Pioneering MoMA curator Dorothy Miller was renowned for her ability to scope out and promote innovative artistic talent, but even by her standards it was clear she had organized something extraordinary with 16 Americans. The 1959 exhibition was the fifth in the Americans series, which introduced exceptional contemporary American artists. In the accompanying catalogue, Miller mused that the show had an “unusually fresh, richly varied, vigorous, and youthful character.” The work on display was groundbreaking, even to the point of vexing some conservative critics, who dismissed as folly works such as Robert Rauschenberg’s Combine paintings, Jasper Johns’s flags and targets, and especially four nearly monochromatic black paintings by a 23-year-old Frank Stella. The chances Miller took paid rich dividends: while initially controversial, the work in this exhibition would set the stage for the eclecticism and experimentation of the decade to come and soon be established as iconic American art.
December 16, 1959–February 17, 1960 The Museum of Modern Art
Jay DeFeoAmerican, 1929–19895 exhibitions, 4 works online
Wally HedrickAmerican, 1928–20031 exhibition, 1 work online
James JarvaiseAmerican, born 19252 exhibitions, 1 work online
Jasper JohnsAmerican, born 1930160 exhibitions, 362 works online
Ellsworth KellyAmerican, 1923–201586 exhibitions, 252 works online
- There are 16 artists in this exhibition online.