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Installation view of Into Abstraction
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Into Abstraction: 100 Years of Contemporary Art in Wakfield


Barbara Hepworth’s Pierced Hemisphere, made in 1934, was one of the first major pieces of contemporary abstract sculpture acquired for Wakefield’s collection in 1937. It highlighted it the gallery’s progressive approach to connecting people with modern expressions of life.

This new display will explore how artists working in 1930s Britain turned to abstraction in order to evolve a universal language of art that could engage any viewer. This ethos was politically charged in the face of mounting global division and unrest in the lead up to the Second World War. As we live through our own tumultuous times, the power of abstraction to transcend borders and contexts remains urgent.

Placing colour line and form at the centre of their work, Hepworth and her artist peers including Ben Nicholson and Naum Gabo sought an expressive style that could break away from the constraints of representing subjects in a realistic style. Alongside Pierced Hemisphere are three prints by Naum Gabo, gifted to Wakefield in 2020 by Graham & Nina Williams through HM Government’s Cultural Gifts Scheme. A painting by Winifred Nicholson (1937) recently bequeathed to the gallery by the artist’s daughter-in-law Shirley Nicholson is on public display for the first time. Work by contemporary artists including Bridget Riley and a new acquisition by Cerith Wyn Evans reveal the enduring nature of abstraction as a universal language over time and in changing contexts.

“The language of colour and form is universal and not one for a special class[…] it is a thought which gives the same life, the same expansion, the same universal freedom to everyone”.  Barbara Hepworth