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Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH 03755

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The Expanding Grid

April 7 through August 26, 2012

Eva Hesse, Untitled

Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1964, opaque and transparent watercolor, pen and black ink, felt-tip marker, and crayon on wove paper. Purchased through gifts from the Lathrop Fellows; W.2004.1
© Estate of Eva Hesse / Hauser & Worth, London and Zurich

This installation, which has been designed by members of the Class of 2012, explores the important legacy of cubism and other forms of grid-based abstraction. The structural underpinnings of the pioneering art works that Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque made in the 1910s allowed them to negate the perspectival illusionism of naturalistic representation. Prior to cubism, the grid had played a subordinate role in art-making and was seen as something to be departed from, like a framework, armature, or measuring device, rather than as a subject in itself. In Braque’s famous 1911 etching Fox, named after Austin Fox’s English bar near the Gare St. Lazare in Paris, the linear surface organization no longer registers an underlying structure but instead uses a grid-based design to create an allover composition. Subsequent artists, such as Fritz Glarner and Mark Rothko, refined and developed the grid-like scaffolding of cubism to produce an austere and impersonal form of abstract art, in which flatness and order were of paramount importance.

Their work would in turn inform the grid systems, cubes, and modular structures of minimalism, one of the most important art movements to emerge in the 1960s. By the end of that decade a new generation of artists, including Lee Bontecou, Chuck Close, and Eva Hesse, had begun to negatively associate the rigid geometry of modernist abstraction with male dominance and political authoritarianism. These artists expanded and, in some cases, exploded the modernist grid to create works of art that embraced political content, figuration, narrative, and subjectivity. Even an artist like Agnes Martin, whose work at first glance appears to possess the stark simplicity and carefully plotted exactitude that one associates with minimalism, has described herself as an expressionist. Upon closer inspection, it is clear that the inspiration for her subtle and highly refined penciled grid drawings of the 1960s is emotional, rather than structural, as color gradually emerges and the rhythm of bold and fragile lines begins to pulse in a manner that Martin has compared to singing. Contemporary artists, such as Jennifer Bartlett and Terry Winters, continue to explore the temporal and spatial possibilities of grid-based art in works that challenge and revitalize the invented language of abstraction and the modernist grid.

Slideshow: The Installation

Director Michael Taylor works with Dartmouth students and Hood staff to curate and install The Expanding Grid. Photos by Alison Palizzolo, Public Relations Assistant.

Exhibition Panoramas

Click here to view gallery panoramas of The Expanding Grid.

Related Events

14 April, Saturday, 1:30–3:00 P.M.
Drawing on the Grid
Ever copy a picture using a grid? Many artists have drawn inspiration from this simple framework for drawing and painting. Come and explore the work of several great artists and then compose your own work of art using a grid in the studio. For children ages 9–12. Space is limited. Call (603) 646-1469 by April 10 to register.


18 April, Wednesday, 6:30–8:30 P.M.
Second-floor galleries
Art in a Box: Marcel Duchamp and the Expanding Grid
In this discussion-based workshop, we'll explore two exhibitions of contemporary art. One focuses on Marcel Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise, a "portable museum" that allowed him to carry around his life's work in a traveling box. The other explores the legacy of cubism and other forms of grid-based abstraction. In the studio, we'll experiment with grids and boxes as a compositional structure for art making. No previous art experience necessary. Space is limited. Please call (603) 646-1469 by April 16 to register.


Last Updated: 5/14/12