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Explore radical innovations in painting that testify to a pursuit of freedom and expression in the midst of a period marked by social and political unrest in the United States and abroad. From Alma Thomas’s mosaic-like painting of flowers to Sam Gilliam’s suspended, draped canvas, these works speak to an upending of barriers—be they artistic, ideological, racial, or rooted in gender stereotypes. By rethinking and systematically probing conventions associated with the painted canvas, these works ultimately speak to the desire for a deeper, more fundamental connection to nature, the body, movement, and light.

Form, color, and texture combine to create an elegant sense of movement and effortless equilibrium in Dorothea Rockburne's Robe Series, The Descent. This work is an example of the artist's carefully calibrated, mathematically derived constructions made of geometrical shapes and painted in colors that create a sense of vibrancy. Color and form are intimately linked for Rockburne, who once explained, "I look at the shapes until I see them in color." This construction is based on Rockburne's study of folds of clothing on figures in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Italian paintings.

Robe Series: The Descent, 1976. Dorothea Rockburne

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