Photo: Yellow Field/Red Road, 2010, sanded and distressed cardboard packaging, MAM Collection.

Terry Karson: Human/Nature

February 26 2024 - July 27 2024

Terry Karson (1950−2017) spent his lifetime in a productive career as an artist, arts administrator, professor, and curator. This retrospective offers an opportunity to feel resonance across the breadth of the artist’s career. Karson's artworks were included in dozens of solo and group exhibitions, including Commons, a major site-specific installation at the Missoula Art Museum in 2012. His most significant works are in the collections of MAM and the Yellowstone Art Museum—both institutions received bequests of major pieces from his estate. This exhibition draws from these collections plus the Holter Museum of Art and includes Karson’s most significant large-scale installations—Indian Flats, made in collaboration with Sara Mast, and the sculptural elements that remain from Commons.

Karson repurposed the detritus of consumer culture. He recycled trash into art, and this process embodied several fundamentals of his practice—labor, obsession, accumulation, collaboration, collecting, repetition, transformation, the grid, and accessibility. Much of Karson’s work falls into a few distinctive categories; tidy displays of objects referred to as “specimens,” abstraction based on color and grids, and large-scale installation work. His aesthetic was sophisticated and refined even though the work was made from everyday refuse. The push and pull between mundane materials and the elegance of the finished object create the compelling tension and tenuous balance in Karson’s art.

The Missoula Art Museum is grateful for the support of Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, a sponsor of Terry Karson: Human/Nature!