Denver, CO – February 1, 2023 – The Clyfford Still Museum (CSM) will fill its airy galleries with some of the artist’s biggest, most ambitious works in the new exhibition Awful Bigness, opening on February 17. Organized by Bailey Placzek, CSM curator, in collaboration with Joyce Tsai, CSM director, the exhibition celebrates the big feelings and ideas inspired by Still’s immersive artworks.
“When we hike to the top of nearby mountains and look across the vast landscape, we might enjoy a sense of achievement while also feeling our own smallness,” said Tsai. “This experience might include a fear of tumbling or disappearing in the face of such grandeur. Western artists and intellectuals, including Clyfford Still, called this experience sublime. We designed Awful Bigness to recall that sensation.”
Still spent his childhood and adolescence in the West, and the environment deeply impacted him. In a late 1970s interview with art critic Thomas Albright, he said that experience taught him to respect the “awful bigness of the land, the men and the machines.” In the mid-to-late 1940s, Still started to create works of enormous scale, and each time had to confront the awful bigness of vast, blank canvas. According to the show’s curators, Still’s largest, most immersive paintings provoke big feelings of awe, terror, and transcendence, offering space to explore big ideas in the Museum’s galleries.
“Some of Still’s biggest paintings jolt me to the core,” says Placzek. “I come around the corner and feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. There is an uneasiness that comes with being faced with such power, and yet, I keep coming back for more! If you have climbed a Colorado fourteener, you know exactly what I mean. We hope this exhibition brings all these big, complicated feelings to the surface for our visitors.”
The Museum will launch a new mobile guide with the exhibition, available on the free arts and culture app Bloomberg Connects. The digital guide will feature audio content to enhance the visitor experience, including various perspectives on the exhibition’s themes, including magnitude, scale, self, and impact. Audio guide speakers include Dr. Danielle Ignace, assistant professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver; Dr. Rob Landis of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA headquarters in Washington D.C.; Susannah Drake, architect, landscape architect, and CSM’s president of the board of directors; and a student from Denver School of the Arts.
Awful Bigness will be on view from February 17 to September 10, 2023. The exhibition follows a chronological display of Still’s works in CSM’s first four galleries, which overviews Still’s 60-year career and journey toward abstraction.
The Museum will offer various programs and events during the exhibition. Visit clyffordstillmuseum.org/events for a schedule of upcoming programs.
About the Clyfford Still Museum
Designed by Allied Works Architecture to display the revolutionary art of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists, the Clyfford Still Museum opened in November 2011 in Denver’s Golden Triangle Creative District. Considered one of the most important and mysterious painters of the 20th century, Clyfford Still (1904-1980) was among the first generation of abstract expressionist artists who developed a new and powerful approach to painting in the years during and immediately after World War II. The Museum’s collection represents more than 93% of the artist’s lifetime output. As the steward of Still’s art and legacy, the Museum’s mission is to preserve, exhibit, study, and foster engagement with its unique collections; generate outstanding exhibitions, scholarly research, educational and other cross-disciplinary programs that broaden the definition of a “single-artist” museum; and be a gathering place for the exploration of innovation and individual artistic endeavor. Connect with the Clyfford Still Museum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or at clyffordstillmuseum.org.
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