The Hirshhorn Museum Presents Pat Steir Color Wheel

By Editorial Team on October 21, 2019

Wed, 23 October 2019 - Mon, 07 September 2020

Courtesy of Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Artist Talk: Wednesday, October 23 at 6:30pm

The Hirshhorn will host the largest painting installation to date by the acclaimed abstract painter Pat Steir. The exhibition is an expansive new suite of paintings by the artist, spanning the entire perimeter of the Museum’s second-floor inner-circle galleries, extending nearly four hundred linear feet. These immersive works will transform the Museum into a vibrant spectrum of color. The thirty large-scale paintings, when presented together as a group, will create an immense color wheel that shifts hues with each painting, with the pours on each canvas often appearing in the complementary hue of the monochrome background.

Over the past four decades, Steir has produced a commanding body of abstract paintings that draw on the artist’s distinctive method of combining meticulous brushwork with multiple layers of drips and pours, simultaneously carefully calibrated and apparently random. Drawing on motifs from Chinese ink painting and gestural abstraction, Steir’s paintings are formed by brushing and pouring multiple layers of paint, allowing gravity to guide the cascading forms. Her signature technique echoes the metaphysical ideas of harmony with nature expressed in Zen Buddhist and Daoist thought, even as it redefines the conventional flat picture plane to sculpt deep, transcendent space. At the Hirshhorn, this commission will activate the entire gallery as visitors walk around the space, exploring the wheel’s spectrums. Moreover, Steir’s paintings will create a dialogue with the Gordon Bunshaft-designed outdoor fountain and seasonal changes visible through the Museum’s windows.

Curated by Evelyn C. Hankins, Senior Curator.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1940, Steir studied art and philosophy at Boston University and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in 1962. Over the past 50 years, she has exhibited extensively in America and Europe, with solo exhibition at institutions such as The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands; P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, New York; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; Musee d’art Contemporain, Lyon, France; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; and Rijksmuseum Vincent Van Gogh, Amsterdam, among others. Her most recent solo exhibition is on view at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia through Nov. 17, 2019.

Select public collections include Louvre, Paris; Tate Gallery, London; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Denver Art Museum; the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn; the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.

In 2016, Steir was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and in 2017 was presented with the U.S. Department of State’s National Medal of the Arts. She received the National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist’s Grant in 1973 and an Honorary Degree of Fine Art from Pratt Institute in 1991. Steir is also a recipient of The Guggenheim Fellowship in 1982.

Pat Steir: Color Wheel is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and has been made possible with generous support from Agnes Gund, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, and Mihael, Mahy, and Christos Polymeropoulos. The Museum is also grateful for additional funding provided by the Hirshhorn International Council and the Hirshhorn Collectors’ Council. Special thanks to Lévy Gorvy.

Pat Steir and Hirshhorn Curator Evelyn Hankins sit down, October 23 at 6:30pm in the Ring Auditorium. Visit for more information.

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is located at Independence Ave SW and 7th St. SW.