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Throwback Thursday: Home to Modern Genius

Some of the modern art masterpieces that graced the Art Museum in its early years. Left to right, Richard Stankiewicz, Untitled, 1978; Robert Rauschenberg, Booster¸ 1967; and Louise Nevelson, White Columns (two sections from Dawn’s Wedding Feast), 1959. (Photos courtesy of University Art Museum) 

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 9, 2017) — Poor John D. Rockefeller Jr. The noted financier had a spring-to-fall home he loved in Colonial Williamsburg, but his wife populated many of the rooms with native art, which he hated. Then his son Nelson came along with a passion for modern art, acquiring several pieces for the house. John D. hated modern art too. The old man retreated to his den, happy amid his 18th and 19th century portraits and landscapes.

Luckily for him, son Nelson, who became a four-term NYS governor and U.S. Vice President, found many other outlets to display his vast modern art collection, such as the Museum of Modern Art and Rockefeller Center, and to create new spaces for the exhibition of established major works and newer works of modern art.

Such a space was UAlbany’s University Art Gallery, now the University Art Museum, enjoying its 50th anniversary with the exhibition When We Were Young: Rethinking Abstraction from the University at Albany Art Collection (1967-present).

Rockefeller himself was there to dedicate the gallery on Oct. 5, 1967. Journeying back to the Museum's first 15 years, we find important modern artists represented by major exhibitions, including those represented by the pieces in the photos above:

UAlbany Richard Stankiewicz

In the East Garden in 1976, Sculptor Richard Stankiewicz and gallery Director Nancy Liddle, with another of works titled 'Untitled.'

  • October 6-November 18, 1979: The Sculpture of Richard Stankiewicz 1953-1979. Stankiewicz was an abstract expressionist and assemblage artist who worked primarily with metal.
  • July 1-August 14, 1970: Robert Rauschenberg Graphics. Rauschenberg was a crucial figure in the transition from Abstract Expressionism to later modern movements due to his radical blending of materials and methods.
  • October 5 – November 17, 1967: Paintings and Sculpture from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Collection. The very first exhibition included works by Louise Nevelson, an American sculptor known for her monumental, monochromatic, wooden wall pieces and outdoor sculptures.

“From its beginning, the University Museum played an important role in contextualizing how contemporary art evolves into art history and in turn generates the development of new forms and alternate readings of existing knowledge. The exhibiting of works by Stankiewicz, Nevelson and Rauschenberg dramatically signaled the Museum’s philosophy and aspirations,” said Corinna Ripps Schaming, curator and interim director.

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