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clyfford still | museum
A golden yellow field rises from the bottom edge and ends a little more than halfway up the canvas in a jagged, uneven line running from left edge over to the right edge. A heavy black field rests above the yellow field and runs from the top edge down to the jagged line dividing the two fields of color. Several areas of unpainted canvas have been left along this line. A small area along the top center edge has also been left unpainted, and an irregular cobalt blue form dangles from this area down into the black field at top center. Bright yellow vertical streaks shoot like a jolt through the golden yellow field from the bottom edge up to the jagged dividing line.
Clyfford Still, PH-950, 1950 (detail). Oil on canvas, 91 1/4 x 68 1/4 in. Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, CO. © City and County of Denver / ARS, NY

Dialogue and Defiance: Clyfford Still and the Abstract Expressionists

MAY 10, 2024–JAN 12, 2025

CSM Member Opening Day – May 10
Public Opening Day – May 11

Guest Curated by Valerie Hellstein

Clyfford Still withdrew his paintings from the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951, refusing to participate in a market prioritizing the fame of an artist and the price of their artworks. The following year, he surprised many by agreeing to participate in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art. His rationale for doing so was because the curator, Dorothy Miller, agreed to show Still’s works together in their own gallery. As Still saw it, his work could be viewed on its own terms and not in direct comparison to other artists—but visitors could still see the scope of American painting in the mid-century. Even with his turn away from the art world, Still saw himself participating in something larger and remained in dialogue with his contemporaries.

This exhibition considers the nuanced ways in which Clyfford Still was part of an artists’ community in the late 1940s and early 1950s, despite his protestations to the contrary, and how his paintings, through their scale and composition, promote ideas of community.

About 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

Valerie Hellstein is a scholar of Abstract Expressionism, and is writing a book on Abstract Expressionism and “The Club,” a New York City loft where artists, intellectuals, critics, poets, and musicians gathered to present ideas, debate, listen, and share their work. Hellstein has written essays and articles and given talks on various aspects of Abstract Expressionism for over fifteen years. She has a PhD in art history from Stony Brook University, and for a decade she taught modern and contemporary art to college students and adult learners. She also worked for a time 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 CSU and led weekly tours at the Clyfford Still Museum.

Collection Highlights

Collection Highlights will be on view in galleries 1–4 and Dialogue and Defiance will begin in Gallery 5.