Kenneth Stubbs
(American artist, 1907-1967)

photograph of the artist
skip navigation
Art Works
Reviews & Writings
About This Website

Dreaming Before Nature

With its exhibition "Dreaming Before Nature: Non-Objective Art of the Cape," the Cape Museum of Fine Arts in Dennis communicates its resolve to establish itself once and for all as a museum force with which to be reckoned

By definition, the show is an ambitious one -- to survey Cape artists' contributions to 20th century abstraction, placing these artists within this important historic context. Its clear intent is to examine, through picture selection, the evolution of modern art wherein artists forged ahead boldly, disassociating themselves from any connection to objectivity, however tenuous.

"Non-objective Art of The Cape" succeeds on several levels, not the least of which is this historical reference point. All the right names are repreesented -- Robert Motherwell, the father of abstraction; Hans Hoffman, Willem de Kooning, both leaders of abstract expressionism; Franz Klein, James Lechay, Jack Larned -- the list is long and impressive, and the exhibited works equally so.

Arranged in an accessible order, the paintings walk viewers through an artistic thought process. We begin with a small watercolor on paper, "St. Tropez" by Arnold Geissbuhler, an early work suggesting a shift of emphasis from clear objectivity to more expressive sweeps of color. "Still Life With Me" by Kenneth Stubbs takes viewers one step beyond, through an analytical cubist approach where form begins to take precedence over representation.

It is, however, in the large gallery space where the concepts inherent in non-objective, 20th century abstract art come to life. Whether it is in the beginnings of the somewhat tautly constructed work by Robert Motherwell, or the more gestural, lyrical statements by Jack Larned, the selection of paintings on exhibit is an exciting visual adventure. For those gallery goers uninitiated to viewing non-objective art, it is enough simply to understand that the artists represented here are concerned with the physicality of painting, not with the rendering of recognizable subject matter.

It is, perhaps, even a mistake to try to pin down the meaning of any of these works. To intellectualize is to risk desensitizing oneself to experiencing an intuitive emotional response. Just enjoy the exhibition for what it is -- the most impressive collection of non-objective art by past and present Cape artists to be assembled on Cape, a tribute to the important contribuitions of Cape artists to 20th century art and testament to the CMFA's new director, Gregory Harper's ability to rally the art community to work together in a meaningful way.

"Dreaming Before Nature: Non-Objective Art of the Cape" continues at Cape Museum of Fine Arts, Rte 6a, Dennis through June 13: (508) 385-4477.

KA, A Plus, June 1993, page 14