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The Barnes Foundation Invites Artist Pat Steir to Create a New Cycle of Paintings

Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series to be presented in the Barnes’s Annenberg Court

On view January 12 through November 17, 2019

Philadelphia, PA, September 17, 2018—Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series, an installation of new paintings by American artist Pat Steir (b. 1940), will be on view at the Barnes Foundation from January 12 through November 17, 2019. In this first for the Barnes, Steir has been invited to create a series of 11 seven-foot-tall oil-on-canvas paintings that will occupy two walls of the Annenberg Court. Lush and sweeping in scale, these paintings will manifest a continuity with Steir’s celebrated Waterfall series and revisit the dialogue between intuition and chance that has defined her work since the 1980s, with themes renewed for the present day. Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series is the first installation of paintings to be presented in the Annenberg Court.

Support for Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund.

“Pat Steir is an absolute force. One of the very few women who came to prominence as a painter in the New York art world of the early 1970s, she made her mark with works that paired iconic images and suggestive texts, posing questions about the nature of representation. In the mid-1980s, inspired by East Asian art, Zen Buddhism, and Taoist philosophy, she began to adopt a looser, more performative approach to painting,” says Thom Collins, executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation. “Her influences also extend to many artists included in the Barnes collection, such as Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne, with their deep understanding of light and atmosphere. Presented on the heels of our Berthe Morisot: Woman Impressionist exhibition, we are proud to highlight the groundbreaking work of another influential female artist with Steir’s Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series.”

For over five decades Steir has exhibited her paintings and site-specific wall drawings in museums and cultural venues worldwide. In the late 1980s Steir created her first Waterfall images utilizing her pioneering process and distinctive style of conceptual painting for which she is now widely recognized. To create these iconic Waterfall paintings, Steir pours or brushes thinned oil paint onto the upper register of a canvas, allowing gravity and the viscosity of the paint to determine the form of the image. While the pictorial structure of her paintings traces her choreographed gestures of pouring or splashing paint, the artist ultimately surrenders the final composition to chance, remaining open to the influence of atmospheric and natural forces on the creation of her transcendent images which suggest the movement of wind and water. 

“It’s thrilling for me to be invited to exhibit at the Barnes. The Foundation’s extraordinary collection of masterpieces and its educational mission is something I have long admired,” says Steir. “Growing up, I would visit the Philadelphia area often and knew the Foundation’s beautiful and unique former home. In this location the Barnes is more accessible to a wider public, and I’m excited to have my work seen by many visitors as they enter the Annenberg Court, with its spacious and light-filled interior.”

Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series is on view in the Barnes Foundation’s Annenberg Court from January 12 through November 17, 2019.

Pat Steir (American, b. 1940) is an internationally renowned painter and printmaker represented in museum and private collections worldwide. She is known for her iconographic canvases and immersive wall drawings. Steir’s innovative pour technique, exemplified by the artist’s Waterfall canvases, positioned her at the forefront of American painting in the late 1980s. Bridging the sensibilities of Eastern philosophy, abstract expressionism, and conceptual art, Steir’s five-decade practice puts into play a new framework of space and perception.

Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series is organized by the Barnes Foundation and curated by Thom Collins, executive director and president.

Support for Silent Secret Waterfalls: The Barnes Series comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund.

The Barnes Foundation is a non-profit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned masterworks by such artists as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and non-Western art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” Since moving to the heart of Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes has expanded its commitment to teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways, investing in original scholarship relating to its collection and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its program.

The Barnes Foundation is open Wednesday–Monday, and tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website.

Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications