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Art&Seek on Think TV: Rediscovering Early Abstract Art

Newark Museum associate curator Mary Kate O’Hare talks about “Constructive Spirit” — the exhibition opening at the Amon Carter Museum June 26. When the Newark Museum premiered the show in February, The New York Times greeted it as if it were almost a revelation. From the ’20s through the ’50s, artists from Buenos Aires to Brooklyn were influencing each other in using and adapting geometric abstraction. With the post-WWII revolution brought by the New York school of Abstract Expressionists, much of this ‘trans-American’ movement was shelved away and forgotten or dismissed as  derivative of Mondrian or de Stijl — even as some groups like the Argentinian MADI became international (eventually finding a home in Dallas with the Museum of Geometric and MADI Art).

“Constructive Spirit” is the first survey of these artists from Uruguay, New Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil and New York, ranging over photography, painting, prints, drawings, films and sculpture. In addition to major, well-known American names (Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Stuart Davis), the show plucks from relative obscurity such inventive, once-influential artists as the Brazilian Geraldo de Barros, the American Charmion von Wiegand and the Uruguayan Joaquin Torres-Garcia, who more or less triggered everything when he moved to New York in 1920 and eventually returned to  Montevideo in 1934.

O’Hare edited the exhibition catalog, Constructive  Spirit: Abstract Art in South and North America, 1920s-’50s.