Perle Fine: The Cool Series (1961-1963)

Perle Fine: The Cool Series (1961-1963)
November 10-December 10, 2011
Contact: Christine Berry (
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30

Perle Fine - Cool Series, No. 46, Spanking Fresh

Perle Fine, "Cool Series, No. 46, Spanking Fresh," ca. 1961-1963, oil on canvas, 50 x 60 inches

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.

Perle Fine - Cool Series, No. 29, Cool Blue Cold Green

Perle Fine, "Cool Series, No. 29, Cool Blue Cold Green," ca. 1961-1963, oil on canvas, 60 x 70 inches

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.

Perle Fine - Cool Series, No. 26 , First Love

Cool Series, No. 26 , First Love, ca. 1961-1963, oil on canvas, 47 x 59 inches

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.

View the exhibition

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Frank Bowling, RA, O.B.E., Book Signing

Reception and book signing by the artist
Tuesday, October 4, 2011 from 6 to 8 p.m.

For further information please contact:
Martha Campbell (

Frank Bowling monograph by Mel Gooding

"Frank Bowling," monograph by Mel Gooding

Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce that Frank Bowling, RA, O.B.E., will be at the gallery on October 4, 2011 from 6 to 8 p.m. to sign copies of the new monograph about his work by professor, art writer, critic, and curator, Mel Gooding. Published by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, the 160-page book is lavishly illustrated and covers Bowling’s career to the resent. Addressing Bowling’s life, methods, and the poetic nature of his art, Gooding attests to the fact that Bowling is one of the finest artists to emerge from the artists’ circles of New York and London in recent decades. The book, entitled Frank Bowling, is available through the gallery for $45; New York residents, please add sales tax.

Frank Bowling - Oddysseus's Footfalls, 1982

Frank Bowling, "Oddysseus's Footfalls," 1982, acrylic on canvas, 93-1/4 x 70 inches

Frank Bowling has received and is continuing to receive an exceptional amount of  attention and acclaim. He is the first black artist in history to be elected to the Royal Academy, London, and he was honored in 2008 with the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for his service to art. This year, two important shows of Bowling’s work were held: in May, the Royal Academy, London, opened Journeyings, an exhibition of Bowling’s recent works on paper that closes October 23; from late August through early September, he was prominently featured in RCA Black, an exhibition held at the Royal College of Art Students Union, which was organized by the college in collaboration with the African and African Caribbean Design Diaspora. Next year, Bowling will be honored with more notable shows: his paintings will be included in a group exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, opening in April 2012, and his art will be on display at the Tate Gallery, London from April through November 2012. Spanierman Modern will hold an exhibition in April of Bowling’s new work to coincide with these two shows.

“With his recent flurry of exhibitions, Frank Bowling is taking London by storm,” began Stephanie Cotela Tanner in an article on Bowling posted in August on the website  For Tanner’s discussion of Bowling’s career, including an interview with him, visit

Stephen Pace: Abstract Expressionist


Stephen Pace: Abstract Expressionist

September 8 – October 1, 2011
Gallery Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30-5:30

Stephen Pace - Untitled (59-06), 1959

Stephen Pace, "Untitled (59-06)," 1959, oil on canvas, 80 x 66 inches

Spanierman Modern is pleased to announce the opening on September 8, 2011 of Stephen Pace: Abstract Expressionist, presenting a group of large-scale paintings by Stephen Pace (1918-2010), dating from the 1950s through the early 1960s, representing the bold and direct freedom of thought and action that characterized this exhilarating time in American art and culture.  The exhibition is accompanied by a thirty-two page catalogue with color illustrations of the twenty-one works in the show and an essay by Lisa N. Peters, Ph.D. (available for $30 plus $3 for shipping).

Stephen Pace - Untitled (62-12), 1962

Stephen Pace, "Untitled (62-12)," 1962, oil on canvas, 68 x 53 inches

Originally from Charleston, Missouri, and raised in Missouri and Indiana, Pace arrived in New York in 1947. There he found himself at the epicenter of a dynamic milieu of debate and innovation and discovered that the trajectory occurring spontaneously within his own art resonated with that at the forefront of the New York School.  Associating with Franz Kline at the Cedar Street Tavern in Greenwich Village, reconnecting with Milton Avery (whom he had met a year earlier in Mexico) and the circle around Avery of abstract-minded artists such as Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, and studying with students of Hans Hofmann, as well as with Hofmann himself, Pace quickly gained a position of significance within the group of younger artists coming to the fore, including Joan Mitchell, Alfred Leslie, Michael Goldberg, Grace Hartigan, Milton Resnick, and Helen Frankenthaler.  Scraping and manipulating thick pigment with muscular and gestural strokes, while controlling form according to relational design issues stemming from Cubism, Pace explored the theme of freedom and its limits.

Stephen Pace - Autumn (59-02), 1959

Stephen Pace, "Autumn (59-02)," 1959, oil on canvas, 75 x 83 inches

The suddenness of Stephen Pace’s emergence on the New York art scene was given recognition by the noted critic and leading voice of the New York School, Thomas B. Hess, who chose Pace for a two-person traveling museum exhibition in 1961 (with George McNeil), stating in the show’s catalogue:  “Pace is a brilliant member of the second generation of New York School painters that burst on the scene in the early 1950s, fully made, as if from the forehead of the Statue of Liberty.”  Hofmann, who had called Pace one of his most promising students in a 1959 article in Look magazine, provided a statement for the catalogue, sending his “most sincere congratulations to such magnificent choices in great contemporary talents,” and calling McNeil and Pace “two remarkable painters with great plastic imagination and immense vitality and inventiveness in the realm of color.” Hess observed: “Pace appears to think and to feel at the same time; he is a ‘natural’ who makes the tradition work for him; he does not question his useable past.”  Hess concluded: “The continuing production [of the two artists] confirms the presence and gravity of our brave new school.”

Stephen Pace’s work was widely praised by the New York press when he had exhibitions at Artists, Poindexter, and Howard Wise Galleries.  Writing for The Sun (Baltimore) in 1957, Kenneth Sawyer acknowledged that Pace’s art had “prompted critical huzzahs from the vanguard,” going on to recognize that Pace’s paintings “contained “the resonance of an entire mnemonic scale, a quality both profound and satisfying in the rigorous sense.”  In the New York Times in 1960, Dore Ashton described Pace’s paintings—on view at Wise’s Gallery—as “abstractions in which energetic elements battle their way to equilibrium,” commenting: “no matter how baroque Mr. Pace’s compositions are—and they are nearly all fretted with tilting and bucking forms—they do, ultimately come to rest.”

The exhibition demonstrates the broad emotional range often recognized as characterizing Pace’s art, from the tempestuous Autumn (1959) to pensive, subtly toned images from 1951 and 1952, to the moody, densely filled Dark Painting (1952), to images of 1962 in which Pace’s strokes merge with the ground, conveying a striving for openness.  Later in the 1960s, Pace shifted his art in a figurative direction similar to that of Avery. This exhibition’s focus positions Pace within the heightened period in which Abstract Expressionism was at its peak, affording many strands of cross-fertilization as artists explored issues of existence and identity action painting.

Video Talk with Lisa Nankivil –

Lisa Nankivil

Playing in the liminal space between chaos and organization, abstract artist Lisa Nankivil creates bold stripe paintings. In her studio, she utilizes a sliding T-square mounted on a roller skate wheel, allowing gravity and an organic attitude to help her compositions take form. Nankivil permits her canvas’ definitions to get lost and found in the struggle between surface and deep space. To Nankivil, experiencing abstract art is for everyone and the bridge it creates to feelings are best left to the viewer, and not tags on a museum wall.

This segment aired as part of mn original show #226.

View Lisa Nankivil: Lines of Inference exhibition

Read Nankivil Biography

“Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions” at Jepson Center, Savannah, GA

Judith Godwin - Nucleus II, 1950

Judith Godwin, "Nucleus II" (detail), 1950, oil on canvas, 36 ½ x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions is on view at the Telfair Museum’s Jepson Center through August 7, 2011. In the early 1950s, New York-based artist Judith Godwin began removing representational elements from her paintings in favor of abstract approaches. She continued to push the developing abstraction in her work, and over the next decade, saw the imagery evolve into powerful nonobjective compositions. This exhibition explores a critical period in Godwin’s evolution, focusing on her abstractions from the early 1950s through the 1960s.

Judith Godwin - Pink Sky Pond, 1960

Judith Godwin, "Pink Sky Pond," 1960, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 36 inches. Spanierman Modern.

A Virginia native, Judith Godwin arrived in New York City in 1953 during a period of major development in post-war American art. She was accepted into the Art Students League, studying with noted artists Will Barnet, Harry Sternberg, and Vaclav Vytlacil, as well as at Hans Hofmann’s schools in New York and Provincetown. As a young artist she quickly immersed herself in the city, befriended other artists and art dealers, and eventually began to exhibit her paintings and establish her reputation. With a lifetime of work now behind her—grounded in the fertile and evolutionary period explored here—Judith Godwin continues to reinvent the language of abstract painting in her studio.

Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions was developed by René Paul Barilleaux, Chief Curator/Curator of Art after 1945 at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas.

Here are a few words from Ira Spanierman on Godwin’s work:

When Bill Chiego, director of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, sent me a copy of the catalogue for the museum’s 2008 exhibition, Judith Godwin: Early Abstractions, I felt an immediate excitement on seeing the work that was illustrated. Shortly thereafter, I visited Godwin’s studio. As we pulled paintings from the storage racks, I was overwhelmed by their fantastic emotional impact. I was struck by how instinctively Judith Godwin knows where her brush should go, how it should go, and what it should be doing. It was clear to me that her informed brushstrokes were the extension of a physicality and energy that expressed an inner emotional battle. I sensed an enormous struggle in her work, a tension between several forces, each contending for supremacy. The dynamic qualities and wonderful colors in her paintings communicated a sometimes fierce and violent dialogue. To me the paintings represent both the artist’s inner conflicts and her reactions to the frenzied and fluctuating state of the world at a time when the atom bomb was dropped and the moon was reached. Godwin’s paintings are compelling references to the power of those events that affect all of us in our daily lives.

Ira Spanierman

Balcomb Greene at Greenville

Balcomb Greene, "Angelina," 1984, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 1/4 inches

Balcomb Greene, "Angelina," 1984, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 1/4 inches

Lisa N. Peters

On June 11, the Greenville County Museum of Art in Greenville, South Carolina, opened an exhibition entitled Balcomb Greene: The Elements, consisting of ten works lent by Spanierman Gallery. The works on view are in the unique figurative style informed by principles of abstraction and photography that Greene developed beginning in the 1950s. Before becoming an artist, Greene completed a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, wrote three novels, and took part in a master’s program in English literature at Columbia University, which led to a job teaching English at Dartmouth College. As an artist, he was an iconoclastic figure with an intellectual frame of mind. His passion for exploring the connection between the physical and spiritual materialized in these late works, in which forms are recognizable yet dislocated in space and intercepted by variegated passages of light and shadow, conveying a sense of becoming and being at once. His Angelina seems to look into his subject’s soul, while in Island and Summer Clouds, sky, rocks, and water are infused with a light that can only be described as supernatural. Continue reading

Max Weber’s Joel’s Café: A Forgotten New York Establishment Comes to Light

Lisa N. Peters

Max Weber - Joel's Cafe, ca. 1909-10, oil on canvas

Max Weber, "Joel's Cafe," ca. 1909-10, oil on canvas, 25-5/8 x 23-1/4 inches

When Max Weber’s Joel’s Café came into the gallery, we enlisted the help of Weber scholar Percy North* in researching the painting and writing about it for us.  An aspect of the work that interested us especially was the identity of the café portrayed in it.  Dr. North wrote that the scene in the background, portraying a violinist and two female figures that appear to be singing from a sheet of music, suggested a cabaret.  She noted that the “combination of café and cabaret in a single painting is thematically related to Toulouse-Lautrec’s paintings and posters of the Moulin Rouge,” several of which Weber owned and North stated that “Weber’s admiration for Toulouse-Lautrec’s work had inspired him to create a number of café scenes” beginning in 1906, during his 1905 to 1908 sojourn in Paris. Continue reading

Burgoyne Diller and the Restored Williamsburg Murals

Lisa N. Peters

Balcomb Greene - Untitiled," 1937-39, Brooklyn Museum, New York

Balcomb Greene, "Untitled," 1937-39, oil on canvas, 91-1/2 x 139-1/4 inches, on extended loan to the Brooklyn Museum, New York by the New York City Housing Authority

A number of years ago, several murals from the mid-1930s were installed at the Brooklyn Museum.  Their intriguing story soon came to light.  It turns out that they were part of a group of works commissioned in 1936 by the New York Mural Division of the Works Progress Administration/Federal Art Project for public areas in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg Housing Project (designed by the Swiss-born architect William Lescaze and built in the then-modern International Style).  The murals had been forgotten for many years. In some cases they had been covered with rubber cement and used as bulletin boards. In others, they had been locked away in storage rooms. Continue reading