press release

European art between 1945 and 1975 was increasingly overshadowed in the United States by the dominating focus on Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art. However, a variety of innovative movements arose in Europe in response to the social and ethical issues that had come to the fore there in the thirties and early forties.

Comprising approximately fifteen works from the collection, with an emphasis on French and Italian artists, “Contortion and Distortion: Postwar European Art from The Menil Collection” provides a summary of the different approaches to abstraction and figuration undertaken by artists in Western Europe during a period marked by devastation and political uncertainty. Deeply influenced by philosophies such as existentialism, many artists reinvented art by directing their attention toward their immediate experiences and the physicality of their materials. Painting was dominated by lyrical, gestural, and textured abstraction—tachisme, l’art informel, Art Brut—in works that were often characterized by scarred surfaces and stunted or deformed figures of pathos. Artists such as Jean Dubuffet sought a “ground zero” for art—a place to begin anew with “anti-cultural positions”—while others such as Alberto Giacometti and Jean Fautrier sought imagery of the informel, creating abject bodies that addressed the war’s horrific realities.

Among the artists represented are some who had already largely established their reputations prior to World War II, while others reached artistic maturity in the years covered by the exhibition. Included are the works of Dubuffet, Lucio Fontana, Giacometti, and the Nouveau Realists, among others.


only in german

Contortion and Distortion: Post war European Art from The Menil Collection

mit Jean Dubuffet, Jean Fautrier, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Giacometti, u.a.