Adaline Kent, White Hand, 1951, magnesite, Museum purchase with funds provided through prior gift of Lois Outerbridge


What's it all about?

In her sculptures, drawings, and paintings, Bay Area artist Adaline Kent (1900-1957) distilled basic forms from nature, creating works that tap the sources of mankind’s earliest rites and artifacts. A classical formalist, she refined the shapes of rocks, plants, and shells to simple geometric forms, sometimes ornamenting them with stripes and bands of color. Evocative of vessels and votives from Cycladic, Minoan, and Pre-Columbian cultures, her sculptures reveal a deep connection to the physical world. Works extrapolated from the human form emulate figures in motion or physical gestures. Her drawings are abstract landscapes featuring iconic symbols taken from nature and seemingly animated by gravity, water, and wind.

Although not widely known today, Kent’s works were featured in key 1940s and 50s exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Sao Paulo Bienal.

This exhibition, the first retrospective to occur since the 1958 Memorial Exhibition of her works at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, will substantiate Kent’s achievement as one of mid-century America’s most innovative sculptors. A selection of her rarely seen works on paper and paintings on Hydrocal will position her works with abstract works sprung from natural imagery by other American mid-century artists such as Isamu Noguchi, Arshile Gorky and Roberto Matta.

The exhibition is co-organized by Laguna Art Museum and the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), and co-curated by Michael Duncan, independent curator, and Apsara DiQuinzio, Senior Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and Phyllis C. Wattis Matrix Curator (BAMPFA). It is accompanied by a publication with essays by Michael Duncan and Apsara DiQuinzio, and selections from Adaline Kent’s writings. It will be on view at Laguna Art Museum from October 11, 2020, through January 10, 2021, and at BAMPFA from February 10 through June 28, 2021.

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