Processing Abstraction


Processing Abstraction

Curated By
Laura Minton, she/her, Curator of Exhibitions and Matthew McLendon, he/him, former J. Sanford Miller Family Director

In-Gallery Conservation | Open to Visitors

Select dates in September & October

Longtime collaborator and conservator at the Hirshhorn, Scott Nolley will be conserving our Joan Mitchell painting, Untitled, featured in the exhibition Processing Abstraction. By carefully removing decades of settled dust and accumulation, Scott will reveal the true colors and forms of Mitchell’s seminal work. We welcome you to see the process in action as Scott interacts with visitors in The Fralin’s galleries in September and October.

Nolley will be working in the galleries September 14–15, 21–22, 29–30, and October 12–13. 

FRI | September 22 @ 12 pm: Gallery Talk

SAT | September 30 @ 2 pm: Gallery Talk


Conserving the Collection: Joan Mitchell

In 1999, The Fralin received a transformational gift of works by significant mid-20th-century American artists from Buzz Miller in honor of his partner Alan Groh, who graduated from UVA in 1949. Both men worked in the arts—Miller as a Broadway dancer and choreographer and Groh as director of the Stable Gallery. Together the couple built an important art collection, and many of the artists were their personal friends. Miller and Groh lived with their art in a brownstone apartment in New York City for decades before it was given to The Fralin, including two Joan Mitchell paintings. Artworks you see at museums might once have hung in someone’s living room, kitchen, or bedroom, and as such, are subject to environments that affect their physical condition. Over time, art can require additional care, cleaning, and preservation through professional treatments by a conservator.

Mitchell’s painting Neige is on view for the first time following the recent conservation of the entire work. On select days from mid-September to mid-October, visitors to the museum will be able to observe the conservation of Mitchell’s Untitled and talk to the conservator in the gallery.

This conservation program is made possible through support from The Fralin Museum of Art Volunteer Board.



Pour, drip, splash, stain, spray, soak, splatter—these words are often used to describe abstract artists’ experimental application of paint. The creative process of many abstract painters is highly visible in their finished artworks. Vigorous brushstrokes, saturated canvases, and atmospheric surfaces all demonstrate the expansive use of the medium. For over 100 years, abstraction has reigned as a major expressive form in painting with continuously changing techniques and styles. Abstract paintings are frequently interpreted according to their visual components, but their socio-political contexts are also vital for understanding.

This exhibition features large-scale abstract paintings from the museum’s collection spanning the mid-1950s to the late 2000s by Gene Davis, Sam Francis, Sam Gilliam, Sheila Isham, Suzanne McClelland, Joan Mitchell, Larry Poons, and Hedda Sterne. While not unified through a particular artistic movement or chronology, each artwork demonstrates the vast potential of paint.