Epic Abstraction at The Met Museum

The Apollo Circle at the Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a night with curator Randall Griffey on 16 January 2019.

We learned about the museum’s new exhibit, Epic Abstraction. It has gotten a lot of attention which is best described as “bumpy.”

Man in green sweater standing in front of a red painting inside the Met Museum on a white wall
Me near the back entrance to the Epic Abstraction exhibit on the 2nd floor at the Met Museum

Pollock to Herrera: This title of the show represents in Pollock the collection strength, and in Herrera the aspirational collection growth.

Meeting Curator Randall Griffey

I got to meet him and shake his hand!

Two men standing near a wooden podium with The Met logo
Randall Griffey and me (Nick Gray) in the Patron’s Lounge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

He was very cool. Many people in the audience appreciated his great style and candid nature with us.

The Exhibit: Epic Abstraction

This is a lens for which to look at Abstraction. We think about “Epic” in terms of the ideas and the concepts on display.

Black and white Jackson Pollock painting with the words “EPIC ABSTRACTION’ in large letters on top of it
A closeup of this Jackson Pollock painting that the Met owns is the featured image for the exhibit.

Jackson Pollock Fun Facts

  • He is from Cody, Wyoming.
  • He was Thomas Hart Benton’s student until they had a big blowout / breakup.
  • Pollock helped mix eggs and make tempura for the America Today mural at the Met and is allegedly a model for one of the figures.

Jackson Pollock “reinvented painting as a physical performance.” For him, the canvas becomes an arena in which to act.

This next picture is not a Jackson Pollock painting, but I just felt the post needed another picture:

Man in front of a painting that just has circles on it on a white canvas
Me standing in front of October by Kenneth Noland

Abstract Art Quote from Barnett Newman

We felt the moral crisis of a world in shambles, a world devastated by a Great Depression and a fierce World War, and it was impossible at that time to paint the kind of painting that we were doing — flowers, reclining nudes, people playing the cello… So we actually began … as if painting were not only dead but had never existed. – Barnett Newman, 1967

This quote captures a sense that “the world had changed” after World War II.

My Favorite Painting In The Show

I really like La Vie en Rose by Joan Mitchell, 1979.

Blonde woman in a purple-ish dress in front of a few panels of a painting
My friend Claire Boston standing in front of my favorite painting in the show.
Painting on white canvas with black and other color scribbles
La Vie en Rose by Joan Mitchell on display at the Met Museum for the Epic Abstraction exhibit


It’s a nice exhibit. It’s controversial; check out some of the reviews online. This exhibit has more women artists than any other exhibit in these galleries has had before (kudos!). I really enjoyed getting to hear the curator candidly share facts and stories from “Behind the Scenes” to the Apollo Circle group.

More Information

  • Met Museum Press Release: Epic Abstraction
  • Upcoming Apollo Circle Events: you should join the Apollo Circle! It’s an under-40 membership group with VIP access, curatorial tours, special exhibits, and more. I’ve been a member for years and love it.
  • Claire Boston was my date, she’s a journalist at Bloomberg who writes about credit and bonds.



Kathleen F. G. Hutton: Love the bigger and richer story of Midcentury modern Abstraction that emerges when woman artists Mitchell, Harriman, Krasner et al. are included! I think Mitchell’s paintings are gorgeous—thanks—

What you should do next...

1.Subscribe to my free Friends Newsletter.

You'll get exclusive life hacks, business research, top tech gadgets, and see new productivity tips. See why 12,000 people say it is one of their favorite emails.

2. Get your 2-page Party Checklist from my book, The 2-Hour Cocktail Party

With over 19 things you can do right now to improve your next party. Plus an Executive Summary of the key lessons inside my book.

3. Read this list of my 21 favorite home gear items.

See my favorite electronics, kitchen toys, and even bathroom toiletries in one of my most popular blog posts ever.