Meadows Museum hosts work by pioneering abstract expressionist Esteban Vicente

'Labels (1956) by Esteban VicenteThe groundbreaking work of Spanish-born American artist Esteban Vicente is the focus of the latest major exhibition in SMU’s Meadows Museum. Some 80 collages and polychrome sculptures are featured in Concrete Improvisations: Collages and Sculpture by Esteban Vicente, which runs through July 31, 2011.

The objects included in the exhibition span 50 years of Vicente’s long career and include such works as Labels (1956, right), which precedes Warhol’s famous appropriation of the Campbell’s soup logo.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, bilingual catalogue, Concrete Improvisations: Collages and Sculpture, Esteban Vicente.

Vicente was a member of the first generation of New York Abstract Expressionists and a significant 20th-century artist and teacher. He participated in Meyer Schapiro and Clement Greenberg’s landmark exhibition Talent 1950 and also helped to organize the seminal 9th Street Show.

One of the founding members of the New York Studio School, Vicente also taught at universities throughout the United States. His students included leading artists Chuck Close and Brice Marden.

The Meadows exhibition marks the first time Vicente’s collages and sculptures have been paired together in a major exhibition. The collages, which he first began producing in 1949, provide an insightful connection when viewed alongside works on paper created by some of his contemporaries, including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning.

Concrete Improvisations will expose audiences to an artist who was an integral part of the Abstract Expressionist movement, but who is not well known to the public,” said Meadows Museum Director Mark Roglán. “As a museum with a core commitment to education, we are thrilled to showcase the pioneering work of an artist noted for his lifelong dedication to teaching.”

Vicente also created small-scale sculptures that he referred to as “toys” or divertimientos, and which were typically assembled from leftover bits of wood and scrap material found in his studio. Not initially intended for public display, the sculptures included in the exhibition reveal a lighthearted side of the artist and will be interspersed with his collages.

In conjunction with Concrete Improvisations, the Meadows Museum will present Esteban Vicente in America: Collage, Color and Somewhere in Between, which weaves together works by a number of Vicente’s contemporary colleagues with whom he shared a clear artistic affinity – including Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Mark Rothko. A fully illustrated catalogue has been produced by the Meadows Museum for this exhibition.

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