Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Baltimore Museum of Art, MD
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, CA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
New Britain Museum of American Art, CT
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, CA
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
Queens Museum, Flushing Meadow, NY
Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.
Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom
Toledo Museum of Art, OH
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Introduced to Surrealism by a close family friend, Romanian artist Hedda Sterne’s work was at first most closely aligned with the Surrealist movement. Her collages were included in a group show in Paris in 1938 organized by Hans Arp, through whom Sterne was recommended to Peggy Guggenheim. Sterne’s work was included in the pioneering exhibition “First Papers of Surrealism” in 1942 organized by André Breton and Marcel Duchamp in New York, where Sterne had been forced to flee from Europe in 1941. Settling in the United States, a place Sterne considered “more wildly Surrealist than what the wildest Surrealists imagined,” Sterne became involved with the circle of artists with whom she is most often connected. She exhibited at Guggenheim’s gallery, “Art of This Century,” and in a solo show at the Wakefield Gallery in 1943 organized by Betty Parsons. Three years later, Parsons opened her own gallery and became Sterne’s long-time dealer and an early advocate of the great Abstract Expressionists.
Sterne drew inspiration from the motion, architecture and scale of her new home, New York. She began incorporating farm machinery into her work in the 1940’s following a visit to Vermont. The construction sites and harbors of the city, however, continued to offer material for her Machine series in which Sterne anthropomorphized mechanical elements. By the 1950’s, these works had evolved into a series about motion itself in which she sometimes employed the use of a commercial spray gun in order to better invoke a feeling of speed inspired by her travels on highways around the United States. In the 1960’s, Sterne began a much quieter, meditative series, Vertical Horizontals, which invokes an expansive landscape, while simultaneously confining the horizontal reach of each painting within a vertical format. Sterne consistently pushed away from familiar forms, taking her work into new directions, always influenced by her surroundings and perpetually in flux. While she has been grouped with the Abstract Expressionists, Sterne moved freely between figurative work and abstraction throughout her career. It was this independence and absence of a “signature style” that made her difficult to pin down in historical context and in relation to her peers.
Retrospective exhibitions of Sterne’s works have been mounted at the Montclair Art Museum, New Jersey in 1977 and Uninterrupted Flux: Hedda Sterne, A Retrospective at the Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2006.
Courtesy of Van Doren Waxter