Current Exhibition

Open This End: Contemporary Art from Collection of Blake Byrne

Organized and Sponsored by The Skylark Foundation
Joseph R. Wolin, Senior Curator

Showing from September 8—December 11, 2016

About the Show

An exhibition of both iconic and lesser-known works from thirty-five of the most significant and compelling artists of the last fifty years, Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne will trace a number of intertwined narratives in the history of recent art, from the 1960s to the present. The exhibition’s title comes from a 1962 painting by Andy Warhol, the earliest work in the show, and frames the exhibition as a present to be unpacked, a surprise that audiences will delight in discovering.

Many of the narratives the exhibition traces began in the 1960s. Pop Art (represented by Warhol and Ed Ruscha), Conceptual Art (by Ruscha, John Baldessari, and Bruce Nauman), and Minimalism (by Agnes Martin and Tony Smith), for example, gave rise to the Pictures Generation art of Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler, and Sherrie Levine, as well as to later practices, such as those of Rita McBride and Christopher Williams. The German variant of Pop Art put forth by Gerhard Richter and Sigmar Polke may be seen as a forerunner to the paintings of European artists Martin Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Marlene Dumas, and Luc Tuymans. The body-oriented performance art of Vito Acconci and Paul McCarthy finds echoes not only in McCarthy’s later work, but also in the psychologically inflected art of Mike Kelley, Martin Kersels, and Douglas Gordon.

Drawing on the same legacies from the 1960s and ’70s, as well as important antecedents such as the work of David Hammons, artists beginning in the 1990s focused on the personal as political. The work of Glenn Ligon, Mark Bradford, Paul Pfeiffer, Kehinde Wiley, and Wangechi Mutu touches upon issues of race, culture, and identity, including African-American identity. The art of Robert Gober, Jack Pierson, and Nicole Eisenman addresses sexuality, loss, and the vulnerable queer body in the age of AIDS. Figurative sculptors such as Juan Muñoz, Thomas Houseago, and MatthewMonahan also picture the body, subject to various deformations, both artistic and psychological.

Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne aims to present contemporary art as a compelling subject, rich in connections to, and considerations of, history, culture, politics, and human subjectivity. A dense and heady weave of interconnected themes, formal affinities, and historical alignments, the works in this exhibition provide both visual and intellectual delights.

A video installation by acclaimed director Steve McQueen from this exhibition is currently on view at the Portland Art Museum. 

Works in the Exhibition 

Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne includes 78 works by 38 artists in painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, video, installation, and mixed mediums. Thirty-six of the works are partial and promised gifts from Blake Byrne to The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and six works are partial and promised gifts to The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.


Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne is accompanied by a 120-page catalog that includes illustrations of all the works in the exhibition. Contributors to the catalog are: Bruce Kogut, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics at Columbia Business School; Kris Paulson, Assistant Professor of Film, Video, and New Media in the History of Art Department and Film Studies Program at The Ohio State University; Richard J. Powell, Dean of the Humanities and the John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art & Art History at Duke University; Kimerly Rorschach, Director of the Seattle Art Museum and former Director of The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Barbara Schwan, Executive Director of The Skylark Foundation; and Joseph R. Wolin, senior curator of the exhibition. 

The Skylark Foundation 

Based in Los Angeles, The Skylark Foundation is committed to encouraging innovation, striving for social justice, and supporting diversity. It awards grants to organizations or projects that translate these values into strategically designed and executed activities.

From 2013 to 2017, The Skylark Foundation’s focus is the exhibition Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne. It is hoped that this project will inspire others to share their art collections for educational purposes and start an ongoing dialogue about art collecting, philanthropy, and ethics. 

Senior Curator 

Joseph R. Wolin is an independent curator and art critic in New York. Since 1994, he has curated twenty-six exhibitions, including The Royal Art Lodge: Ask the Dust, which traveled to six venues in four countries, ending at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in 2005; and Tom Molloy at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in 2010. He holds an MA in art history from Columbia University and is a frequent contributor to Time Out New York. He is an adjunct professor at Parsons The New School for Design and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and his experience teaching in both graduate MFA programs and undergraduate art history programs has guided his selection of the works and the conception of the exhibition.