Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on March 6, 2014 of Dan Christensen: Sprays and Stains, an exhibition consisting of the innovative abstract paintings Christensen created from the late 1960s until his death in 2007 that are characterized by their vibrant and unique optical effects. In the late 1960s, at a time when other artists focused on conceptual issues or returned to representation, Christensen received national recognition for extending modernist inquiries into the nature of painting. In the decades that followed, he ceaselessly took chances and risks, pushing the limits of painting into new terrain. Never restricting himself to a particular idiom, he drew from both the gestural methods of Abstract Expressionism and the lucidity and lyricism of Color Field painting, while developing distinctive and unusual surfaces through his exploration of new mediums.
One of the first artists to use the spray gun, Chiristensen initially employed this means to produce stacked “spray loop” paintings that follow a Minimalist modular format, as in Times Square (1967) and Bosco (1968). About the same time, he loosened control in works such as Chevade (1968) and O (1968), achieving a calligraphic fluency in which each quality of the moving and intersecting lines holds our interest across large canvas surfaces. In the 1970s, Christensen’s art expanded in several directions. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he also began to experiment with paint staining. Stapling an unstretched canvas to a carpeted floor, he rolled his paint to create an overall ground, sometimes layering colors on top of each other to produce a desired hue. Then using a stick, brush, or turkey baster, he created “drawings” or frameworks around which he allowed the paint to flow further. With their varied dynamics of shape and tone, these works evoke a range of organic, musical, and landscape allusions while remaining within the bounds of a pure modernist endeavor. The critic and poet John Ashbery described the color in them as smoldering and sensuous, observing that they force the eye to “recognize distinctions among areas of color, which at first have strong family resemblances and only somewhat later turn out to be mavericks that could just as easily be at odds with each other.”
Christensen returned to the spray gun at intervals during the rest of his career, using it with confident fluidity and inventiveness. He wound the color with breathtaking speed to produce mesmerizing mandalas in works such as Dolan (1988) and Camillo (1989), while in paintings such as Swing Street (2001), he combined spray and stain to produce more jazzy, fantasy-laden images. Greneda (2005), Night Garden II (2005), created by Christensen in his last years, break again into new territory, their dazzling color and light making them alive with electrical charge.
In an article of 2009 in Linea, Ronnie Landfield stated that “Christensen’s foremost achievement as an artist was his ability to create consistently meaningful and high quality art while continually evolving.” Christensen’s Sprays and Stains exemplify this trajectory, revealing his perpetual enthusiasm for new vocabulary, his mastery of challenging methods, and his willingness to shift gears, resulting in a body of work that is at once multi-dimensional and unified in its diverse range of inquiries.
Born in Cozad, Nebraska, in 1942, the son of a farmer and truck driver, Christensen chose to become an artist when, as a teenager, he saw the work of Jackson Pollock on a trip to Denver. After receiving his B.F.A. from the Kansas City Art Institute, Missouri, in 1964, he moved to New York City, where he became part of a dynamic period of exchange and experimentation in the art world. Within two years, he rose to fame, as part of a group of young artists who revived painting after a period in which minimalism prevailed. He maintained his dedication to new ways of expanding his artistic expression throughout a career, that was sadly cut short when he was 65 years old. Christensen received a National Endowment Grant in 1968 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969. His work has recently received critical and public attention in an exhibition organized in 2009 by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri, held at the Kemper and at the Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska, Lincoln (2009-10).
Christensen’s paintings are in numerous public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Seattle Art Museum, and many others.
Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on February 6, 2014, of Katherine Parker: chants/chance an exhibition and sale of new large-scale abstractions in which Parker considers the porous relationships that each of us has with our subconscious selves. Her vibrant many-layered works explore the amorphous and elusive nature of memory, reflected in fragments of truth that are visible, hidden, or reconfigured in the mind.
Parker begins her paintings within the framework of grids. Echoing the repetition of chants, these often draw her into a meditative state by their quiet lull. When elements of chance and the unexpected arise, she allows them to dictate the direction in which she proceeds. She states: “I seek resolution slowly through a balance of intention and discovery. In the process, I explore transparency and loss and the tension between the planned and the unpredictable.”
This exhibition includes two sets of paintings addressing slightly different themes. The first consists of paintings with closely related colors and precariously balanced, stacked forms. In them, large masses tend to hover, break up, or dissolve. Some appear weightless while others seem heavy and earthbound. For example, in Behind and Below, the variegated shades of red are similar, but a large pink form threatens to break off and float away. Another form, outlined in black, suggests a void or a missing shape.
In the second group, including Bodies at Rest, I Found It Here, and In the Margins, Parker uses layers of white and tinted color along with charcoal marks that form partially smudged grids. Other marks stubbornly take on importance, often setting the emotional tone for a painting. In the Margins is dominated by a massive, centrally placed white square. However, the interesting part of the painting is in the layered history located at its edges.
Although Parker is influenced by the attitude and rigor of the New York School, she strives for an expressive vision that is modest rather than sublime. She says, “My paintings are a recording of the quiet and personal—moments of everyday life filtered through the particular and profound.”
Parker received her B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and her M.F.A. from Columbia University. She has exhibited at the Queens College Art Center (solo show); the Jersey City Museum (solo show); the Hunterdon Museum of Art, Clinton, New Jersey; P.S. 1 (MOMA), New Jersey State Museum, Trenton; the National Catholic Museum, New York; Rutgers University, Piscataway, New Jersey; and the Noyes Museum, Oceanville, New Jersey. She has received fellowships from the Edward F. Albee Foundation, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and Yaddo. She is represented in the collections of the Jersey City Museum, Trenton; New York University Law School; Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey; and the Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
We are pleased to share the following excerpt from Piri Halasz’s review of Frank Bowling: Recent Paintings, posted on her blog, (An Appropriate Distance) From the Mayor’s Doorstep, on April 13, 2012.
The two shows at Spanierman (both through April 28) are “Frank Bowling: Recent Paintings” (at Spanierman Modern) and “Arthur B. Davies: Painter, Poet, Romancer & Mystic” (at Spanierman Gallery). This will be the third time in three years that I’ve written about Bowling, the first having been a lengthy review of his mini-retrospective here at Spanierman in September 2010, and the second, a review of the book about him by Mel Gooding, in October 2011. This time, the show consists of 24 medium-sized to very large paintings, all done in 2011 except for the largest, a multi-paneled “Girls in the City” (1991) that covers the entire east wall of the gallery. In fact, the whole fine show is Bowling in an expansive mood, with large, sweeping areas of paint, large pieces of canvas sometimes superimposed diagonally in the center of his paintings, and his characteristically neat, narrow rows of stitched and/or stapled of strips of canvas kept to a minimum, along the borders of some (but not all) of the paintings. “Bed in Memory of ‘Dry River Dan,’” a tall, narrow canvas, is classic in its simplicity, with vertical bands of red, purple and green-gold. “Julie McGee’s Flowers” is an all-green whorl of paint, with lots of dribbled gold in the center, plus a small, gilded round form shaped rather like a bottle-cap in the center, together with some paint-soaked bits of cloth. Sounds overly elaborate – but isn’t. The best painting in the show is the 12-foot-long “Girls in the City,” with each of its seven panels neatly & rigorously covered with broad, shiny & richly impastoed rows of reddish-golden-brown paint, and parts of its substructure the red of blood or fire.
Also see the review at www.pirihalasz.com.
Spanierman Modern at Art Miami
Booth # B11
November 30-December 4, 2011
Come visit Spanierman Modern at Art Miami, one of America’s premiere anchor fairs. Located at booth # B11, Spanierman Modern is featuring examples of Abstract Expressionist and Color Field works by modern and contemporary artists, including Frank Bowling, Dan Christensen, Jasmina Danowski, Friedel Dzubas, John Ferren, Perle Fine, Ibram Lassaw, Stephen Pace, Charlotte Park, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Frank Wimberley.
Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the gallery’s participation in Art Miami, on view from November 30 through December 4 at the Art Miami Pavilion in midtown Miami at 3101 Northeast 1st Avenue. Our booth at this premiere anchor fair will feature examples of Abstract Expressionist and Color Field works by modern and contemporary artists, including Frank Bowling, Dan Christensen, Jasmina Danowski, Friedel Dzubas, John Ferren, Perle Fine, Ibram Lassaw, Stephen Pace, Charlotte Park, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Frank Wimberley.
The Abstract Expressionist examples reveal the vitality of this style, which emerged in the mid-twentieth century, a time when artists saw art as a forum for action, creating works as an expression of freedom and a way standing in opposition to a homogenized culture. Charlotte Park’s Lament (ca. 1955) demonstrates the muscular, emotionally powerful approach that has recently brought a significant amount of attention to her work. Stephen Pace’s Untitled (55-06) is a heavily worked canvas in which dynamic and robust movement evokes the Baroque tradition. Perle Fine’s Theme #1 (1951) conveys the new energy of the day, but with a distinctly refined technique of precise linework and subtle color. In Loom (1966), Ibram Lassaw united biomorphism with constructivist and gestural painting methods to produce novel luminous sculptures that he called “paintings in 3D.”
The Color Field movement brought with it a more temperate mood and greater detachment on the part of the artist. A leading figure in this offshoot of Abstract Expressionism, Dan Christensen pushed the limits of paint and new techniques. In Purple Anchor (1969), one of his “plaids,” he used rollers and window-washing squeegees to create works that, unique to a Minimalist aesthetic, are highly sensuous. Friedel Dzubas is best known for his lyrical images, such as Turning Point (1983), which elicit a contemplative feeling in the viewer. Alma Woodsey Thomas, who became a Color Field adherent at age seventy-five, is represented by Spoop Sees Sun Rise on Earth (1971), one of her vivid, patterned canvases that have been compared to Byzantine mosaics. A contemporary artist working in the Color Field mode, Frank Bowling makes extensive discrete adjustments to the surfaces of his works, creating an immediate sense of brilliantly nuanced light as well as a feeling of the cosmic, as in Courteous Shade (1974).
Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on November 10, 2011 of Perle Fine: The Cool Series (1961-1963), presenting the distinctive Color Field paintings created by Fine, an artist who was at the center of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Developing according to Fine from “a need within the painting to express more,” the Cool Series paralleled the gestalt in the art world in the early 1960s, as artists turned from the angst of the art of an earlier generation to a more tranquil mode in which a painting, through its form and color, spoke for itself. Although new attention has been focused on Fine’s art in recent years, this is the first exhibition to feature this series since they were first seen in 1963 and 1964. Curated by Christine Berry, the show is accompanied by a catalogue, available from the gallery for $25, with full-color illustrations and an essay by Lisa N. Peters, Ph.D.
Born in Boston, Perle Fine moved to New York in about 1927, enrolling first at the Grand Central School of Art and then at the Art Students League. In 1933, she was among the first students at Hans Hofmann’s New York school; she also studied with Hofmann in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Committed to abstraction at the start of her career, Fine began to receive recognition in the early 1940s, when she showed at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery and the Museum of Nonobjective Painting (now the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). She was among the few women artists to become part of The Club, the elite artists’ group initiated in 1949, that was spearheaded by Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning; the latter invited Fine to join. A friend of many noted artists of the time, including Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt, de Kooning, and Mark Rothko, Fine was represented by several important galleries, including those of Nierendorf, Betty Parsons, and Tanager.
In 1954, Perle Fine moved to Springs on the east end of Long Island, where she and her husband, Maurice Berezov, built a one-room studio-house in the woods. Fine began her Cool Series in this context in 1961, creating them all of a sudden after destroying a group of works she had been producing for her next exhibition. Limiting her imagery to rectangles and squares placed off center on mostly monochromatic grounds, she sought to eliminate “irrelevancies” in order to exact an explicit and clear image. Fine’s economy of means and the universalist implications of her stable yet dynamic arrangements can be associated with her long admiration for the art of Piet Mondrian, whom she knew. Yet her mixed and atmospheric colors depart from Mondrian’s limited palette as do her edges—which vary from crisp to blurred— endowing her work with a unique delicacy and poetic equilibrium, qualities that were given recognition by the critics of the time. With their glowing light and dignified, reductive arrangements, the Cool Series paintings express a meditative metaphysical experience. Related in their spiritual content to Mark Rothko’s late-period art, Fine’s paintings envelop the viewer in emotional experiences that are at once volatile and restrained. Created from 1961 to 1963, the Cool Series were among the first examples of Color Field painting, revealing Fine’s attunement to the spirit of her time.
Perle Fine displayed her work extensively in solo and group shows during her lifetime. Following her death from pneumonia in 1988, she was the subject of exhibitions at Hofstra University in 1974 and 2009 and at the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, New York, in 2005. Her work is represented in many numerous museum collections, including the Brooklyn Museum, New York; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and many others.
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Abstract Expressionism and Its Legacy
October 6–November 5, 2011
On view at Spanierman Gallery, LLC
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30
Contact: Gina Greer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Spanierman Gallery is pleased to announce the opening on October 6, 2011 of Abstract Expressionism and Its Legacy, presenting a group of paintings reflective of the period when Abstract Expressionism was in its formative years. This was a time when American artists faced existential dilemmas in the aftermath of World War II and the escalating Cold War arms race. The works evoke the artists’ belief in action painting as a means of embodying freedom. In this manner, they reacted against totalitarianism, old rules, and the devastations of the atomic bomb and the recent war. Taking risks in their work, artists sought to step into the unknown, giving rise to a new idiom. As the noted critic Harold Rosenberg wrote in Artnews in December 1952: “The big moment came when it was decided to paint . . . Just to paint. The gesture on the canvas was a gesture of liberation, from Value—political, aesthetic, moral.”
During the 1930s, when American Regionalism and Social Realism predominated, a number of American artists held to abstract methods, working primarily in hard-edge geometric styles stemming from Cubism, Neoplasticism, and Constructivism. It was not until the late 1940s that the gestural methods and freeform approach of Jackson Pollock and other artists began to emerge, signifying the radical new art and philosophical stance. While many of the innovative modes that arose were spurred by the arrival of European artist-emigrés, fleeing their war-torn homelands, others sprang sui generis from the exhilarating intellectual milieu generated by the artists and critics who gathered in Greenwich Village. Several of the artists made the transition from an earlier linear mode to the new action-painting methods, among them Rolph Scarlett and Gertrude Glass Greene. Scarlett, who had met Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky in Europe in the 1930s, was among the first American artists to develop a nonobjective style. In the 1950s, he turned from his structured designs of the late 1930s and 1940s—avidly collected by Hilla Rebay for the Museum of Non-Objective Museum)—to produce works such as Black, White, and Gray with Sand Drip (1950s), in which he flung and dripped sand-embedded pigment into a decentered composition, suggestive of the theme of free will seeking escape from confinement. Exposed to progressive currents in Europe during the 1920s, Greene was a pioneering figure in the development of American geometric abstraction and a founder of the American Abstract Artists. In the 1950s, she brought an organic emphasis to her Cubist-based images such as Structure and Space (1951), using a palette knife to create a sense of movement and energy that was new in her work.
Abstract Expressionism has often been considered a masculine style that women could not fully achieve. Nonetheless, several women directly witnessed and played important roles in the era’s gestalt, demonstrating a presence to which scholars are today giving recognition. Among them, Perle Fine was at the center of the movement throughout her career. She studied with Hans Hofmann, participated in exhibitions at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting, was a member of the elite artists’ gatherings at The Club, showed her work at major galleries that promoted the avant-garde (including those of Nierendorf, Betty Parsons, and Tanager), and was close to many of the leading Abstract Expressionists, such as Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Ad Reinhardt. In The Forest (1949), Fine denied the completeness of her shapes, creating a dynamic interplay between form and space that evokes a mystical state of being. Mary Abbott was another early exponent of Abstract Expressionism. One of few women to attend the short-lived experimental school, called The Subject of the Artist School (which fostered the careers of Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Robert Motherwell), as well as also a member of The Club, Abbott did not curtail her art due to ideas as to how women should paint. She created explosively electric images such as Mr. Lee (1950).
Abstract Expressionism provided a means by which artists could define their identities through the distinctiveness of their brush marks. Such a quest is apparent in Stephen Pace’s Untitled (55-31) (1955), in which strokes of charcoal gray battle for dominance over iridescent blues and reds. In John Little’s Phobos (1958) broad brush movements seem to be in a violent contest, with no single color or stroke predominating. Little perhaps sought to evoke the Greek god named in the title, a personification of the fear brought on by war (Little served in the Navy during World War II). Both Pace and Little studied with Hofmann. Pace was a long-time friend of Milton Avery, and Little was a neighbor and friend of Pollock and Lee Krasner in Springs, East Hampton. John Ferren, who was close to Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and John Helion while living in Paris in the early 1930s, also joined the Springs community around Pollock in the late 1950s. His distinctive Abstract Expressionist style, in which he considered the movement and complexity within simple, subtly shifting colors and nuanced brush handling, reflects his exploration of Eastern philosophy.
While some artists of the era believed that it was only through nonobjective expression that an artist could venture into a new world, one without borders or limits, others felt that the natural world could continue to provide the basis for creative exploration within an abstract forum. Such a broadminded attitude characterized Betty Parsons, a leading and legendary dealer of the day whose wide-ranging stable of artists included “giants,” such as Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still, and less prominent figures working in many different styles. Herself an artist throughout her life, Parsons drew from the rich plethora of the art she showed in her gallery in her own work, while using a vibrant palette and a flexible technique to interpret the spirit of places she experienced in her many travels, as in Blue Field (1957). Ideology was also not a barrier for Charlotte Park (wife of James Brooks and a friend of Pollock and Krasner), who developed a dynamic, effervescent approach to express a wide emotional range. In Zachary (ca. 1955), she used modulated hues, cursive, undulating lines, and floating forms that call to mind the natural world without being specifically referential.
A number of artists have continued the Abstract Expressionist tradition, using its painterly language as well as following its mission, to venture beyond the known and to explore the precarious nature of reality. Among them, Judith Godwin, who also studied with Hofmann and was a close friend of Kline and Brooks, paints with emotionally expressive color and line, conveying complex feelings, inner tensions, and a struggle for self-awareness. Her Pink Sky Pond (1960) reveals a mood of lyricism disrupted by intonations of dissension. Frank Bowling (a native of British Guyana), who has been honored by his election to the Royal Academy, London and by being made an officer in the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England (O.B.E.), delves through his heavily worked surfaced paintings into a realm between associative impressions and abstract objectivity—the latter advocated by Clement Greenberg, with whom Bowling carried on a Socratic dialogue in the 1970s. In Kaieteurfow (1980), the vision of Abstract Expressionism is present in Bowling’s many discrete adjustments to the surface, which create a sense of unleashed and variable time, both immediate and cosmic.
Often described in terms of its revolutionary stylistic features, Abstract Expressionism was also a way of thinking and looking at the world and the self. For artists then and now, its methods and ideals have spawned an unbounded range of creative results. Of the artists of his era, Rosenberg wrote in 1952: “The American vanguard painter took to the white expanse of the canvas as Melville’s Ishmael took to the sea. On the one hand, a desperate recognition of moral and intellectual exhaustion; on the other, the exhilaration of an adventure over depths in which he might find reflected the true image of his identity.” Such exhilaration can be felt in these powerful, sensuous, and evocative works.
Burgoyne Diller: Pioneer of Minimalism—Drawings and Collages
October 6–November 5, 2011
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30
Contact: Alice Hammond (email@example.com)
Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on October 6, 2011 of Burgoyne Diller: Pioneer of Minimalism—Drawings and Collages. Including works created from the mid-1930s through the mid-1960s, this exhibition demonstrates the precise and skillful technique with which Burgoyne Diller (1906-1965) created the drawings and collages that he produced throughout his career. Rendered as independent works, these dynamic geometric images stand on their own and reveal Diller’s contribution to the rise of the Minimalist movement. The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, including full-color illustrations of the works on view, and an essay by Ina Prinz, Ph.D., director of the Arithmeum, Bonn, Germany, and the author of a forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Diller’s works, which builds on her doctoral dissertation on the artist of 2004. The catalogue is available for $15 from the gallery.
In his painting and sculpture, Burgoyne Diller made a critical contribution to the development of abstraction in America, but the trajectory of his ideological and aesthetic exploration is best revealed in the drawings he produced throughout his career. For Diller, drawing was the forum to think through his questions and evolving ideas, and he worked in a more fluid manner than in the other mediums for which his process was extremely painstaking, consisting of many stages of preparation and execution.
The practice of ongoing drawing was advocated by Diller’s teacher Hans Hofmann, whose motto was: “drawing is the daily bread of the artist.” Hofmann instilled in Diller a belief in the importance each decision can make in a drawing; Diller recorded his teacher’s statement that “a millimeter in the drawing may mean a mile in difference in the effect.” Following this adage, Diller merged a spontaneous process in his drawings, with one in which he carefully considered the ramifications of each nuance of shape and tone in a design, resulting in works that are elegant and inventive. Diller’s drawings and collages have received scholarly attention over the years, yet Dr. Prinz is the first to authoritatively catalogue these works and clarify their aesthetic properties. Her contribution to the catalogue, including an overview of Diller’s biography, and a specific analysis of each work in the exhibition, provides a new understanding of this artist who held a pivotal role in both the promotion of abstract art in America and in the adaptation of the tenets of European modernism to an American abstract idiom.