Ree Morton retrospective brings influential artist to a new generation

Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison

August 10 – January 5, 2020

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY (July 24, 2019) — The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College presents Ree Morton: The Plant That Heals May Also Poison, a major retrospective of the short but prolific career of pioneering artist Ree Morton. The exhibition opens August 10 and will be on view through January 5, 2020.

From her Tyler School of Art graduation in 1970 to her untimely death in 1977, the exhibition features significant works, including drawings, sculptures, paintings, and installations. Steeped in autobiographical references and memories, the exhibition provides a unique opportunity to connect to a ground-breaking artist whose radical infusion of narrative, color, craft, theatrical imagery, and humor expanded the boundaries of the post-minimalist movement she was rooted in, influencing younger generations of artists and forging a feminist legacy.

The Plant That Heals May Also Poison continues the Tang’s tradition of exploring the practice of modern and contemporary artists whose work defies conventional categorization and has been underrepresented. Recent exhibitions have focused on artists such as Terry Adkins, Nancy Grossman, Corita Kent, Nicholas Krushenick, Dona Nelson, and Alma Thomas.

Born in 1936 and 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 took art classes at the University of Rhode Island and earned a BFA in 1968. Morton spent several years in Philadelphia after earning an MFA in 1970 from the Tyler School of Art at the age of 33, later moving to New York. She split her time between teaching classes at the Philadelphia College of Art and exhibiting alongside artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark, Scott Burton, Jacqueline Winsor, Bill Bollinger, and Barbara Zucker, trying to make her own way as an artist. Her large-scale sculptural environments and works made with celastic, a malleable, plastic-infused fabric, quickly earned her critical acclaim and comparisons to other post-minimalist artists, such as Lynda Benglis and Eva Hesse. Morton later moved to Chicago, where she cultivated a reputation as both a leading practitioner and teacher before her tragic death in a car accident.

“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, which was on view at the ICA in fall 2018. “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.”

During her lifetime, Morton’s 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 (1973, 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).

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. The exhibition is supported by the Inchworm Fund, the Edna W. Andrade Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation, Nancy & Leonard Amoroso, Amanda & Andrew Megibow, Norma & Lawrence Reichlin, and Friends of the Tang.

About the Tang Teaching Museum

The Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College is a pioneer of interdisciplinary exploration and learning. A cultural anchor of New York’s Capital Region, the institution’s approach has become a model for university art museums across the country with exhibition programs and series that bring together the visual and performing arts with fields of study as disparate as history, astronomy, and physics. The Tang has one of the most rigorous faculty-engagement initiatives in the nation, the Mellon Seminar, and robust publication and touring exhibition initiatives that extend the institution’s reach far beyond its walls. The Tang Teaching Museum’s building, designed by architect Antoine Predock, serves as a visual metaphor for the convergence of ideas and exchange the institution catalyzes. The museum is open from noon to 5 pm on Tuesday through Sunday, with extended hours until 9 pm on Thursday, and is closed on Mondays and holidays.

Media contact
Michael Janairo
Head of Communications
Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College

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