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Jay Milder: Broadway Nonstop: Subway Paintings from the 1950s and 60s

April 1 – May 14, 2022

Trainspotters & Turnstile Prophets: A Panel Discussion on Art and the Subway

Held in Conjunction with the Exhibition "Jay Milder: Broadway Nonstop, Subway Paintings from the 1950s and 60s"

 

Moderated by Carlo McCormick

with Henry Chalfant, Chris "DAZE" Ellis, and Mimi Gross

Wednesday, April 27, 2021 | 6:30PM | Eric Firestone Gallery | 40 Great Jones Street

 

In honor of Jay Milder’s Subway Runners series on view at Eric Firestone Gallery, this lively panel discussion centers on art and the subway—the architecture, the energy, the people-watching, the subterranean hubbub, and the aesthetic inspiration that the New York City transit system has offered artists. Moderated by critic and curator Carlo McCormick, this conversation brings together interdisciplinary artists Henry Chalfant, Daze, and Mimi Gross to meditate on the influence of urban environments and public transportation on their respective practices and on Milder’s historic paintings.

 

Carlo McCormick (b. 1960) is a popular culture critic, curator, and Senior Editor of Paper magazine. He has published numerous books, monographs, and catalogues such as Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art and Street CultureThe Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene 1974–1984, and Dondi White: Style Master General. His writing has appeared in Art in AmericaARTnews, and Artforum among other publications. McCormick (in consultation with Lynn Gumpert and Marvin J. Taylor) organized the exhibition The Downtown Show: the New York Art Scene from 1974 to 1984 at Grey Art Gallery and Fales Library, New York University. He has also curated exhibitions for The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Queens Museum of Art, and The Museum of Sex in New York as well as The Center for Photography at Woodstock in Kingston. McCormick lectures and teaches on popular culture and art at academic institutions across the United States.

 

Henry Chalfant (b. 1940, Sewickley, PA) is celebrated for capturing graffiti, breakdancing, and urban culture in his photographs and films. His images can be found in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. Recognized for his extensive knowledge of hip hop and underground culture, Chalfant co-authored Subway Art—which is the definitive account of New York City graffiti art—as well as its sequel on the worldwide diffusion of the art form entitled Spraycan Art. He also co-produced the 1983 documentary film Style Wars, which was first shown on PBS television in 1984. Chalfant’s photographs will be exhibited later this year in Beyond the Streets: Shanghai as well as City as Studio, a forthcoming exhibition curated by Jeffrey Dietch celebrating street art and graffiti previewed by the 2021 publication of the same name.

 

Chris "DAZE" Ellis (b. 1962, New York, New York) began his prolific career painting subway cars in 1976 while attending The High School of Art and Design in New York City. He remains one of the few artists of his generation to make the successful transition from the transit system to the studio. He has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and has been included in many group shows and museum surveys across the world. DAZE has also conceived various public art projects such as a mural for The Star Ferry Terminal in Hong Kong in 1993; the design for a train station in Hannover, Germany alongside fellow artists Lee and Crash in 1995; and a mural for The Dreamland Artist Club, Creative Time, New York in 2004. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Suermondt-Ludwig-Museum, Aachen, Germany; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; and the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy, Andover.

 

Mimi Gross (b. 1940, New York, NY) is especially hailed for her portraiture and her chosen mediums of oil crayon and chalk pastel (in addition to oil paint). The artist was a staple of the downtown scene, exhibiting at the cooperative galleries of the 1950s and ‘60s such as the historic City Gallery, New York founded by Jay Milder and Red Grooms. Like many of her contemporaries, Gross split her time between New York City and Provincetown, where she befriended artists such as Milder, Grooms, and Bob Thompson. She has lived and worked in TriBeCa for the past 40 years but often returns to Provincetown, where she has a home and studio. Mimi Gross has produced a number of works related to New York City’s transit system; among them is the fabled Ruckus Manhattan, a multimedia collaboration between Gross, Grooms, and others, which depicts the island of Manhattan. Her work is represented in the collections of the Jewish Museum, New York; the New York Public Library, New York; and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Gross’ work is currently on-view in an exhibition at Bard College titled Mimi Gross: Study for Yourself.

Press Release

Jay Milder: Broadway Nonstop Subway Paintings from the 1950s and 60s Eric Firestone Gallery
40 Great Jones St. | New York, NY
April 1- May 14, 2022

Eric Firestone Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition “Jay Milder: Broadway Nonstop, Subway Paintings from the 1950s and 60s,” on view from April 1 - May 14, 2022 at 40 Great Jones Street. This will be the first solo exhibition of Milder’s early work in New York City in several decades.  Milder made New York City subway riders his subject; his paintings are characterized by their wildly impasto surfaces and expressionist paint handling. Faces and limbs are outsized, filling the canvases in ways that call attention to emotion and psychological connection. Carter Ratcliff termed Milder an “urban visionary.” The people in his paintings become intense, tempestuous characters that prefigure the “Cartoon Noir” style of Joyce Pensato or the experiential scenes and visceral personalities in Dana Schutz’s canvases.

Milder’s explosively energetic series, the “Subway Runners,” were the subject of a solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery in 1964. The works are based on people running to catch New 
York City subway trains.
Faces and heads dominate most of the large-scale canvases, with arms and legs in motion, and subway tracks depicted with loose, gestural marks. Works in the show include “Turquoise Runner,” 1963, and “Yellow Subway Runner,” 1963, both of which are characterized by the thick impasto application, some areas of paint rising off the canvas by up to two inches. The show will also include a selection of Milder’s gouache works on paper.

Milder was inspired by the energy and motion, history, and constant flux of the city. The surfaces of his paintings are emblematic of layers of paint and grit on building walls. He experimented, early on, with spray paint, and added volcanic ash to pigment to create a coarse impasto. This, along with his subject matter of the subway, have led art historians to connect his work to street art. Over the decades, the constant in his work has been what he terms “figurative symbolism” and a belief that paintings should convey a sense of the connection between mystical experience and material presence. Milder says, “If you don’t have joy, you don’t have anything.” Milder co-founded, with Red Grooms, the artist-run City Gallery in their shared loft in the Flatiron District, giving Claes Oldenberg and Jim Dine their first New York exhibitions. In 1959, the City Gallery’s operations expanded to a studio loft run by Grooms, Milder, and Bob Thompson on the Lower East Side. The new gallery would become known as the Delancey Street Museum.

Jay Milder (b. 1934) grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. As a young person, Milder lived in Paris and studied with Ossip Zadkine and André Lhote. There, he became aware of the work of Chaim Soutine, who would be an important influence in terms of a gestural, painterly approach to Cubism enlivened by spiritual belief. Milder befriended painter Ed Clark, who showed him around the city, as well as Yves Klein and met writers Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Milder’s travels to Morocco and Mexico also informed his early development.  After returning to the States, Milder studied briefly at the Art Institute of Chicago, and later at Hans Hofmann’s summer school in Provincetown.  There, Milder met Bob Thompson,  Red Grooms and Mimi Gross, and they, along with Alex Katz and Lester Johnson, showed together at the Provincetown cooperative, the Sun Gallery.  His community included Gandy Brodie, Jan Muller, and Emilio Cruz: all later recognized for a style defined as Figurative Expressionism.  

Milder’s work is represented in the collections of the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, VA; the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; and the Museo Nacional de Arte Centro Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid, Spain. He was the subject of a 1991 retrospective at the New England Center for Contemporary Art. Milder has lived in Brazil, and he was the subject of solo exhibitions in 2006 at the Museum of Modern Art in Salvador, Bahia, and Rio De Janeiro, and, in 2009, at the National Museum of Brazilia. He was the subject of a 2019 retrospective at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum: “Jay Milder: Unblotting the Rainbow.”

JAY MILDER: BROADWAY NONSTOP, Subway Paintings from the 1950s and 60s will be on view through May 14, 2022 Eric Firestone Gallery | 40 Great Jones Street, New York, NY 10012

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