Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison

Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison surveys the short but prolific career of artist Ree Morton (1936–1977). Morton worked in several mediums, including drawing, sculpture, and painting, as well as installation art, of which she is considered a notable early practitioner. Originally from Ossining, New York, Helen Marie (“Ree”) Reilly studied nursing at Skidmore College from 1953 to 1956 and left the college when she married Ted Morton, a naval officer. They had three children by the time Morton was 25. Around 1966, she started taking art classes at the University of Rhode Island, later moving with her children to Pennsylvania to study at the Tyler School of Art. She became increasingly focused on her artistic career, and in the early 70s, she moved to New York and participated in the feminist and post-minimalist art movements. She started making large-scale sculptural environments and working with celastic—a plastic-infused fabric that, when combined with a solvent, can be easily shaped until it dries and hardens. By 1977, the year of her untimely death, she had produced a remarkable body of work that has influenced generations of artists but has remained widely under-recognized.

“A poetic approach to language and symbolism progressively distanced her work from easy categorization,” says Kate Kraczon, Laporte Associate Curator at The Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia and curator of the exhibition. “The inclusion of personal narrative—through literary, philosophical, and autobiographical references—and set of bold color and theatrical imagery infused her objects with sly humor and a concern with the decorative, generating a feminist legacy increasingly appreciated in retrospect. Morton’s conceptually rigorous work can seem esoteric at times, yet her intention is ultimately one of generosity towards the viewer, and it is in this spirit of generosity, playfulness, and joy that this exhibition hopes to expand.”

Morton received her BFA from the University of Rhode Island in 1968 and an MFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University in 1970. During her lifetime, her work was exhibited at Artists Space, New York (1973); the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1974); and the South Street Seaport Museum, New York (1975). She was twice included in the Whitney Biennial, once in 1973 and again in 1977. She has since had retrospectives at the New Museum, New York (1980); the Generali Foundation, Vienna (2008); the Drawing Center, New York (2009); and the Reina Sofia, Madrid (2015).

Exhibition Name
Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison
Exhibition Type
Solo Exhibitions
Wachenheim Gallery
Aug 10, 2019 - Jan 5, 2020
Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison is curated by Kate Kraczon, Laporte Associate Curator at The Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, and organized for the Tang Teaching Museum by Dayton Director Ian Berry.
Ree Morton
Student Staff
E.B. Sciales
2018-19 Eleanor Linder Winter Endowed Intern, Exhibitions Assistant, Tang Guide, Student Advisory Council
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