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clyfford still | museum
A woman leans over closer to a painting hanging on a rack in painting storage
Guest curator Valerie Hellstein in painting storage, photo by Fireside Production

Clyfford Still Museum explores the artist’s community in a new guest-curated exhibition, Dialogue and Defiance: Clyfford Still and the Abstract Expressionists

Denver, CO – May 1, 2024 – The Clyfford Still Museum (CSM) will open Dialogue and Defiance: Clyfford Still and the Abstract Expressionists, guest curated by scholar Valerie Hellstein, on May 10 for Museum members and May 11 for the public.

The exhibition considers the nuanced ways Clyfford Still was part of an artists’ community in the late 1940s and early 1950s, despite his protestations. The fiercely independent Still disdained the commercialized art world and did not think highly of artists who participated. In line with these views, Still withdrew his paintings from the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951. The following year, however, he surprised many by joining the 15 Americans group show at the Museum of Modern Art, curated by Dorothy Miller. He agreed because viewers could experience his paintings in a separate room but still see them within the context of mid century American painting.

According to Hellstein, even with his turn away from the commercial art world, he remained in dialogue with his contemporaries, and they discussed and explored many of the same questions and ideas.

“When we think of abstract expressionists, we often think of them as isolated geniuses, working alone in their studios—and I don’t want to say there’s no artistic genius—but it doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” said Hellstein. “Trying to put Still in a visual dialogue with his fellow contemporary artists goes a long way toward showing that he wasn’t working in isolation. I hope viewers walking through the galleries get a sense of Still within his community.”

The artworks, exhibition text, interactive features in the digital guide, and archival displays highlight key conversations within Still’s community and their impacts on his art. The CSM mobile guide in the free Bloomberg Connects arts and culture app will include Hellstein’s insights on Still’s relationships and contemporaries, an archival audio recording of Still, and a reenactment of an excerpt from an artists’ panel performed by Buntport Theater actors.

Dialogue and Defiance follows a chronological display of Still’s works in the Museum’s first four galleries. The exhibition will run from May 10, 2024, to January 12, 2025. The Museum will offer various programs and events during the exhibition. Visit clyffordstillmuseum.org/events for a schedule of upcoming programs.

About Guest Curator Valerie Hellstein

A woman wearing a green shirt and blue jacket smiles and stands in front of an abstract light blue gray painting on a concrete wall
Valerie Hellstein, photo by Fireside Production

Dialogue and Defiance guest curator and scholar Valerie Hellstein has published extensively and has spoken on various aspects of Abstract Expressionism for over fifteen years. She received a Ph.D. in art history from Stony Brook University and taught modern and contemporary art to college students and adult learners for more than ten years. Hellstein also worked as a researcher at the Willem de Kooning Foundation in New York. Before becoming the managing editor at the Denver Art Museum, she taught courses at the University of Denver and Colorado State University and led tours at the Clyfford Still Museum. Hellstein is writing a book on Abstract Expressionism and The Club, a New York City loft where artists, intellectuals, critics, poets, and musicians gathered to discuss and debate ideas.

About the Clyfford Still Museum
Designed by Allied Works Architecture to display the 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 FacebookTwitterInstagramTikTokYouTube, or at clyffordstillmuseum.org.

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