Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper is the first exhibition ever devoted exclusively to Still’s graphic art. This exhibition of some 240 works and related programs will reveal the centrality of drawing within Still’s life-long creative process and challenge prevailing assumptions about Still’s place in art history. More broadly, this project will offer a unique opportunity for the public to view a vital, missing element in our understanding of abstract expressionism and a key period in America’s cultural history.
The sheer volume (more than 2,300) and variety of Still’s works on paper attest to the significant role draftsmanship played in his art, particularly when compared to his abstract expressionist contemporaries. Still explored graphite, charcoal, pastel, crayon, pen and ink, oil paint, gouache, and tempera, as well as lithography, etching, woodcut, and silkscreen. The exhibition will explicate the interplay between his drawings and paintings. In some cases, paintings grew directly out of sketches or more finished drawings. In others, the opposite was true, underscoring that his works on paper were not preparatory steps but fully realized pieces in themselves.
This exhibition will also draw on the extensive Clyfford Still Archives housed at CSM. For example, small technical sketches of shipbuilding plans from Still’s time working in the war industries are included, which no doubt played a role in the abstracted, mechanistic forms found in many of his drawings and oil works from the early 1940s. Arranged chronologically, the exhibition layout will offer large bodies of work in specific media, such as a significant group of oils on paper made between 1943 and 1944 and selections from the more than 1,200 pastels that Still created in the final ten years of his life.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website