The Clyfford Still Museum opened the new exhibition Stories We Tell: The Collection Two Ways. The exhibition digs deep into the Museum’s vaults to present works from the Museum’s collection in two complementary but alternate ways as a means to understand how artworks and their meaning can change based on curatorial strategy.

Curated by Bailey Placzek, CSM associate curator and Dean Sobel, former CSM director, Stories We Tell: The Collection Two Ways presents Still’s works arranged chronologically in the first five galleries and thematically in the remaining four rooms.

According to Placzek and Sobel, the primary strategy for both curatorial displays is to illustrate some of the main artistic foundations that ground Still’s art. These include his stylistic path from representation to abstraction; the role of figuration, color, machines, and doubling in his art; how the artist changes an image across media; and Still’s conception of artistic space. Both curatorial arrangements reveal these themes through different methods, so visitors with diverse learning styles and experiences can relate to the collection and understand Still’s art in more than one way. Moreover, this curatorial exercise emphasizes the importance of a multiplicity of approaches when presenting artworks to the community.

“Museums go to great lengths to organize their collections for their various audiences: by culture, maker, nationality, chronology, stylistic movement, theme, and even size,” said Placzek. “While thoughtful presentation of artworks in exhibitions is essential, every strategy has its own strengths and shortcomings, and every visitor has unique expectations when it comes to viewing art. We welcome visitors to think about their own preferences and leave feedback.”

In addition to the differing curatorial strategies, the Museum has singled out several key works in the exhibition to explore the question, how have the global pandemic, economic hardship, and extreme political division during the last year affected visitors’ experiences of art? CSM hopes these perspectives will provide additional points of connection and relevance during these extraordinary times.

VR Sunil Gohil