Hirshhorn Plaza

H.C. Westermann "Brinkmanship"

February 14 to May 12, 2002
This first posthumous retrospective of American sculptor H.C. Westermann (b. Los Angeles, 1922-1981) covers his career from the mid-1950s on, encompassing his narrative drawings and his highly personal, often painstakingly crafted constructions and assemblages in an assortment of materials. The show travels from Washington to Los Angeles and Houston. Second floor. (Originated by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Lynne Warren and Michael Rooks, curators. Catalog.)

On tour from its summer 2001 premiere in Chicago, this retrospective for American sculptor H.C. Westermann (1922-1981) includes his images of houses, ships, towers, boxes, robots, coffins, surreal landscapes, and toy-like figurines that incorporate frequent references to war and death, consumer culture and art, and literature and film. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Westermann saw action during World War II in the South Pacific and then in Korea before becoming an artist in Chicago. After moving to Connecticut, he continued to produce work through the 1960s and 1970s.

Although known as an important inspiration for artists such as Bruce Nauman and William T. Wiley and movements like the Chicago Imagists and West Coast Funk artists, Westermann remained steadfastly outside the mainstream, peppering his two- and three-dimensional work with enigma, puns, salty humor, vernacular allusions, and unexpected anthropomorphic imagery. Covering his entire career from the mid-1950s on, the show encompasses Westermann’s highly personal, exquisitely crafted constructions and assemblages in wood, metal, and found objects, among many materials.

Organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, 212-page catalog with essays by Lynne Warren and Michael Rooks, the show’s cocurators, as well as Chicago critic Dennis Adrian and curator Robert Storr of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. After closing in Washington, the show travels to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (June 9-September 8, 2002), and The Menil Collection, Houston (October 4, 2002-January 5, 2003).

Support for this exhibition and associated publications is generously provided by Mary and Roy Cullen, The LLWW Foundation, Anstiss and Ronald Krueck, Henry and Gilda Buchbinder, Ruth P. Horwich, Susan and Lewis Manilow, Dorothy and Alan Press, Helen and Sam Zell, The Kovler Family Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, Marie Krane Bergman and Robert H. Bergman, Carol and Douglas Cohen, The Judith Rothschild Foundation, Mrs. Edwin A. Bergman, Robert and Sylvie Fitzpatrick, and Thurston and Sharon Twigg-Smith. Special funding for the Washington, D.C. presentation has been provided by the Holenia Trust in memory of Joseph H. Hirshhorn. Second floor.