Eric Firestone Gallery is pleased to announce A Show About Nothing, a large-scale group exhibition at 4 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, NY. In the spirit of the holiday season, A Show About Nothing celebrates the twelve-year history of Eric Firestone Gallery and its year-round presence in the East Hampton community since opening in 2010. A reception will be held at the gallery on Saturday, December 17, 5–7 PM.
The exhibition highlights groupings of paintings and works on paper by several artists and estates that the gallery represents including Judy Bowman, Michael Boyd, Charles DuBack, Jorge Fick, Mimi Gross, Varnette Honeywood, Jamillah Jennings, Ted Kurahara, Sana Musasama, Joe Overstreet, Pat Passlof, Jeanne Reynal, and Paul Waters.
On view is a massive installation of works on paper by Jorge Fick (1932–2004), which was the first estate that Eric Firestone Gallery began representing at the time of establishing its East Hampton space. The exhibition also demonstrates how the gallery’s program has developed to include artists Mimi Gross and Paul Waters, as well as the estates of Joe Overstreet, Pat Passlof, Michael Boyd, and Charles DuBack. Also included are works by Jamillah Jennings and Varnette Honeywood. The gallery’s commitment to revisiting the canon of postwar art history—and shedding light on work by women artists and artists of color—shines through this exhibition.
A colorful and graphic tone is a common thread throughout the show: abstract works by Overstreet (1933–2011) communicate joy through star forms and experimental paint application. Jamillah Jennings’s (b.1946) paintings on paper of Black musicians are vibrant and alive. Mimi Gross’s (b.1940) 1961 works were made in a burst of creative energy that resulted from a trip from Florence to Venice by horse-drawn carriage, during which she and her friends stopped along the way to stage a shadow puppet show. Varnette Honeywood’s (1950–2010) three-panel collage Campus Christmas (1985) was designed for the annual Spelman College holiday card and led to Honeywood winning the CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) Bronze Award for Illustration in print. This is the most monumental collage from a series of commissions from her alma mater and honors the achievement and joy of young Black women scholars. The rich cut-canvas collages of Paul Waters (b.1936) are full of bright, hand-painted graphic symbols pulled from Waters’ own developed lexicon based on his travels throughout Africa and Oceania.
Also on-view is a selection of paintings on paper from the late 1990s by Pat Passlof (1928–2011). These later works, which feature repeated patterns and marks across the canvas to create dynamic rhythms, mark Passlof’s return to abstraction after a period in which she produced pastoral-like scenes and paintings of nymphs and centaurs. Japanese-American artist Ted Kurahara (b.1925) is likewise represented by a group of his later abstractions—monochromatic works on paper from 1983. After a series of white paintings in 1981, he developed the meticulously simple, silent, enigmatic blocks of monochromatic color he is now known for. A significant figure of the New York School, Jeanne Reynal (1903–1983) brought an Abstract Expressionist working method to the ancient medium of mosaics. Reynal showed with Betty Parsons Gallery and was a friend, patron, and collaborator of fellow artists such as Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, and Isamu Noguchi.
Throughout its history, Eric Firestone Gallery has revisited and reintroduced the work of artists from the early downtown artists’ community of New York City, including that of Gross, Charles DuBack, and Michael Boyd. DuBack (1926–2015) is represented by four paintings from 1960 which reflect the range of his larger body of work—two familial portraits as well as two landscape works which evoke his early color-field paintings from the 1950s. DuBack was a founding member of two co-operative galleries in New York: Area Gallery on East 10th Street and Landmark Gallery on Broome Street. An installation of early collage works by Boyd (1936–2015) from his days working in Abstract Expressionism is also on-view. These works point toward his graphic design sensibilities, a field in which Boyd would find much success, eventually becoming a tenured professor of graphic design and environmental analysis at Cornell University.
Two recent works by Detroit-based artist Judy Bowman (b.1952) and ceramicist Sana Musasama (b.1957), respectively, are also featured in the exhibition. Considering herself a visual griot, Bowman tells stories through her mixed-media works on canvas that reflect her coming-of-age experiences in Detroit’s Eastside and Black Bottom neighborhoods. Bowman’s first solo museum exhibition Gratiot Griot is on-view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit through March 2023. Based in Queens, New York, Musasama began traveling as a way to recover identity and cultural place. She studied Mende pottery in Sierra Leone (1974–75) and ventured later to Japan, China, South America, and Cambodia; these travels as well as her battles with illness inspired her House Series of ceramic vessels. In 2022 she revisited her House Series, which she describes as “speaking about kinship, culture, life and living.”
Eric Firestone Gallery was established in 2010 at 4 Newtown Lane in East Hampton, New York. In 2015, the gallery expanded with an additional location — Eric Firestone Loft — in a historic artist live/work building at 4 Great Jones Street in New York City. In 2020, the gallery opened a third location, its second on Great Jones Street, a ground-floor gallery at 40 Great Jones Street. Eric Firestone Gallery exhibits post-war and contemporary artists and has a unique commitment to re-examining historic work and presenting major figures deserving of reintroduction. The gallery supports this mission with rigorous scholarship and archival research, looking at the entirety of an artist’s mission, creative vision, and life, in collaboration with institutions and collectors.