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SAM Art: Sea Change

Abstract Expressionism was a dynamic fusion of Surrealism and Abstraction, seeking to awaken in the viewer—and in the artist as well—a deeper, often physical, response to the work. Large scale, edge-to-edge compositions and rich colors fill the eyes with often unified fields that are connected by movement and the traces of the brush.

 Sea Change is from a breakthrough group of early “transitional” works that Jackson Pollock made in 1947, which led away from figuration toward a fully abstract application of his drip technique. Its title comes from Shakespeare’s play The Tempest and lends extra narrative content to the composition, suggesting an impending meteorological event.

Installation view, Modern and Contemporary art galleries, third floor, SAM downtown, 2011.

SAM Art: Dance Wand for Sango

Shango is a Yoruba deity who harnesses bolts of lightning and thunder and uses them to reward worshippers and punish deceit. Oral praise poems say he is the one “who destroys the wicked with his truth, leaves in confusion the contentious man, and dances in the courtyard of the impertinent.”

Double axes adorn this woman’s head to show her alliance with Sango’s moral fire. She kneels before his authority to present an offering. Such generosity is considered a noble gesture of morality and ensures that Sango will consider blessing her with children and wealth.

“Dance wand for Sango,” date unknown, Yoruba, Nigerian, wood, 19 7/8 x 7 9/16 x 4 5/8 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 67.91, Photo: Susan A. Cole. Currently on view in the African Art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.

SAM Art: The Last Days of Prince Khurram

Before he was the most powerful ruler in the world, Prince Khurram was a young man molding his image and his priorities. Son of the Emperor Jahangir, he was both protégé and upstart, a source of pride and later serious rivalry for his father. For years it was believed that this portrait depicted Jahangir himself, but recent research identifies him as Jahangir’s son and successor, an early image of the supreme Mughal leader, the man who would become Shah Jahan.

This Mughal portrait is on view through Sunday, May 30.

Portrait of Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan), first quarter 17th century, Indian, Mughal period (1526-1858), opaque watercolor and gold on paper, 17 1/2 x 12 1/8 in., Thomas D. Stimson Memorial Collection, gift of Mrs. Charles Mosely Clark, 44.650. Currently on view in the Ancient Mediterranean and Islamic art galleries, fourth floor, SAM downtown.