Public Program

Connecting Lines: Janet Sobel and Abstract Expressionism

Join the Menil for a conversation with art historians Susan Davidson and Sandra Zalman and exhibition curator Natalie Dupêcher about Abstract Expressionism and Janet Sobel, a painter who pioneered what became known as “all-over” abstraction in the mid 1940’s.

About the speakers:

Susan Davidson is an art historian and curator and an authority in the fields of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art, with expertise in the art of Robert Rauschenberg. She curated with Walter Hopps the definitive Robert Rauschenberg: A Retrospective for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and its international tour (1997–99) and was assistant curator on Hopps’s seminal Robert Rauschenberg: The Early 1950s (The Menil Collection, Houston, 1991).

In her previous role as Senior Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2002–2017), Ms. Davidson oversaw the stewardship of the institution’s collection in addition to organizing notable exhibitions that include Jackson Pollock: Exploring Alchemy, 2017; Robert Motherwell: The Early Collages, 2014; John Chamberlain: Choices, 2012; No Limits, Just Edges: Jackson Pollock’s Paintings on Paper, 2005; and Peggy and Kiesler: The Collector and the Visionary, 2004. Prior to joining the Guggenheim’s constellation of museums, Ms. Davidson was Collections Curator at the Menil Collection, Houston (1985–2002). She holds advanced degrees in art history from the Courtauld Institute, London, and George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Sandra Zalman is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Houston, where she teaches classes on modern and contemporary art, museums, and curatorial issues.

Her first book Consuming Surrealism in American Culture: Dissident Modernism, was recently issued in paperback. It won the 2016 SECAC Award for Excellence in Research and Publication and was supported by fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies and the American Association of University Women. She has also received an arts writer grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and a Publication Grant from the Society for the Preservation of American Modernists. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and a senior fellowship from the Dedalus Foundation, she is currently working on a book about how museums of modern art expanded their cultural footprint at mid-century, using innovative architecture to advance competing ideas of modern art. She is especially interested in how museums frame art for public consumption. To that end, she co-edited a volume on the Museum of Modern Art’s first twenty years Modern in the Making: MoMA and the Modern Experiment 1929-1949.

Attending the program:

This program takes place in the main building, located at 1533 Sul Ross Street. Additional information regarding accessibility and parking can be found here.

As always, Menil programs are free and open to all.