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Dwinell Grant: Drawings for Contrathemis

September 4 – October 6, 1990


Press Release

Dwinell Grant: 1941 Abstract Drawings and Films is a multimedia exhibition featuring forty non-objective drawings that Grant executed as cells for his 1941 avant-garde film Contrathemis.

Dwinell Grant made his mark as a pioneer of American abstract art and film over fifty years ago. Grant developed into a non-objective artist by the mid 1930s and began experimenting with film later in that decade.

In the 1930s, Grant’s avant-garde work was brought to the attention of Hilla Rebay at the Guggenheim Foundation. In 1940 she arranged for Solomon Guggenheim to purchase two of his drawings and include several of his paintings in a group exhibition at the Museum of Non-Objective Art. Miss Rebay, a great early supporter of Grant, encouraged him to move to New York where he worked as her assistant at the Guggenheim during 1941 and 1942. Between 1939 and 1941 he was a member of the American Abstract Artists group and during this time he made several non-objective animated films including Contrathemis.

Demonstrating a keen awareness of crisp, controlled abstract visual organization practiced by artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, Grant executed color pencil drawings and collages as the cells for the animation of Contrathemis. He utilized at least one drawing for each frame of film, sometimes overlapping the semi-transparent paper. By back-lighting the drawings with varying luminosity, applying color gels, and then filming each drawing one frame at a time, Grant created his rhythmic moving color compositions. In this manner, Grant transformed his sensitive non-objective drawings into avant-garde abstract films.

In addition to the Guggenheim Museum, Grant’s work resides in other prestigious collections including the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC and the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio.