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Filling a gap at Crystal Bridges 

Arts Center lends works on paper for show about 20th century abstraction.

click to enlarge RICHARD TUTTLE: "Three Europes Drop Through, No. 1" from the Arts Center's collection is on exhibit at Crystal Bridges.
  • RICHARD TUTTLE: "Three Europes Drop Through, No. 1" from the Arts Center's collection is on exhibit at Crystal Bridges.

The year-old Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, despite its awesome holdings, has not got any works by New York School abstractionists Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell, or minimalist Donald Judd, or post-minimalist Richard Tuttle. But the Arkansas Arts Center has, and has sent them to Bentonville for the exhibition "Abstractions on Paper: From Abstract Expressionism to Postminimalism," which opened Saturday at CBM.

Crystal Bridges curators Manuela Well-Off-Man and Kevin Murphy traveled to Little Rock last year to inspect the Arts Center's stacks and select pieces that would "enhance our collection" of 20th century works and "fill in some gaps," Well-Off-Man said. She described the Arts Center's collection of works on paper as "amazing."

The pieces in the exhibition date from the 1960s through the mid-'90s with the exception of a 1924 Cubist drawing by Blanche Lazzell. Frankenthaler is represented by a small painting on paper of black lines and yellow, red and green splotches on paper from her Emerson Series (1965), Motherwell by the larger screenprint in black and white "Africa 2 from Africa Suite" (1970s), Judd by the etching "Untitled from Suite of Sixteen Etchings" (1978) and Tuttle by the drawing "Three Europes Drop Through" (1990).

The exhibition also includes what Well-Off-Man described as "very important collage" by Conrad Marca-Relli ("Multiple A," 1969) that combines metal with paper; a smashing black, yellow and blue abstract by Theodore Stamos ("Untitled," 1949), and a pen and ink wash by Dorothy Dehner, an early modernist (and the wife of sculptor David Smith) whose work Well-Off-Man described as underappreciated. A black and white screenprint by Adolph Gottlieb complements the Gottlieb in Crystal Bridges' collection, "Trinity," in which spheres of yellow, blue, red and black float over strokes of black paint. (For that matter, it also complements the Frankenthaler, with its similar palette and shapes.) Some of the work in the show is a finished product; others are sketches for larger work.

Also in the show: Work by Ilya Bolotowsky, James Brooks, Dorothy Dehner, Michael Goldberg, Al Held, Ellsworth Kelly, Lee Krasner, Sol Lewitt, Elena del Rivero, Carole Seborovsky, Sara Sosnowy, Sean Scully, Mark Tobey, Jack Tworkov and Emerson Woelffer. The show is in the narrow galleries that run outside the east wall of the 20th century gallery through April 29.

So generous is the Arts Center that it's also sent works on paper to the Laman Library in North Little Rock, where "Images from the South" runs until Jan. 20. This show includes several gems, including a charming American School charcoal "On the Mississippi," a super Benny Andrews pen and ink ("Cools"), a richly-hued Romare Bearden lithograph ("Quilting Time"), a drawing on vellum by Carroll Cloar ("Sunday in LeFlore County"), nice pinhole camera shots by Thomas Harding, an abstract pastel and charcoal on paper by Pinkney Herbert, a paint-on-paper work by Arkansas outsider artist Eddie Kendrick, works by Louise and Elsie Freund, a tiny tempera painting "Cotton Pickers, Study for Post Office Mural, Wynne, Arkansas" by Ethel Magafan, and more.

And if that weren't enough, the Arts Center is also loaning portraits for future shows at Crystal Bridges and the new Fort Smith Regional Arts Museum, which opens Jan. 20 with the exhibition "The Secrets of the Mona Lisa," 40 super-magnified, high resolution images of the show created by French engineer Pascal Cotte, and a 360-degree exact replica of the DaVinci masterpiece. Cotte will give the keynote address at an opening gala 7-9 p.m. Jan. 19 (tickets $100).

The 55th annual Delta Exhibition opens Jan. 18 in the Winthrop Rockefeller Gallery; 20 Arkansas artists are included in the regional juried exhibit. Read more in "To Do" on page 32.

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