Following in visionary collector Florence Barron’s footsteps, Nora Lee (Smokler ’59) and Guy Barron have been passionate collectors of contemporary art for almost five decades, building one of the premier collections of contemporary art in this country. The selection of works included in this exhibition highlights two equally compelling facets of their collection. Epitomizing such art historical movements as Pop Art, Conceptual Art, and Minimalism, the Barron collection includes important works by Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Malcolm Morley, Richard Artschwager, Frank Stella, and Chuck Close. Characterized by cool restraint in contrast to the impetuousness of the Abstract Expressionist movement, many of these artists were concerned with the overwhelming power of images generated by television, advertising, and Hollywood movies that began to dominate society in the 1960s.
Alongside the bold figures and synthetic colors, however, another sensibility apparent in the Barron collection has to do with mark-making and the love of books and writing. Cy Twombly’s Note series is closely related to the calligraphic abstraction of his famous blackboard paintings that could be seen as the artist’s own subversion of Abstract Expressionism. Eschewing any kind of figuration in the 1960s, painting for Twombly was a form of writing. And while Twombly’s calligraphic pencil marks have the energy of graffiti, Lucio Fontana’s slashings and puncturings were intended to suggest other spatial possibilities. Representing a radical shift away from the American preoccupation with the surface of paintings, Fontana stressed their physical nature, attempting to express the concept of the void or the infinite.
Viewing a portion of this wonderful private collection will hopefully allow a small glimpse into the mind of the collectors, but more importantly encourage viewers to make innumerable connections themselves among the works on display.
Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art