Old artwork gets refreshed

Online Poster

By Sabrina Willmer

On Friday night, Krannert Art Museum reintroduced the public to Hedda Sterne, an artist who achieved national recognition in the 1940s and ’50s, but quickly faded from historical memory. In an attempt to reincarnate her work, Krannert is displaying close to 100 works that trace Sterne’s artistic career, beginning with drawings exhibited with the surrealists in Paris in the late 1930s and ending with recent works completed in 2004.

The exhibit includes her late 1940s anthropographs, machines with human-like characteristic that portray human frailty. While painting machines, Sterne acquired an interest in motion, which led into her “New York, New York” and “Spray Roads” series. In the 1960s, Sterne switched to Vertical-Horizontals, which involved combining the opposing forces of motion and flux within a vertical format. Her recent drawings combine the various periods of her art and mirror the flux of the world. Sterne, who attempts to lose her identity in her work, views the act of drawing as submissive.

“With time I have learned to lose my identity while drawing and to act simply like a conduit, permitting visions that want to take shape to do so,” Sterne said, which was also displayed in the exhibit. She dates each of her later works to create a “sense of being.”

Sterne’s evolutionary and constantly changing style distinguishes her artwork, said curator Sarah Eckhardt. “She was a very important artist, especially in the 1940s and ’50s. “(Her work) helps give a better understanding of that period of work.

Eckhardt, a former art student and close friend of Sterne, said she loves how Sterne provides through her work a “unique vision of things around her.”

“She (Sterne) is a fascinating woman who continues to have a creative life,” said Kathleen Harleman, museum director. “She spent her life responding in very different ways to different stimuli,” she said.

Sterne, who is most noted for her presence as the only woman in the famous 1951 photo of the “Irascibles,” the leading abstract expressionists of the time, exhibited her artwork alongside Jackson Pollock, William de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Theodore Stamos. The Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago acquired her work in the 1950s and ’60s.

Sterne’s disappearance from public consciousness could be attributed to her mutable style, gender issues and the choice not to market her work, Eckhardt said.

Diane Schumacher, director of marketing, said most of the works for the exhibit came from Sterne’s private collection, some never before viewed by the public.

“The idea of the show was conceived by former museum director Josef Helfenstein when he discovered Hedda Sterne’s abstract oil painting ‘Machine 5’ in the museum’s permanent collection,” Schumacher said.

The exhibit, “Uninterrupted Flux: Hedda Sterne, A Retrospective,” will remain open until March 26.