MoMA Exhibit of Gauguin’s Prints and Transfer Drawings Opens in March

NEW YORK, September 2013—The Museum of Modern Art announces Gauguin: Metamorphoses, a major exhibition focusing on Paul Gauguin's (French, 1848-1903) rare and extraordinary prints and transfer drawings, and their relationship to his major paintings and his sculptures in wood and ceramic. This is the first exhibition to highlight the significance of these exceptionally inventive works on paper within his oeuvre overall. Approximately 160 works, including some 130 works on paper and a critical selection of some 30 related paintings and sculptures, will be on view from March 8 through June 8, 2014, in The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Special Exhibition Gallery on the Museum's sixth floor. Gauguin: Metamorphoses is organized by Starr Figura, The Phyllis Ann and Walter Borten Associate Curator, with Lotte Johnson, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, The Museum of Modern Art.

Though Gauguin is best known as a pioneer of modernist painting, this exhibition showcases a lesser-known but arguably even more innovative aspect of his practice. Created in several discreet bursts of activity from 1889 until his death in 1903, these remarkable works on paper reflect Gauguin's experiments with a range of mediums, from radically "primitive" woodcuts that extend from the sculptural gouging of his carved wood reliefs, to jewel-like watercolor monotypes and large transfer drawings.

Gauguin's creative process often involved repeating and recombining key motifs from one image to another, allowing them to evolve and metamorphose over time and across mediums. Printmaking, which by definition involves transferring and multiplying images, provided him with many new and fertile possibilities for transposing his imagery. Gauguin embraced the subtly textured surfaces, nuanced colors, and accidental markings that resulted from the unusual processes that he devised, for they projected a darkly mysterious and dreamlike vision of life in the South Pacific, where he spent most of the final 12 years of his life.

In order to highlight the relationships among works across mediums in Gauguin’s oeuvre, the exhibition is organized, roughly chronologically, into a number of extended groupings of related works, brought together from many different collections—national and international, public and private. Among the most significant of these groups are sequences of several states of each of his groundbreaking series of 10 woodcuts depicting Tahitian scenes, known as the Noa Noa suite (1893-94), most of which are related to paintings and sculptures that Gauguin particularly prized, including Under the Pandanus (1891) and In Olden Times (1892); his greatest masterpiece in ceramic, Oviri (1894) and related works; and a remarkable wood sculpture, Head with Horns (1895-97) and several monumental, double-sided transfer drawings, each titled Tahitian Woman with Evil Spirit (c. 1900), that mark the culmination of his preoccupation with the recurring theme of a Tahitian woman haunted by a mysterious spirit.

Gauguin: Metamorphoses is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue by Starr Figura, with essays by Elizabeth Childs, Hal Foster, and Erika Mosier, that sheds new light on Gauguin’s creative process and highlights his influential role as a progenitor of modernism.

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