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Weldon Kees exhibition will open at the UI Museum of Art Aug. 22

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Museum of Art will exhibit more than 30 paintings and collages by Weldon Kees, an American avant-garde artist of the 1940s and '50s, in the museum's Carver Gallery Aug. 22 through Oct. 25.

The exhibition, "Weldon Kees and the Arts at Mid-Century," will be presented in collaboration with the University of Nebraska's Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden. This will be the first exhibition of Kees' visual art works since his disappearance and presumed death in 1955.

Daniel A. Siedell, curator of the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture, will present a lecture on Kees followed by a gallery tour as part of the UI Museum of Art's Perspectives series at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23.

Best known today as a poet, Kees was also an important art critic and painter, among other interests. His artistic pursuits ranged widely, including work in experimental film, art photography, fiction, and the composing and performing of jazz and folk music. Although he was a major figure in both the mid-century New York and San Francisco avant-garde scenes, Kees' involvement in such a diverse range of artistic pursuits lead historians to dismiss him as a "dabbler" who failed to harness his considerable creative energies.

However, Siedell writes: "Kees' use of Surrealistic imagery and process is also combined with a literary sensitivity that is unique in New York at the mid-century and is made manifest in his utilization of calligraphic forms. Far from being the amateurish meanderings of a restless poet, Kees' paintings and collages are historically significant and aesthetically important manifestations of a serious artist."

From 1948 through the early 1950s, Kees exhibited his paintings and collages in several solo exhibitions and in important group shows alongside the works of notable abstract expressionists including Wilhelm de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Philip Guston. He succeeded Clement Greenberg as the art critic of The Nation and also participated in the well known 1949 Studio 35 meeting, which was moderated by Alfred H. Barr of the Museum on Modern Art.

This exhibition was organized by Seidell; Pamela White Trimpe, assistant director and curator of painting and sculpture at the UI Museum of Art; and Stephen Foster, UI professor of art history at the UI.

The UI Museum of Art, located on North Riverside Drive in Iowa City, is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.

M.C. Ginsberg Objects of Art, Inc. of Iowa City is the corporate sponsor for the 1998-99 Perspectives series at the UI Museum of Art, through the University of Iowa Foundation.

8/14/98