Mark Makers: The Language of Abstraction

January 31 - May 9, 2021

Creating art is in many ways about making marks: brushstrokes on canvas, ink or graphite dashes on paper, lines incised on a sheet of copper or drawn on a lithographic stone. The postwar decades in American art witnessed the primacy of mark making in the calligraphic gestures of Abstract Expressionism, the calculated grids of the Minimalists, and the dizzying striations of Op art. For many artists coming of age in the mid- to late twentieth century, the process or act of making marks was as integral a component of the final work of art as recognizable content or perceived meaning. Abstract artist Warren Rohrer, who confirmed his vocation as a painter at Penn State in the 1950s, put it this way: “My subject is the STROKE.”


Drawn largely from the Palmer Museum of Art’s permanent collection and the rich collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this exhibition brought together works by a number of notable mark makers, including painter Alma Thomas, who, like Rohrer, drew inspiration from the natural world even as she moved beyond representational subject matter. Also on view were works on paper by Leonard Nelson, Mark Tobey, Henry Pearson, and Alan Gussow, as well as recent works by contemporary artists Mary Judge and Jo Margolis.


The presentation of Mark Makers: The Language of Abstraction was one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multiyear, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

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