kilter Exhibition include the following:

March 25th • 6:30 - 9:30 pm • Dinner & Movie with the Curator

Enjoy dinner in the Museum and take in an exciting lecture titled ‘Art of the 1960s and the Quirks of a College Collection” with the Off Kilter, On Point exhibition curator Dr. Lynn Boland, who will give a brief overview of the main trends in the US art of the 1960s, seen through the lens of collecting rends of the 1980s, with commentary on the particularities of university collecting. Afterwards, guests can enjoy a 2002 video by exhibition artist Ray Johnson called How to Draw a Bunny, directed by Detroit native John W. Walter. The film explores the life of Johnson, a Detroit-born pop, collage, and performance artist.


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