'Hot Cold Cool' Chronicles Decade of Many Changes in Art, Society

Article excerpt

The striking exhibition "Hot Cold Cool" at the Art Museum of the University of Memphis packs a punch.

The display of four fine-art print portfolios from AMUM's collection tracks a landmark decade of turmoil 1964-1973 that shook the world, transformed society and changed art itself.

Not only are there works by some of the world's most acclaimed artists, but the collections also have been largely invisible since they were acquired years ago.

We've got all of this cool stuff in our collection that hadn't been widely seen, says Leslie Luebbers, director of AMUM.

There are works by Andy Warhol, Louise Nevelson, Red Grooms, Robert Motherwell, Frank Stella and Roy Lichtenstein, among many others.

In thinking how to link the portfolios in a thematic way, Luebbers says, I came up with Hot Cold Cool, and the title nicely sums up key elements of that decade.

Hot refers to art protesting the war in Vietnam. Cold alludes to the Cold War. Cool, meanwhile, represents changes in art from apolitical postwar Abstract Expressionism to works that fiercely took a stand.

The view that art shouldn't tell stories was a convenient stance in the era of McCarthy, Luebbers says. But in the 1960s, stories needed to be told, and artists like Robert Motherwell did that. Then Warhol came along, and he was the new cool.

The dozens of prints in the exhibition chronicle the fierceness of change.

Ten Works x Ten Painters, published in 1964, reflects a time when the war in Vietnam was accelerating, the civil rights movement was in full flower and the Beatles were transforming popular culture.

The portfolio includes minimalist silkscreens by Stella, Ellsworth Kelly and Ad Reinhardt. There are also the emerging Pop artists like Warhol, Lichtenstein and Robert Indiana riffing on consumerism and Madison Avenue.

The 1967 portfolio American Artists and Writers Protest the War in Vietnam shows how some artists were mounting an in-your-face challenge to society and government. …