PCMA Interns Curate New Collection of Frederick Hammersley Works

As you walk into the exhibition “Portraits, Abstractions, and the In-Between: Gathering the Work of Frederick Hammersley,” currently on display at the Pomona College Museum of Art (PCMA), you are immediately greeted by a bold splash of color — the show’s most colorful work, its vivid centerpiece, “Up Within,” which stands out against the more subdued works that constitute the remainder of the exhibition. “Up Within” is not only visually striking, but also speaks to the exhibition’s theme of unity among seemingly random works of abstract art. 

A critically acclaimed abstract artist, Hammersley taught painting at Pomona between 1953 and 1962. He rose to prominence in 1959 when he and three other artists — Karl Benjamin, Lorser Feitelson, and John McLaughlin, all Southern California-based artists — collaborated for the widely respected, important exhibition “Four Abstract Classicists.” According to PCMA’s website, the four artists “were well-known for their hard-edge painting and abstract geometric paintings.” The “Four Abstract Classicists” exhibition itself focused on “a generational approach to abstraction distinct from the gestural system of Abstract Expressionism,” via “hard-edged, flat planes of color.” 

This hard, abstract style and focus on the geometric is front and center in PCMA’s current exhibition of Hammersley’s work. The show focuses on presenting Hammersley’s art in a manner reminiscent of how he presented it in his own home. The mini-clusters of his work are meant to encourage viewers to consider how the seemingly random pieces work as a “unified artistic vision,” according to the website. 

PCMA Senior Curator Rebecca McGrew said the exhibition’s most interesting feature is its exploration of Hammersley’s evolution as an artist. 

“I think one of the most interesting things about this exhibition of Frederick Hammersley’s work is the exploration of his process,” McGrew wrote in an email to TSL. “As you walk through the exhibition, you can see how his style evolved, and how he was exploring different styles and processes. He was interested in form, color, line, expression, and abstraction. You can see all the threads come together, over time, in the exhibition.” 

Last night, Feb. 6, curatorial interns Shayda Amanat SC ’14 and Hannah Pivo PO ’14 gave the exhibition’s curatorial talk at PCMA’s weekly Art After Hours. During the talk, Pivo emphasized that this was the first time she and Amanat curated a permanent collection show together. With 250 pieces to choose from, Pivo and Amanat focused on building the exhibitions from the ground up, how they saw fit.

“We tried to minimize … or create repetition in interesting ways,” Pivo said during their presentation.

Pivo also emphasized the unique opportunities provided by the museum’s curatorial internship program. 

“One of the great things about the opportunities that working at this museum internship provides is that you kind of start as more of an assistant and kind of do whatever they need and help out, and then, through that you see how the process of curating works,” Pivo said after the talk. “And then by the time we were seniors they just sort of gave us our own show.”

The exhibition was made possible by donations from the Frederick Hammersley Foundation. The exhibition, which is open through April 13, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and during Art After Hours, on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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