Framing Nature’s Paradox: Neil Jenney | Donald Sultan, 1969-2023: Morris Museum, Morristown, NJ

6 October 2023 - 18 February 2024
The exhibition explores the intersection of contemporary practice with keen observation of the natural world and human nature through the works of two acclaimed artists, Neil Jenney and Donald Sultan. Framing Nature's Paradox features 27 works including rarely seen pieces from across both artists careers and new pieces by Neil Jenney (Texting and Talking, 2023) and Donald Sultan (Mimosa, 2023).

Jenney and Sultan came to prominence in the late 1960s/early 1970s in New York City and are admirers of each other's work. Each is a prominent exponent in the global conversation about the art of our time. Their work is found at leading institutions and in significant private collections worldwide. The critical press and popular media have heralded their accomplishments over the years, sometimes referring to them as post-minimalist mavericks and pioneers. Framing Nature's Paradox is the first museum exhibition to consider Jenney and Sultan together by exploring their early output and new approaches to realism.


The exhibition showcases their unique perspectives on the natural world and human nature, highlighting their shared interest in the paradoxical relationship between the two. Bold in their imagery and often massive in their physical presence, the works on view beckon the visitor to look again. We see their artistic choices and the combination of brawn and finesse they are known for. It is interesting to consider that neither artist sees their work as painting per se. Rather, Sultan's painter-printmaker mind and masterful draftsmanship rightly have been understood as sculptural in their techniques and materiality. Jenney refers to his works as painted sculptures instead of paintings and prides himself on making their integrated frames and slogan-like titles part of his creation.


While the selections in this project give the visitor a glimpse of the artists' shared fascination with the world as we observe it, it would be a mistake to think of them as chroniclers of our shared landscape. Nothing in their work strives for an authentic or mimetic representation of those environments, and they honor artifice and abstraction uniquely. Vistas, figures, and flora are unapologetically constructed and physically wrought. Sultan's work's sheer scale and industrial materials such as roofing tar, aluminum, and enamel belies their organic subject. In Jenney's, we are snapped back from believable scenes by witty titles and abstracted forms. Mounting such an exhibition in any given year would be a laudable contribution to understanding these adroit artists across five decades of work. Pairing them, without juxtaposing them literally, is an invitation to see their creations with fresh eyes.


This exhibition is organized by executive director Tom Loughman and curator Michelle Graves.


Support for this exhibition is provided by Barry and Jenny Jaruzelski and anonymous donors.