Miami Beach’s Wolfsonian-FIU museum delves into early 20th-century spirituality with its current exhibit, “The Pursuit of Abstraction.” The show focuses on works produced between 1900 and 1950, by American and European artists who were seeking explanations and answers beyond the boundaries of science.
Reacting to a 20th-century world that was becoming increasingly secular while undergoing fast urbanization, a number of artists created spiritually rich works inspired by philosophy, mythology, psychology and poetry. “As modernization eroded mysticism, artists experimented with new forms of expression to reintroduce mystery into everyday life,” says Wolfsonian curator Matthew Abess.
Set on the museum’s entire seventh floor, “The Pursuit of Abstraction” highlights paintings, prints, sculpture and decorative art by the likes of Mabel Alvarez, Wenzel Hablik, Victor Karl Hammer, Gertrude Hermes, Agnes Pelton, Henry van de Velde and Ida O’Keeffe, sister of celebrated American artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
Over 80 works are on display, including a breathtaking theater curtain by German expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner that cascades into the center of the room for a full front-and-back view. Other notable works range from Italian artist Sexto Canegallo’s “Energia Sociale (Social Energy),” a futuristic 1920 painting whose central female figure radiates spiritual harmony, to “Silent Places,” a work from 1929 by Mabel Alvarez that makes use of imaginative colors to create a meditative dreamscape. “Abstraction,” by Georgia Engelhard, painted between 1926 and 1938, is a haunting, golden depiction of soaring mountains and plunging valley shimmering under a coat of snow.
“It is commonly said, ‘art feeds the soul,’” says Wolfsonian director Tim Rodgers. “[The Pursuit of Abstraction] provides a feast for viewers, inviting them on a journey into an abstracted world of feeling and sensation, color and light.”
“The Pursuit of Abstraction” runs until April 16, 2017 at the Wolfsonian-FIU museum in Miami Beach.