March 31, 2010 - Irish Museum of Modern Art - Vertical Thoughts: Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts
March 31, 2010

Vertical Thoughts: Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts

Mark Rothko
The Green Stripe, 1955
Oil on canvas
170.2 x 141.7 cm
The Ménil Collection, Houston
© 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko ARS, NY and DACS, London 2010

Vertical Thoughts:
Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts

31 March – 27 June 2010

Royal Hospital Kilmainham
Dublin 8
Tel: +353-1-612 9900
Email: info [​at​]
Admission is free

Vertical Thoughts: Morton Feldman and the Visual Arts focuses on the work of the influential American composer Morton Feldman and the many leading visual artists with whom he was closely associated, including Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The exhibition, the first of its kind in Europe, marks a decisive period in the coming together of two apparently distinct art forms, reflecting IMMA’s own multi-disciplinary approach to its programme.

Writing in the exhibition catalogue, South African composer Kevin Volans describes Morton Feldman as having “only one subject of conversation: music/art”, and Feldman himself stated that he learned more from painters than he learned from composers. These twin passions came together with his involvement with the New York School of artists, poets and musicians, which was active in the 1950s and ’60s and was linked, especially, with the emergence of abstract expressionism and so-called action art. In 1967 Feldman curated an exhibition entitled Six Painters in Houston, Texas, which presented the work of Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

Vertical Thoughts takes the 1967 exhibition as its starting point and includes a number of works, such as Mark Rothko’s The Green Stripe, 1955, shown in the Houston exhibition. It also illustrates how these works, which are defined by their abstract qualities, inspired Feldman’s equally abstract compositions, which had little connection to traditional compositional systems and which experimented with established musical notation.

The exhibition goes further than Six Painters, however, by showing other examples by the six artists’ paintings, which display similar qualities, and works by other artists who were equally influential in Feldman’s work, including Francesco Clemente, Barnett Newman, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Ad Reinhardt, R. B. Kitaj, Sonja Sekula, Alex Katz and Cy Twombly.

Vertical Thoughts features artworks from Feldman’s former collection, as well as from several of the world’s leading galleries. It also presents music scores, record covers, photographs, documents, oriental rugs and films on de Kooning and Pollock, which had scores composed by Feldman. There will also be an accompanying music programme at IMMA, including performances of Rothko’s Chapel, Triadic Memories and The King of Denmark, please visit for more details.

Born in New York City in 1926, Morton Feldman was a child prodigy who began composing at the age of nine. In the 1940s he fell under the influence of the early avant-garde composers, going on to become a pioneer of indeterminate music, a development associated with the experimental New York School of composers, which also included John Cage and Christian Wolff. Feldman found inspiration for these works in the paintings of the Abstract Expressionists and wrote a number of pieces in honour of artists who had become his close friends.

Vertical Thoughts is curated by Juan Manuel Bonet, independent curator and former Director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication, published by IMMA. This includes texts by Juan Manual Bonet, composers Bunita Marcus and Kevin Volans, artist and writer Brian O’Doherty, art historian Dore Ashton, and two texts by Feldman’s friend the writer and anthropologist Francesco Pellizzi, a newly commissioned essay and an old unpublished interview with Feldman. The publication also includes a reproduction of an article written by Feldman’s wife the composer, Barbara Monk Feldman, originally published in 1997, drawing parallels between Feldman’s For Philip Guston, and Nicolas Poussin’s work Pyramus and Thisbe.

The exhibition is supported by The Irish Times, RTÉ Supporting the Arts and the Cultural Tourism Scheme of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.

The curator’s talk is supported by the Cervantes Instituto Dublin.

Events and Talks

Lecture: Composer Dr. Bunita Marcus
Saturday 17 April 2010, 5.00pm, Lecture Room, IMMA
Composer Dr. Bunita Marcus presents a keynote lecture on Morton Feldman’s longstanding relationship between his music and the visual arts.

Artist’s Response: The grass is always greener on the other side
Saturday 12 June 2010, 1.00pm, New Galleries, IMMA

Mark Joyce, the Irish painter and IADT lecturer, will speak in the context of his own practice, exploring classic tropes found in manifestos of artists and composers in the Modernist period and how this may have informed Morton Feldman’s relationship with the visual arts.

Booking is essential for all talks and can be made online at

Concert Series: Performance Schedule

Hugh Tinney
Saturday 17 April 2010, 7.00pm, The Chapel, IMMA

The Irish premier of Triadic Memories, piano (90 min). Tickets are free but booking is essential at email

Darragh Morgan and John Tilbury
Tuesday 4 May 2010, 8.30pm, Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall

For John Cage. Organised by New Sound Worlds.
Tickets available from the National Concert Hall box office.

Crash Ensemble
Sunday 30 May 2010, 8.00pm, The Great Hall, IMMA

Rothko Chapel and ‘Words and Music’ by Samuel Beckett. Tickets for this concert can be purchased on, or Booking fees may apply.

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00am – 5.30pm
except Wednesday: 10.30am – 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays: 12noon – 5.30pm
Mondays: Closed

Irish Museum of Modern Art

Irish Museum of Modern Art
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