Signs & Symbols Audio Guide Playlist
This audio guide highlights selected works from the exhibitionSigns & Symbols, focusing on the development of American abstraction after World War II.
NARRATOR: Will Barnet’s Male and Female consists of a number of vertical forms. The artist has identified the red one near the middle as the male, and the earth-toned form to the right as the female. He’s said that rather than making abstractions, he takes figures apart and puts them into an abstract relationship. Barnet is interested in the tension between certain colors and forms, and the sense of resolution in the painting as a whole.
Barnet has said that his artistic heroes are the Old Masters—Giotto, Daumier, and Ingres. Despite the relative abstraction of Male and Female, Barnet’s commitment to classicism shines through in the painting’s balance and composure. The vertical forms in Male and Female also bear a certain resemblance to Northwest Coast totem poles. Barnet, like many artists of his generation, was very impressed by Northwest Coast Native American art. He was part of the group known as the Indian Space Painters—so-called because of the patterned, all-over composition that they based on Native American textiles and pottery.
- 200 Introduction to Signs & Symbols
- 201 Louise Bourgeois, One and Others, 1955
- 202 Mark Tobey, Universal Field, 1949
- 203 Will Barnet, Male and Female, 1954
- 204 Steve Wheeler, Laughing Boy Rolling, 1946
- 205 Forrest Bess, Drawings, 1957
- 206 Mark Rothko, Agitation of the Archaic, 1944
- 207 Adolph Gottlieb, Vigil, 1948
- 208 Aaron Siskind
- 210 Jackson Pollock, Untitled, c. 1939–42
- 211 Richard Pousette-Dart, The Magnificent, 1950–51
- 212 Isamu Noguchi, The Gunas, 1946
- 213 Alfred Jensen, A Perfect Equal Area I, 1960
- 214 Jasper Johns, White Target, 1957
- 509 Alexander Calder, The Brass Family, 1929