For immediate release: September 5, 2017
Barbara Takenaga an exhibition of paintings at WCMA
Barbara Takenaga, Sphere/Horizon, 2012. Acrylic on linen. Collection of David and Ashley Kramer.

Barbara Takenaga, Sphere/Horizon, 2012. Acrylic on linen. Collection of David and Ashley Kramer.

This first in-depth assessment of Barbara Takenaga’s work includes approximately sixty paintings made over two decades that trace the artist’s ongoing preoccupation with forms evoking celestial bodies—galaxies, exploding stars, and resplendent orbs—variously allied by critics with Big Bang theory, the mid-western night sky, and psychedelic experience. The exhibition will be on view at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) from October 5, 2017 through January 28, 2018.

At once conceptual and emphatically ornamental, Takenaga’s painting has always thrived on contradiction. Combining aspects of Japanese printmaking and Tantric painting, as well as modernist developments such as op art, her work has enriched the languages of abstraction, deftly elevating aesthetic territory that is still thought of as either decoration or illustration.

“Barbara’s work has existed at the forefront of contemporary abstraction for the past decade or so.  Through her intricate patterns of dots, she has produced paintings that are both uplifting and transcendent as well as wacky and whimsical.  There is great aesthetic pleasure to be had from her work,” said guest curator Debra Bricker Balken.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a 144-page, fully illustrated catalogue with an essay by guest curator Debra Bricker Balken, a brief consideration of Takenaga’s career by novelist Jim Shepard, and a poem by Geoffrey Young—to be distributed by DelMonico Books · Prestel Books and released in October 2017.

“We are delighted that for the next several months, WCMA’s two largest galleries will be filled with Barbara’s mesmerizing canvases. Debra Balken has done an extraordinary job of assembling the key works from every phase of the artist’s career, and providing visitors to the museum and readers of the exquisite catalogue with a scholarly context for these truly awe-inspiring paintings.” Lisa Dorin, Interim Director of the Williams College Museum of Art.      

Barbara Takenaga

Barbara Takenaga’s paintings have been viewed in many ways—as abstract or representational, micro or macro, cartoon-goofy or cosmic-psychedelic.  With a range of references that include physics diagrams, astronomy, fractals, sci-fi and invented landscape, the work involves a labor intensive, systematic process.

Recent solo exhibitions include a wall project at MASS MoCA, SPACE 42 of the Neuberger Museum, and DC Moore Gallery in New York, who represents her work.  Her paintings are in the collections of the DeCordova Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, the Crocker Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the San Jose Museum, and the Williams College Museum of Art, among others.  Recent reviews have appeared in Art in America, the New York Times, Hyperallergic, the Brooklyn Rail, and Elle Décor.  She is also represented by Gregory Lind Gallery and Shark’s Ink.  Takenaga lives and works in New York City and teaches at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Guest Curator

Debra Bricker Balken is an independent curator and writer who has organized numerous exhibitions on subjects relating to American modernism and contemporary art for major museums nationally. Her books include Philip Guston’s Poor Richard (2001) and Abstract Expressionism: Movements in Modern Art (2005), as well as exhibition catalogues such as Dove/O’Keeffe: Circles of Influence (2009), After Many Springs: Regionalism, Modernism and the Midwest (2009), John Storrs: Machine-Age Modernist (2010) and John Marin: Modernism at Midcentury (2011).

Recipient of an Inaugural Clark Fellowship at the Clark Art Institute (2001), a Senior Fellowship from the Dedalus Foundation (2002), and a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (2006), she has just completed a study of the American midcentury art critic Harold Rosenberg for the University of Chicago Press with grants from the Getty Research Institute (2002) and Creative Capital and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Arts (2008). She has taught at numerous universities, including Brown University, the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and the Rhode Island School of Design. In 2005, she served as the Sterling and Francine Clark Visiting Professor in the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art.

Her current projects include Mark Tobey, Threading Light which was on view at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice this past summer and which opens at the Addison Gallery of American Art in November.

Related Programs

Season Celebration
Thursday, Oct 5, 5 pm
Celebrate our fall exhibitions: Barbara Takenaga, Pink Art, The Presence of Absence, and Object Lab. Hear from guest curator Debra Bricker Balken and artist Barbara Takenaga followed by mini tours in the galleries.

Close Look
Tuesday, Oct 17, 4 pm
Barbara Takenaga and artist Tom Burckhardt discuss abstraction, painting, and geometry.