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Power Boothe: Out of Order, New Britain Museum of American Art

Exhibited November - December 2011

February 23, 2011 by curatorialintern

In Grace with Chance, 1989. Power Boothe (b. 1945). Oil on Canvas, 72 x 72 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of the artist (2010.17)

Although he will continue to teach, former Dean of the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford Power Boothe now has the chance to commit all his efforts to painting, as his job only allowed him a few weeks of artistic focus in the summer. The exhibit Power Boothe: Out of Order at the New Britain Museum of American Art through April 10, 2011, gives us a glimpse of his work from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s.Although he is originally from Texas, Boothe grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and received his BA and Honorary Doctor of Arts from Colorado College. In the late 1960s, he became a fellow at the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program. Not only does he paint, Boothe is well known for his accomplishments as a set designer for theater, dance, and video, designing sets for Obie Award-winning productions. In the late 80s to mid 90s, he was a lecturer and educator a Princeton, and in 2001 he became the Dean of the Hartford Art School. Boothe has had eighteen solo exhibitions in New York, and his work is presented in museums such as the Guggenheim, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the British Museum. Boothe began work as a figural artist and turned to abstraction in the 1960s to become what some might call a “rogue minimalist,” as he did not work exactly to the grid. The intensity of detail seen in works such as In Grace With Chance and Extension is what makes his work so fascinating. Boothe’s paintings reveal essential movements of the universe and explore his own experiences. Boothe’s artworks are made up of vertical, diagonal, or horizontal strokes that produce a rhythm, which acts as the organizing force in an abstract flow. Boothe is interested in what transpires when a line is interrupted or when it intersects with another line; this intersection or almost intersection creates an event and feeling. Variations in mood set him apart from the other minimalists.

Extenstion, 1994. Power Boothe (b. 1945). Oil on canvas, 72 x 72 in. Collection of the artist.

Power Boothe: Out of Order presents paintings that concentrate on intricate feelings and ideas through colors and shapes that are not usually concurrent. When observing his paintings, one must consider the title and the reaction that the piece produces. These large abstract works are all 6-by-6 foot square canvases of patterns, rhythms, and distinctions created by layers of paint. Since they are all hung in one gallery, the exhibition can be viewed without distraction, allowing the works to speak to each other and the viewer through the juxtaposition of vibrant patterns. Although each work evokes a different feeling, they are all the product of a rigorous process that involves layers upon layers of paint on canvas, completed over a limited time.

The title of the show speaks to a progression that addresses the likelihood of unexpected results generated by the human hand. Interestingly, many of the paintings are still in his possession. Four are from his studio, while In Grace With Chance was recently donated to the Museum, and the other is on loan from a private collector.

What do you think of Boothe’s work? A recent review likened the exhibition to “a room full of Rothkos”-do you agree? Why or why not? Do you like the order and disorder of his work?

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