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The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection presents abstract paintings, drawings, and prints by black artists drawn from and celebrating the transformative gift of the Thelma and Bert Ollie Memorial Collection. Featured in the exhibition are works by multiple generations of artists who innovated abstract art in the 20th and 21st centuries. They include Norman Lewis’s gestural drawings, Sam Gilliam’s radically shaped paintings, James Little’s experiments with color, and Chakaia Booker’s explorations in printmaking, among many others.

St. Louis native Ronald Ollie grew up visiting the Saint Louis Art Museum with his parents, who nurtured his deep appreciation for art. Ollie spent decades collecting, often befriending the artists and forming long, collaborative relationships. In 2017 Ollie and his wife, Monique, gave the Museum 81 works in honor of his parents. The collection adds depth and breadth to the Museum’s holdings of contemporary abstraction.

The Shape of Abstraction: Selections from the Ollie Collection is curated by Gretchen L. Wagner, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; and Alexis Assam, 2018–2019 Romare Bearden Graduate Museum Fellow.


Explore Archival Materials

Ronald and Monique Ollie also gave the Museum archival materials related to the collection, including exhibition catalogs, gallery ephemera, documentaries, and bibliographies. A selection of these materials will be on view in The Shape of Abstraction. The full inventory of archival material is available online and can be accessed by appointment in the Museum’s Richardson Memorial Library.

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