I received a B.A. from Columbia University in 1960 and my Ph.D. in Art History, from Harvard University, in 1968. I achieved full Professor of Art History at Wellesley College where I taught between 1968 and 1979. I was the first Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, a position which I held for thirteen years. From 1984 to 1989 I was an advisor to collectors building collections of impressionism and early modern art as well as of contemporary art. Next, I spent eight years as the Director of the Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In 1998 I worked with a group of citizens in Denver Colorado to found there, the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Kenworth with Ken Noland and Clement Greenberg
I have organized or supervised over one hundred exhibitions; built public, private and corporate collections; and written catalogues and articles on contemporary art. In 1981 I co-curated the first large exhibition of American art to tour China. I have also written several monographs: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Morris Louis, Fairfield Porter, and Odd Nerdrum, as well as a volume, New New Painting, which I coauthored with the Belgian critic Marcel Paquet in 1992. Another book, Meier-Graefe as Art Critic is an art historical study, and was first published by Prestel Verlag in Munich in 1973. During the eighties, I published Moffett’s Artletter, which contained news and opinion about art, the art world, and the art market.
Kenworth with Jules Olitski and Clement Greenberg
I was first turned on to contemporary art in the 1950’s while a student at Columbia University by fellow student, and future multimedia artist, Robert Whitman, who took me to “happenings” and introduced me to Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage, Allen Kaprow and others. Also important was one of my professors, the art historian, Meyer Schapiro. Through them, together with visits to the Museum of Modern Art, I became intrigued by contemporary art and especially Jackson Pollock and the New York School.
In graduate school at Harvard in the early 1960’s, I was part of a group of students who loved contemporary art and especially the then new Color Field painting of Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Helen Frankenthaler, and Jules Olitski as well as the sculpture of the Englishman Anthony Caro. The other students were Michael Fried, Rosalind Krauss, Charles Millard and Kermit Champa. In one way or another, I learned from all of them, and our association helped fire my enthusiasm for contemporary art.
Kenworth with Larry Poons, Paula DeLucca, Lucy Baker, and Bill Sogher
In the late 1960’s and 1970’s, I was a close associate of the critic, Clement Greenberg, who was, and in important respects remains, exemplary for me. I learned an enormous amount from him. His taste too had been shaped most by the New York School: Pollock, Abstract Expressionism and Color Field painting, as well as by David Smith, Anthony Caro, Jules Olitski, Tim Scott, and other related Modernists.
Kenworth with Lucy Baker and Helen Frankenthaler
Beginning in the 1980’s, I had my taste expanded by Odd Nerdrum, the New New painters, and especially Lucy Baker. I regard her as the most singular artistic talent I have known personally and I have been fortunate enough to know many great ones. Because I was married to her in the 80’s (we separated in 1989 and divorced a few years later) my objectivity here might reasonably be questioned. My squeamishness about writing about her, distorted my first Artletter, and only in 1992 did I have the courage to point to her real importance. I believe that my closeness to her during her formative years, put me in the lucky position to watch her genius emerge.
In recent years my mind has been most enlarged by the sculpture of Richard Serra and, even more, that of Frank Stella. In painting I would name Bram Bogart, and Eduardo da Rosa.
Kenworth with Bruce Piermarini and Roy Lerner