Featuring works from the Mills College Art Museum’s collection, Anxious States: Expressionism from Gauguin to Oliveira follows the evolution of Expressionism as an artistic response to features of modernity—social anxiety, disruptive technologies, global conflicts—across a range of time periods and cultures. Expressionism describes an aesthetic style distilled from the feelings of uncertainty and alienation born amid the industrialization of the early 20th Century. The works included in this exhibition can be read as emotional as well as political reactions to a rapidly changing world.

Kathe Kollwitz, Women and Children, 1919, Lithograph.
Kathe Kollwitz, Women and Children, 1919, Lithograph.

Käthe Kollwitz

Women and Children

Lithograph, 1919

Consisting of works on paper Anxious States includes examples of woodblock prints, lithographs, drawing, etchings and engravings by some of the progenitors of Expressionism including founding members of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivists), Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter, as well as scions within the Symbolist and Bay Area Figurative movements. Linked by their stylistics qualities—angular and agitated lines, high contrast colors, primitivist appropriation–the artists featured produce visually jarring images that evoke a sense of inner chaos, trauma, and angst. Accessibility and immediacy are emphasized by the choice of print media and the application of restless, gestural markings. Narrative and figurative subjects are foregrounded, isolating the individual among the masses.

Max Pechstein, Two Nudes, 1920, Color woodcut print.
Max Pechstein, Two Nudes, 1920, Color woodcut print.

Max Pechstein

Two Nudes

Color woodcut print, 1920

Before and during World War II, Mills College played an important role in the promotion and preservation of German Expressionism and Bauhaus artworks. Beginning in 1935, MCAM’s director and distinguished art historian Alfred Neumeyer used his extensive network to introduce important and sometimes controversial European artists to Bay Area audiences. Many of them, including Max Beckmann, were condemned as "degenerate artists" by the Nazis. Some managed to flee the threat of fascism on guest visas through Mills' Summer Sessions program which invited international artists to teach on campus.

Though some of the works in the exhibition are over a century old, the ideas and forms expressed in them are relevant to our time of colossal technological change and global political upheaval. Anxious States reprises the 20th century’s sense of state disenfranchisement to frame the psychological states of today.

The exhibition showcases MCAM’s unique holdings, including works by Ernst Barlach, Leonard Baskin, Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Francis De Erdely, Hans Erni, Paul Gauguin, George Grosz, Erich Heckel, Harold Gregor, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Paul Klee, Edvard Munch, Nathan Oliveira, Jose Clemente Orozco, Max Pechstein, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. Anxious States is curated by Savanna Ames, Natasha Culbreth, Eva Goldstein-Moore, Hisaka Marubayashi, and Carmen Wiley, and is accompanied by a digital exhibition catalogue.

On this occasion, MCAM is also pleased to launch our latest archive exhibition space which will display supplementary historical records and documentation, including original correspondence letters, posters, and acquisition papers, related to the artworks and artists featured in Anxious States.

Moments of Impact is curated by Mills students Marilyn Claes, Lily Drabkin-Hoover, Sarah Hart, Zana Ito, Elizabeth Martin, and Lena Toney, and is accompanied by a digital exhibition catalogue.


*MCAM’s Back Gallery is currently accessible by stairs only. A hardcopy of the exhibition catalogue will be available upon request and a digital version will be accessible through our website. We apologize for this hindrance.