Manierre Dawson: Engineering Abstraction

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Manierre Dawson

“Manierre Dawson: Engineering Abstraction,” an exhibition of works by a pioneer in American abstract painting, will open at the Muskegon Museum of Art on Thurs., April 30, and run through August 9. An opening reception will be held on April 30, from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Following the reception, guest speaker and West Shore Community College Professor Emeritus Sharon Bluhm will give a talk about the artist in the MMA’s Frey Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Manierre Dawson was born Chicago in 1887, and lived there until moving to Ludington, Michigan, in 1914 to run his family’s farm. He painted and sculpted during his years there, until his death in 1969.

Bluhm purchased the Dawson family home in Ludington in 1977, and still resides there. She will share the story of Dawson’s life and art based on her years of research on the artist.

Light refreshments will be served and a cash bar will be available during the reception. Event admission is free.

Manierre Dawson received an engineering degree from the Armor Institute of Technology, now the Illinois Institute of Technology, in 1909 and entered the employ of Holabird and Roche, noted for several of Chicago’s early high-rise buildings.

Dawson’s training in abstract thinking that defined, for example, underlying structural forces, compelled him to apply these skills to his picture-making, thereby creating a new sphere of art: abstract art.

His assimilation of mathematics, engineering, and the visual arts contributed to his creation of a group of groundbreaking non-representational works in early 1910, for which he is acclaimed as the world’s first artist to paint abstractly.

“Engineering Abstraction” presents 20 paintings that explore Dawson’s formative years from 1907 to 1915, taking as its main focus Afternoon II, a gift from the artist to the museum and one of the most significant works of art in the MMA’s collection. The painting is dated 1913, the year of the famed Armory Show, a pivotal event that affirmed Dawson’s modernist instincts and his “inventions.”

Lenders to the exhibition include the Illinois State Museum; the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts; the Grand Rapids Art Museum; the Manierre Dawson Gallery, West Shore Community College; and several Chicago private collections.

Following its premier at the MMA, the exhibition will be shown at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts from August 29 through Dec. 13, 2015.

The exhibition is generously underwritten by the Consumers Energy Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Author: Thomas Hawley | Executive Director of College Relations