Paintings Get the Hollywood Treatment in Student-Curated Show at Anderson

Installation view of the Anderson Collection at Stanford, including Mark Rothko's 'Pink and White Over Red,' 1957.

Installation view of the Anderson Collection at Stanford, including Mark Rothko's 'Pink and White Over Red,' 1957. (Photo: Henrik Kam)

If you’d been dragging your feet on getting to Palo Alto for the Anderson Collection’s Nick Cave exhibition (of Soundsuits, not Bad Seeds fame), now is the time. In addition to person-sized sculptures made for shimmying, the free collection displays Abstraction and the Movies March 1-17 only.

Curated by current Stanford undergrad Carlos Valladares, Abstraction and the Movies pairs works from the Anderson Collection with images and posters from films of the “classical Hollywood period,” defined as the years between the introduction of sound (1927) and the release of Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

While Valladares makes no claims that the abstract paintings directly influenced a film’s aesthetics, the similarities speak to the time and place of their making, visual proof of a zeitgeist in both high art and mass media. Valladares, who will graduate in 2018 with film and media studies and American studies degrees, is currently enrolled in a class on abstract expressionism with professor Alexander Nemerov. After multiple visits to the Anderson Collection, Valladares and Neverov approached the collection with the idea for Abstraction and the Movies.

Left: Richard Diebenkorn, 'Ocean Park #60,' 1973. Right: Elliot Gould in 'The Long Goodbye,' 1973.
Left: Richard Diebenkorn, ‘Ocean Park #60,’ 1973. Right: Elliot Gould in ‘The Long Goodbye,’ 1973. (Left: Courtesy Anderson Collection at Stanford University; Right: MGM/Photofest)

“Unexpected angles reveal fresh visions of what these works were and are,” Valladares writes in the exhibition text. He describes the selections as “openly personal,” rooted in his own love of film.

Pairings include Mark Rothko’s Pink and White Over Red (1957) and the fiery poster for Vincente Minelli’s 1958 drama Some Came Running. Behind dramatic illustrations of a young Shirley MacClaine, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, the film’s poster recalls the brushy reds and pinks of Rothko’s rectangles.

In another example, Valladares matches Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #60 (1973) — a painting full of cool blues and horizontal lines — with a still from Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973). Elliot Gould, cigarette in lips, marches purposefully toward the camera in a crisp navy suit as waves crash behind him.

Aimee Shapiro, the Anderson Collection’s director of programming and engagement, says Valladares’ pairings recontextualized these “heavy hitters” of abstraction for her. “In looking at the paintings next to some of the labels written by Carlos,” she says, “I have to say I saw the work in a different way than I had ever before — and I’ve been with these paintings for almost three years.”

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‘Abstraction and the Movies’ is on view at the Anderson Collection at Stanford University in Palo Alto through March 17, 2017. For more information visit anderson.stanford.edu.

Author

Sarah Hotchkiss

Sarah Hotchkiss is KQED Arts’ Visual Arts Editor, an artist and half of Stairwell’s. Follow her at @sahotchkiss.

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