Sigmund Abeles was a teenager living in his mother’s boarding house when he tore out his first centerfold and taped it onto the ceiling over his bed. It was a photograph of Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel that he ripped out of a Life Magazine.
Despite growing up in a time when there was no arts education in South Carolina schools (and his family’s expectations that he become a doctor) Abeles went on to become a well-respected artist whose work is in the permanent collections of The British Museum, The Whitney and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, just to name a few.
The Columbia Museum of Art’s
current exhibition, An Artist’s Eye, marks Abeles return to South Carolina. The painter was invited to rummage through the museum’s collection of more than 2000 works of art and choose the pieces that spoke to his own individual style, taste and preference.
Most exhibits center around a particular artist, a theme or a certain time period. The works chosen may be included to show the breadth of an artist’s subject matter or the development of a style over time rather than a curator’s passion for a particular painting or sculpture. That’s what makes this exhibit so compelling. Every single piece on display in the exhibit was chosen because it touched, moved or excited Abeles as an artist.
It’s fascinating to get inside Abeles’ head, wonder at his choices, and especially to read his insightful and straightforward commentary that accompanies the paintings. Filled with personal anecdotes and humor, you won’t want to skip a single one of those tiny placards beside the artworks.
The museum also is offering a companion exhibit to An Artist’s Eye titled It Figures, which features Sigmund Abeles’ work. Abeles, who was part of the New York art scene at a time when abstraction was king, bucked the trend towards conceptual art. He focused (and still focuses) on figurative, realistic work. Getting a chance to see his own artwork alongside the art that he chose for the exhibit creates a really interesting portrait of this artist and how his views and tastes have been shaped over a 50-year career.
An Artist’s Eye: A Journey through Modern and Contemporary Art with Sigmund Abeles runs now through Sunday, Oct. 23. The downtown Columbia
museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, $5 for students and free for everyone every Sunday courtesey of Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina.
for more information.