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Arts & Culture

Robert Motherwell: A Centenary Exhibition

Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte is getting ready to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of famed American artist Robert Motherwell. He would have been 100 this year. 

WFAE’s Sarah Delia got a preview of the exhibit which is open to the public Saturday and has this report.

Robert Motherwell was a prominent member of the Abstract Expressionist Movement. If you don’t know his name, you probably know the other artists who ran in his circle.

"Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, and of course everyone knows Jackson Pollock. Motherwell was known as the intellectual of this group, he was the writer for the group, the apologist for the group," says gallery owner Jerald Melberg.

Melberg’s gallery is packed with about 80 pieces that span over five decades of Motherwell's career. Some of these pieces come directly from Motherwell's estate like the Lyric Suite series he created in 1965

The images were made on rice paper Motherwell randomly bought at a store. Melberg says he let the paper sit for months before deciding what to do with them.

"One day it struck him. He should just make these images without editing...just let them happen. So he would take a number of these pieces of rice paper and put them on the floor in his studio and bend over them with a bucket of ink and a brush and almost make them subconsciously," says Melberg.

A controlled accident, the Abstract Expressionists liked to say. 

There’s a reason the series got the name Lyric Suite. It came from orchestral music he was listening to at the time written by Alban Berg. 

Motherwell created about 560 of these ink images, but he stopped after his dear friend acclaimed sculptor David Smith died unexpectedly in a car crash.

Melberg says he understands how abstract art like this can be intimidating, there is no traditional subject matter or recognizable images. But he says, he works hard to make the gallery welcoming for everyone…prospective buyers and people who are just curious. 

"My hope would be that they can understand works of art don’t have to have subject and that they can still have power and beauty and they see their world in a little different manner or way than they did before they came in," says Melberg.

The exhibit opens this Saturday and will run through August 29th.