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Neuberger Museum At Purchase College Celebrates Unique Piece

Cleve Gray's Threnody: Forty Years open Jan. 2 at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College.
Cleve Gray's Threnody: Forty Years open Jan. 2 at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College. Photo Credit: Contributed

PURCHASE, N.Y. --The Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College will host a 40th anniversary celebration of one of its most unique pieces beginning Jan. 12 and running through March 23.

The celebration will display the artwork of American artist and abstract expressionist Cleve Gray. Cleve Gray’s Threnody: Forty Years was organized by Assistant Curator Avis Larson.

Gray was commissioned to create a site-specific painting for the inauguration of the Neuberger Museum in 1974. Threnody (1972–73), the 22-foot tall, 250-foot long artwork in 28 panels, turned out to be an extraordinary project — a lament for the dead on both sides of the Vietnam War.

At the time, college students across the country were demonstrating against the conflict in Vietnam, a war they felt to be unjust and inhumane. Gray saw the significance of the Museum’s location on a college campus. An active anti-war advocate himself, Gray saw this as an opportunity to support the students and express his hope for humanity’s spiritual and emotional healing.

Support for Cleve Gray’s Threnody: Forty Years is provided by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and Purchase College Foundation.

Threnody features 28 contiguous panels installed in the museum's Theater Gallery, effectively converting it into a cathedral with tall vertical forms engaged in a “dance of death and life.” “Threnody considers opposites — male and female, love and hate, conflict and peace,” notes Larson.

A “threnody” is a classical song of mourning, a lamentation. In 1975, when explaining the piece, Gray wrote: “I felt that tragedy had been manifested more intensely during those years and in the preceding decade than at any other time in American history. Iniquity, futile death and destruction surrounded us with little relief. This sense of tragedy in the sixties and seventies insisted itself upon me as the subject matter for the walls I had been asked to paint in the Neuberger Museum, for I felt that the heroic space encompassed by these walls required a heroic subject.”

Threnody is part of the Neuberger Museum’s permanent collection, and has been exhibited from time to time, most recently in 2007, and before then, shortly after 9/11.

The Neuberger Museum is open 12-5 p.m. Tuesday  through Sunday. More information is available online .

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