Franz Kline: Coal and Steel, a major exhibit at the Allentown Art Museum curated by Robert S. Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History, has received significant coverage in the media.
Reviews and interviews have appeared in ArtDaily, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Morning Call, WFMZ TV Channel 69 (Lehigh Valley), and WVIA-FM radio (Wilkes-Barre, Pa.), among others. A review is scheduled to appear in the March edition of ARTnews.
The exhibit, which runs through Jan. 13, features 64 works by the world-renowned painter Kline, including many rarely or never seen by the public. Mattison authored the exhibition’s 112-page catalogue, which features color images and descriptions of the artwork and chronicles the five key phases of Kline’s career.
After its run in Allentown, the exhibit will travel to the Sidney Mishkin Gallery of Baruch College, City University of New York from Feb. 8-March 5, with an opening reception 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 7.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Kline moved in childhood to Lehighton, Pa., during the height of anthracite mining. Later, he became a major figure of the American Abstract Expressionist movement, which emerged in the 1940s and ’50s and was centered in New York City.
Kline’s early work pays homage to the coal regions of his childhood home and depicts speeding trains powered by anthracite, bridges, and raw industrial scenes. In New York, he painted on the “edge” of the city, capturing the moody character of empty squares, skeletal buildings, and the abandoned Third Avenue El.
In Coal and Steel, Mattison makes the case that around 1950, when Kline developed the large-scale black-and-white abstract paintings for which he became internationally famous, he was channeling memories of the trestles, locomotives, and coal breakers of his youth. These forms symbolized for him the force of the modern industrial age and informed his contribution to the New York School of painting.
Mattison has curated and written catalogues for numerous exhibitions across the country and in Europe. This is his fourth exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum. He curated a retrospective of Edward Weston in 2003, an Andy Warhol show in 2006, and a retrospective of the work of Stephen Antonakos in 2008.
Abstract Expressionism, the first American art movement of international importance, is one of Mattison’s academic specialties. He has written five books focusing on the movement or artists influenced by it, including Arshile Gorky: Works, Writings; Robert Rauschenberg: Breaking Boundaries; Masterworks: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, Ellsworth Kelly, and Frank Stella in the Robert and Jay Meyerhoff Collection; Grace Hartigan: A Painter’s World; and Robert Motherwell: The Formative Years.
In addition to teaching on this period in his classes, he has advised several students in their research. Art and English graduate Elenie Chung ’12 worked with Mattison as an EXCEL Scholar on the Kline project. The College has honored Mattison with the Sears-Roebuck Award for superior teaching and scholarship; the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Faculty Lecture Award in recognition of excellence in teaching and scholarship; the Daniel Golden ’34 Faculty Service Award; the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award for superior teaching and scholarly contribution to his discipline; the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award; and the Mary Louise Van Artsdalen Faculty Research Award.