Where to see (and paint) abstract expressionism in Tampa Bay in 2019

The modern style is all over the region, and we're all over it.

click to enlarge You can see Allen Leepa's examples of Abstract Expressionism on exhibit at the Leepa-Rattner museum in Tarpon Springs, but it's a far cry from the only place to see Abstract Expressionist work in Tampa Bay. - Allen Leepa (American, 1919-2009); 'Sunburst,' 1975 Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 184 ½ in. Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, on loan from the St. Petersburg College Foundation 1997.2.1.9a-.d; Courtesy of Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
Allen Leepa (American, 1919-2009); 'Sunburst,' 1975 Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 184 ½ in. Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art, on loan from the St. Petersburg College Foundation 1997.2.1.9a-.d; Courtesy of Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art
You can see Allen Leepa's examples of Abstract Expressionism on exhibit at the Leepa-Rattner museum in Tarpon Springs, but it's a far cry from the only place to see Abstract Expressionist work in Tampa Bay.


Maybe you've never heard of abstract expressionism, but I bet you've heard of Jackson Pollock. The American artist achieved fame in the 1950s for splattering paint on canvas. But there's a lot more to abstract expressionism than paint splatter and Jackson Pollock.

Abstract expressionists, like the surrealists, were trying to tap into their subconscious when creating art. Unlike the surrealists, abstract expressionists removed all traces of a subject from their paintings, leaving only a frenzied hodgepodge of paint and emotion.

Abstract expressionist paintings were more wild and untamed than anything the art world had seen before. This winter and spring, you can see some abstract expressionist paintings for yourself at one of four different Tampa Bay area art institutions.

Don't miss your chance to experience America's most innovative and underappreciated art movement.

1. The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art in Tarpon Springs

The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art was founded by an abstract expressionist, so this one's kind of a no-brainer. Allen Leepa donated $2 million plus about $20 million worth of art towards the establishment of St. Petersburg College's Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art. Any time you visit, from here until the end of time, you are bound to see several Allen Leepa paintings on display. According to museum curator, Christine Renc-Carter, he was prolific.


Artistic Journeys | Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art at St. Petersburg College, 600 E. Klosterman Rd., Tarpon Springs | On view indefinitely: Tues., Wed. & Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Fri., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; and Sun., 1-5 p.m. | $7; $6, seniors; free for members, students (with ID), active military and anyone under 17 | 727-712-5762 | leeparattner.org

click to enlarge Syd Solomon Westcoastalscape - Syd Solomon's Westcoastalscape, Baiting Hollow, New York, 1968. Courtesy of the Estate of Syd Solomon.
Syd Solomon's Westcoastalscape, Baiting Hollow, New York, 1968. Courtesy of the Estate of Syd Solomon.
Syd Solomon Westcoastalscape

2. The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg

The Museum of Fine Arts is currently showing artwork by Sarasota's Syd Solomon. Solomon is locally well-known for helping launch the Sarasota arts scene in the 1950s. He moved to Sarasota after World War II, in 1946, hoping the warmer climate would be better for his war-acquired frostbite. According to his son, Michael Solomon, Syd Solomon's studio home rapidly became a gathering spot for artists and writers in Sarasota. Gather at the Museum of Fine Arts before January 20 to see a sampling of his work.


Syd Solomon: Views from Above | Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Dr. NE, St. Petersburg | Through Jan. 20: Mon.-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 12 p.m.-5 p.m. | $20; $15, seniors, military, college students, Florida educators, anyone under 17; free for members and anyone 6 and under | 727-896-2667 | mfastpete.org

click to enlarge Where to see (and paint) abstract expressionism in Tampa Bay in 2019
Photo via Libreshot

3. The Dunedin Fine Art Center

When abstract expressionism was first introduced to American audiences in the 1950s, many people criticized it for its simplicity. "I could do that" or "my kid could do that" was a common remark. Well, the truth is, you and your kid probably can create something resembling an abstract expressionist painting. And why shouldn't you? If the idea of viscerally capturing your emotions on canvas appeals to you, check out DFAC's abstract expressionism class. Local artist Lorraine Potocki is teaching this course in acrylic painting during DFAC's Winter I, Winter II, and Spring sessions. All levels welcome.


Dunedin Fine Art Center, 1143 Michigan Blvd., Dunedin | Jan. 8-Feb. 12, Feb. 26-Apr. 2, Apr. 16-May 21: Tues., 9 a.m.-12 p.m. | $149 members; $179 non-members | 727-298-3322 | dfac.org

click to enlarge The Tampa Museum of Art - Barbthebuilder, via Wikimedia Commons
Barbthebuilder, via Wikimedia Commons
The Tampa Museum of Art

4. The Tampa Museum of Art

The exhibitions we've mentioned thus far are dedicated to showing the works of either one or a select few abstract expressionists. But this spring, the Tampa Museum of Art is setting up a more comprehensive survey of the movement. The exhibition will feature works from big names, including Willem de Kooning, Hans Hoffman, Helen Frankenthaler, Franz Kline, and Joan Mitchell, among others. A total of 25 paintings will be on display, representing both the first and second generation of abstract expressionists in America. The exhibit will celebrate artistic freedom in a way only an abstract expressionist exhibit can.


Abstract Expressionism: A Social Revolution | Tampa Museum of Art, 120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa | Apr. 11-Aug. 11: Fri.-Wed., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Thurs., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. | $15; $7.50, seniors, military, Florida educators; $5, students; and free for members, college students and kids 6 and under | 813-274-8130 | tampamuseum.org


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About The Author

Jennifer Ring

Jennifer studied biology for six years, planning for a career in science, but the Universe had other plans. In 2011, Jen was diagnosed with a rare lung disease that sidelined her from scientific research. Her immune system, plagued by Scleroderma, had attacked her lungs to the point of no return. She now required...
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