Exhibition - The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection

Tuesday, Oct 6, 2020 at 10:00am

Saint Louis Art Museum
One Fine Arts Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63110

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The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection presents paintings, drawings, and prints by five generations of black artists who have revolutionized abstract art since the 1940s. The exhibition includes Norman Lewis’s gestural drawings, Sam Gilliam’s radically shaped paintings, James Little’s experiments with color, and Chakaia Booker’s explorations in printmaking, among many others. Despite their significant contributions, many of these accomplished artists have remained largely under-recognized and omitted from the existing narrative of art history. However, the re-examination and celebration of this history is underway.

In 2017, St. Louis native Ronald Ollie and his wife, Monique, gave the Saint Louis Art Museum a transformative collection of 81 works by black abstractionists. Ollie, who passed away in June 2020, spent decades collecting, often befriending the artists and forming long, collaborative relationships. He grew up visiting the Museum with his parents, who nurtured his deep appreciation for art. This exhibition draws from and celebrates the Thelma and Bert Ollie Memorial Collection, which was named in honor of his parents.

The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection is curated by Gretchen L. Wagner, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; and Alexis Assam, 2018–2019 Romare Bearden Graduate Museum Fellow.

Poetic Inspiration for The Shape of Abstraction
Recognizing the synergistic relationship between images and words, collector Ronald Ollie invited acclaimed writer and poet Quincy Troupe to respond to the abstract art in his collection. Troupe’s resulting poem The Shape of Abstraction; for Ron Ollie, which also inspired the title of this exhibition and the accompanying publication, appears below. Troupe, like many of the artists in this exhibition, is inspired by jazz music’s pace and variation, and his verses reflect this energy.

Location: Galleries 234 and 235

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