Modern and Contemporary Art

The collection of modern and contemporary art at the Gallery is noteworthy for exemplary works from the 20th century and the early years of the 21st century. Particular strengths are an exceptional group of avant-garde artworks from 1920 to 1940 represented in the Société Anonyme Collection, as well as an outstanding collection of mid-20th-century American paintings.
Bildnis Holger Friedrich (Portrait of Holger Friedrich)
Die Ungeborenen (The Unborn)
Femme assise (Seated Woman)
Tu m'
1 2 3 4 5 4 3 2 1 Cross and Tower
Bec-Dida Day

About Modern and Contemporary Art

The early years of the 20th century were characterized in the visual arts by a radical international reassessment of the relationship between vision and representation, as well as of the social and political role of artists in society at large. The extraordinary modern collection at the Yale University Art Gallery spans these years of dramatic change and features rich holdings in abstract painting by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Wassily Kandinsky, as well as in paintings and sculptures associated with German Expressionism, Russian Constructivism, De Stijl, Dada, and Surrealism. Many of these works came to Yale in the form of gifts and bequests from important American collections, including those of Molly and Walter Bareiss, B.S. 1940s; Stephen Carlton Clark, B.A. 1903; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, B.A. 1929; Katharine Ordway; and John Hay Whitney.

Art from 1920 to 1940 is strongly represented at the Gallery by the group of objects collected by the Société Anonyme, an artists’ organization founded by Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp with Man Ray. This remarkable collection, which was transferred to Yale in 1941, comprises a rich array of paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures by major 20th-century artists, including Marcel Duchamp, Constantin Brancusi, El Lissitzky, and Piet Mondrian, as well as lesser-known artists who made important contributions to the modernist movement.

The Gallery is also widely known for its outstanding collection of American painting from after World War II. Highlights include Jackson Pollock’s Number 13A: Arabesque (1948) and Roy Lichtenstein’s Blam (1962), part of a larger gift of important postwar works donated to the Gallery by Richard Brown Baker, B.A. 1935. Recent gifts from Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, and Thurston Twigg-Smith, B.E. 1942, have dramatically expanded the Collection with works by artists such as James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, and Wayne Thiebaud.

The department continues to support the Happy and Bob Doran Artist-in-Residence program founded in 2003. Invited artists take advantage of the greater intellectual and physical resources of the University. Participating artists have included Janine Antoni, Carol Bove, Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Yun-Fei Ji, Kerry James Marshall, Thomas Nozkowski, Richard Rezac, Tris Vonna-Michell, Richard Tuttle, William T. Wiley, and Paula Wilson.

Note from the Curator

The current installation in the contemporary art galleries features works by notable California-based artists, including Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Richard Diebenkorn, Jim Melchert, and Peter Voulkos. These objects complement the special exhibition of figurative works by another Bay Area great, Manuel Neri, on view on the Gallery’s fourth floor. Neri was part of the second generation of the Bay Area Figurative School and a near-contemporary of Bischoff and Diebenkorn, as well as of David Park and Wayne Thiebaud. Brown was Neri’s first wife, frequent artistic collaborator, and lifelong friend. Two self-portraits by Brown—one from her student days at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and one from about 25 years later—are displayed in the contemporary galleries as counterpoints to Neri’s own plaster portrait of Brown that is part of the fourth-floor exhibition. Also on view are Diebenkorn’s Girl with Cups (1957) and Ocean Park #24 (1969), which are excellent examples of the artist’s figurative and abstract painting styles, respectively. Several ceramic sculptures are installed throughout the space, including two wall reliefs by Melchert and an early abstract object by Neri that were first shown publicly in the 1967 Funk exhibition at the University of California, Berkeley.

Pamela Franks

Senior Deputy Director and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #24, 1969. Oil and charcoal on canvas. The Twigg-Smith Collection, Gift of Laila and Thurston Twigg-Smith, B.E. 1942

Featured Media

Gallery director Jock Reynolds and New Haven–based sculptor Robert Taplin discuss the traditional materials and tools employed by sculptors engaged with the human figure.

Meet the Curators

Pamela Franks

Pamela Franks is Senior Deputy Director and the Seymour H. Knox, Jr., Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Franks came to the Gallery in 2004 as Curator of Academic Affairs, and in this role she significantly increased the number of college courses teaching from the Gallery’s collection as well as the range of opportunities for students to learn about museum practice. Franks has directed student curators at the Gallery in the creation of several major exhibitions, including Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection (2014), and leads the Gallery’s Collection-Sharing Initiative. She is also actively engaged in the Gallery’s visiting-artist programs, most recently working with photographers Jim Goldberg and Donovan Wylie on Candy/A Good and Spacious Land, a two-volume set of artist’s books and an accompanying exhibition (2017). Franks holds a PH.D. in the History of Art from the University of Texas at Austin with a specialization in modern and contemporary art and is a 2008 graduate of the Getty Leadership Institute.

pamela.franks@yale.edu

Pamela Franks

Frauke V. Josenhans

Frauke V. Josenhans, the Horace W. Goldsmith Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, holds a PH.D. in art history from the Aix-Marseille Université and has graduate degrees in art history and museology from the Sorbonne and the École du Louvre. After working at the J. Paul Getty Museum, for the French Ministry of Culture, and for the French-German research project ArtTransForm, she worked at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. At LACMA, she helped organize the exhibition Hans Richter: Encounters (2013) and co-organized Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky (2014), as well as curated modern art installations, notably Visions of the South (2014). At the Gallery, she curated the exhibitions Everything Is Dada (2016) and Artists in Exile: Expressions of Loss and Hope (2017), and co-curated Modern Art from the Middle East (2017).

frauke.josenhans@yale.edu

Download Frauke Josenhans’s CV
Frauke V. Josenhans

Further Reading

Chaffee, Cathleen. Eye on a Century: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012.

Farrell, Jennifer. Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2011.

Fisher, Susan Greenberg. Picasso and the Allure of Language, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.

Gross, Jennifer, ed. The Société Anonyme: Modernism for America, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Gross, Jennifer, ed. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 2009: State of the Art: Contemporary Sculpture (2009).

Herbert, Robert L., Eleanor S. Apter, and Elise K. Kenney, eds. The Société Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University: A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984.

Josenhans, Frauke V. Artists in Exile: Expressions of Loss and Hope, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2017.

Reynolds, Jock. Manuel Neri: The Human Figure in Plaster and on Paper, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2018.

 

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