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Form, Gesture, Feeling: Robert Motherwell 1915-1991: ACentennial Exhibition at Pearl Lam Galleries

Hong Kong — Pearl Lam Galleries are delighted to present the first solo exhibition in Asia of works by pioneer abstract expressionist, Robert Motherwell. Celebrating the centenary year of Motherwell’s birth the exhibition presents over 15 works from four decades and brings together works in various media from important cycles explored by the artist throughout his career.


Robert Motherwell, (b.1915 Washington, USA) was the youngest member of a group of artists which made the first truly international American art – the Abstract Expressionists – or as famously named by Motherwell, The New York School, which also included Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Throughout his long career Motherwell was drawn to automatism and conveying through his work the deeper, unconscious modes of human thinking. His work was heavily influenced by the time he spent with exiled Parisian Surrealists Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp and André Masson, in the 1940s while studying at Columbia under the seminal art historian Meyer Schapiro. From his first exhibitions with Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of this Century Gallery, and through major retrospectives in museums around the world, Motherwell displayed a tireless inventiveness, and rigorous attention to the principles of Modern Art, which he had done so much to bring to the United States with his ‘Documents of Modern Art series’. (He edited and translated the words and works of the Surrealists bringing them to an American public.)

Although associated with the New York School, and indeed having instigated many of its founding principles, Motherwell’s achievements over a five-decade long, successful and prolific career arguably surpass those of his fellow Abstract Expressionists. As well as in painting Motherwell is recognised as one of the most important practitioners of collage, a medium he saw as one of the greatest innovations of the century, bringing it into the mid 20th Century following in the traditions of Picasso and Matisse. Throughout his activities in painting and collage, Motherwell continued to return to the practice of automatic drawing, an interest which stemmed from his time with the surrealists. He had a fascination with Asian calligraphy and often painted with ink and a calligrapher’s brush, focusing on rapid execution, and recalling his lifelong interest in Zen. Motherwell was also a gifted teacher and an enormously important influence on the younger generation including Fra nk Stella, Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg and Kenneth Noland.

Exhibition highlights include an early work from his VVV portfolio, 1942, which is considered one of the highlights of Surrealist activity in New York in the early 1940s, and a 1958 painting on paper Two Figures No. 12, which shows a sense of figuration that is later repeatedly imbedded in the hugely important Elegies Series, and in many other works executed in his later career. Several examples from Motherwell’s major series of Open paintings will be represented in which the affinity between Japanese Zen painting and his own work is best seen through his animation of the void. We are delighted to be showing the last of five paintings in the Great Wall of China Series remaining outside of a private collection, Great Wall of China #4, 1971, that refers to Franz Kafka’s short story about this most famous Chinese landmark. The latest work in the show, In the Studio, was started in 1984, and an early version was shown i n the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum that December.

“This exhibition celebrates Pearl Lam Galleries long standing commitment to presenting abstract art and exploring it’s disparate international origins, I feel privileged to bring to Asia for the first time a solo show of works by such a giant in American, indeed international, art history.” Pearl Lam

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