Ree Morton (1936 – 1977) Selected Works 1968 - 1972
“It’s official! A major museum exhibition, part of another, and a variegated flock of gallery shows have certified what many have suspected, that there is a brand-new Movement in our midst.” Peter Schjeldahl, prominent art critic in those days (and still today), let himself get carried away in 1969 with this enthusiasm-laden statement (Art International, Sept. 1969).
It was articulated in connection with the exhibition “Anti Illusion: Procedures/Materials” at the Whitney Museum in New York. And he continued “....it has been visible only in glimpses – partial manifestations known, variously‚ as ‘Minimal’ (in part), ‘Process’, ‘Conceptual’, ‘Destructive’, ‘Casual’, ‘Funk’, ‘Attitude’, and ‘Earthworks.’” Marked by vehement debates over similarities and differences, with everything open and virtually nothing excluded or pre-established, this atmosphere moved and intoxicated the participants in the New York art world. And it exuded an influence, extending quite far beyond the New York scene. Certainly also in large part because many artists and art historians – to make a living with a “teaching job” – became its ambassadors at museums, universities and art schools in distant parts of the country. Such as Robert Rohm, a sculptor, and Marcia Tucker, art historian and curator.
Ree Morton encountered Rohm and Tucker in 1966 at the Rhode Island School of Design where she attended art courses. Both instructors – who became her lifelong friends – provided her with access to a new way of life that was occupied equally by mind and psyche, emotion and action, and would completely shift the course of her life. A housewife and mother of two daughters and a son, she had been married to the Navy officer Ted Morton since 1956. In 1960, she learned about drawing courses offered at the Jacksonville Museum through a commercial on the radio, prior to which art and the practice of art had been a non-existent option in the young woman’s life. Training to become a nurse demarcated her intellectual horizon. Art and literature offered a new identity and it was a rare opportunity, allowing this unformed personality to take shape in the disparately forming art scene. “I figured out that life matters, too, and that being an artist is better than being a nurse. Not bad for a girl.”
She sought further possibilities for her artistic training, such as in 1970 at the Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and moved to New York in 1972. Her marriage ended and in the remaining five years of her life, she tried to harmonize and reconcile the close relationship with her children with her fulminant relationship to art. Remarkable and impressive was the fact that the novice was never merely one of many amidst the New York art scene. Her presence, vitality, enthusiasm and soon quite distinctive artistic profile helped forge friendships and led to exhibitions and contributions to such in museums. Quite striking and unusual was the way she quickly accumulated knowledge of demanding literature from Raymond Roussel to T.S. Eliot and made her understanding of the texts fruitful for her artistic work. Carefree and spontaneous, personal and direct, she used words and sentences, situations and topographies and transformed these into installations and drawings, into paintings and objects. She applied a nearly limited imagination in describing and designating the locations and loci for her world. The utilized materials and found objects, techniques and pictorial means provided space for broad sweeping associations.
On April 30, 1977, Ree Morton lost her life in a car accident. Our exhibition constitutes the third presentation of her work in our gallery, this time with early works from 1968-1972.
We thank Alexander & Bonin, NY, and the Estate of Ree Morton for their help and cooperation.
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