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Framing Nature’s Paradox: Neil Jenney & Donald Sultan, 1969-2023
October 5 @ 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
The Morris Museum proudly announces the exhibition, Framing Nature’s Paradox: Neil Jenney & Donald Sultan, 1969-2023 will be on view from Friday, October 6. The exhibition explores the intersection of contemporary practice with keen observation of the natural world and human nature through the works of two acclaimed artists, Neil Jenney and Donald Sultan. Framing Nature’s Paradox features 27 works including rarely seen pieces from across both artists careers and new pieces by Neil Jenney (Texting and Talking, 2023) and Donald Sultan (Mimosa, 2023).
Jenney and Sultan came to prominence in the late 1960s/early 1970s in New York City and are admirers of each other’s work. Each is a prominent exponent in the global conversation about the art of our time. Their work is found at leading institutions and in significant private collections worldwide. The critical press and popular media have heralded their accomplishments over the years, sometimes referring to them as post-minimalist mavericks and pioneers. Framing Nature’s Paradox is the first museum exhibition to consider Jenney and Sultan together by exploring their early output and new approaches to realism.
The exhibition showcases their unique perspectives on the natural world and human nature, highlighting their shared interest in the paradoxical relationship between the two. Bold in their imagery and often massive in their physical presence, the works on view beckon the visitor to look again. We see their artistic choices and the combination of brawn and finesse they are known for. It is interesting to consider that neither artist sees their work as painting per se. Rather, Sultan’s painter-printmaker mind and masterful draftsmanship rightly have been understood as sculptural in their techniques and materiality. Jenney refers to his works as painted sculptures instead of paintings and prides himself on making their integrated frames and slogan-like titles part of his creation.
While the selections in this project give the visitor a glimpse of the artists’ shared fascination with the world as we observe it, it would be a mistake to think of them as chroniclers of our shared landscape. Nothing in their work strives for an authentic or mimetic representation of those environments, and they honor artifice and abstraction uniquely. Vistas, figures, and flora are unapologetically constructed and physically wrought. Sultan’s work’s sheer scale and industrial materials such as roofing tar, aluminum, and enamel belies their organic subject. In Jenney’s, we are snapped back from believable scenes by witty titles and abstracted forms. Mounting such an exhibition in any given year would be a laudable contribution to understanding these adroit artists across five decades of work. Pairing them, without juxtaposing them literally, is an invitation to see their creations with fresh eyes.
This exhibition is organized by executive director Tom Loughman and curator Michelle Graves.
A catalogue including an essay by John Ravenal will accompany this exhibition.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, a preview event will be held on Thursday, October 5.
About Neil Jenney
Neil Jenney (b. 1945 Torrington, CT), a maverick of twentieth-century American art, pursues realism as a style and philosophy. He strives to return to the classical ideal of truth and to integrate form and content, while eschewing what he has described as the decorative, expressive qualities of modern abstraction. He lives and works in New York.
His work has been widely exhibited in the US and internationally among the institutions: The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York), The Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington), The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles) and The Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles).
About Donald Sultan
Donald Sultan (b. 1951 Asheville, NC) is an artist who rose to prominence in the late 1970s as part of the “New Image” movement. Sultan has challenged the boundaries between painting and sculpture throughout his career. Using industrial materials such as roofing tar, aluminum, linoleum, and enamel, Sultan layers, gouges, sands, and constructs his paintings—sumptuous, richly textured compositions often made of the same materials as the rooms in which they are displayed. Intrigued by contrasts, he explores dichotomies of beauty and roughness, nature and artificiality, and realism and abstraction. He lives and works in New York, NY.
His first solo exhibition was mounted in 1977 at Artists Space in New York. He has since exhibited worldwide in solo and group exhibitions, including at the Cameron Art Museum, Huntington Museum of Art, Parrish Art Museum, British Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Delaware Art Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Memphis Brooks Museum, Museum of Modern Art, National Galerie, Berlin, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
About the Morris Museum
Founded in 1913, the Morris Museum is an award-winning, multifaceted arts and cultural institution serving the public through its exhibitions and performances, which strive to interpret the past and discover the future through art, sound, and motion. The Museum is home to the historic and internationally significant Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata. The Museum’s Bickford Theatre is a 312-seat performing-arts facility, offering unique programming in film, jazz, and live performance through its innovative series, Live Arts. As New Jersey’s only Smithsonian Affiliate, it launched Spark!Lab, a dynamic, Smithsonian-created learning space which will inspire young visitors to create, collaborate, and innovate.