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Montauk Highway III: Postwar Abstraction in the Hamptons

August 17 – September 29, 2019

Miriam Schapiro, Mother & Child, 1959

Miriam Schapiro

Mother & Child, 1959

oil on canvas

59 1/4h x 49 1/4w in
150.50h x 125.10w cm

MSCHA075

Manoucher Yektai (1922), Untitled, 1970

Manoucher Yektai (1922)

Untitled, 1970

Oil on canvas

27 1/2h x 23 1/2w in
69.85h x 59.69w cm

MYEK002

Michael West (1908-1981), La Voir (The Sight) after Juan Gris, 1956

Michael West (1908-1981)

La Voir (The Sight) after Juan Gris, 1956

oil on canvas

65 7/8h x 38 1/2w in
167.32h x 97.79w cm

MWEST001

Seymour Lipton (1903-1986), Storm Bird, 1954

Seymour Lipton (1903-1986)

Storm Bird, 1954

Nickel-silver

20h x 35 3/4w x 11d in
50.80h x 90.81w x 27.94d cm

SLIP001

Willem de Kooning, Thursday, July 17, 1969, 1969

Willem de Kooning

Thursday, July 17, 1969, 1969

oil on newspaper

23h x 14 1/2w in
58.42h x 36.83w cm

WDEK007

Costantino Nivola, Senza Titolo, 1961

Costantino Nivola

Senza Titolo, 1961

cement panel, incised and painted

16h x 19 3/4w in
40.64h x 50.17w cm

CNIV005

Ernest Briggs, #4, 1954

Ernest Briggs

#4, 1954

Oil on canvas

69 3/4h x 41 1/2w in
177.17h x 105.41w cm

EBRIGGS003

Pat Passlof, Escalator, 1948

Pat Passlof

Escalator, 1948

Oil and enamel on linen

56h x 48w in
142.24h x 121.92w cm

PASS001

Costantino Nivola, Untitled (Modelle), c.1956

Costantino Nivola

Untitled (Modelle), c.1956

Sandcast with mosaic decoration

24h x 11w x 2 1/2d in
60.96h x 27.94w x 6.35d cm

CNIV004

Perle Fine, Blue-Chips Blue #1, 1967

Perle Fine

Blue-Chips Blue #1, 1967

Acrylic polymer emulsion wood collage on masonite

48 7/8h x 59 3/4w in
124.14h x 151.77w cm

PFIN012

Alfonso Ossorio, Winter Colloquy, 1950

Alfonso Ossorio

Winter Colloquy, 1950

watercolor, ink, and wax on illustration board

16h x 21w in
40.64h x 53.34w cm

AOSS007

Perle Fine, Polestars and Popcicles, 1945

Perle Fine

Polestars and Popcicles, 1945

gouache on paper

31h x 23 1/2w in
78.74h x 59.69w cm

PFIN009

Jim Dine, Untitled (Sign), 1960

Jim Dine

Untitled (Sign), 1960

oil on fabric and masonite

84h x 36w in
213.36h x 91.44w cm

DIN002

Charlotte Park, #3, 1956

Charlotte Park

#3, 1956

oil on canvas

37h x 48w in
93.98h x 121.92w cm

CPAR006

Fred Mitchell (November 24, 1923 – May 21, 2013), Harbor, 1953

Fred Mitchell (November 24, 1923 – May 21, 2013)

Harbor, 1953

oil on panel

18h x 25w in
45.72h x 63.50w cm

FMITCH001

James Brooks (1906-1992), Untitled, 1952

James Brooks (1906-1992)

Untitled, 1952

oil on board

12h x 15 1/2w in
30.48h x 39.37w cm

JBRO003

Theodoros Stamos, Divining Rod, 1951

Theodoros Stamos

Divining Rod, 1951

Oil on canvas

66h x 35 1/2w in
167.64h x 90.17w cm

STAM001

Jane Freilicher (1924-2014), Untitled, 1953

Jane Freilicher (1924-2014)

Untitled, 1953

Oil on Canvas

29 1/4h x 29 1/4w in
74.30h x 74.30w cm

JFRE002

Elaine de Kooning, Winter Still Life, 1980

Elaine de Kooning

Winter Still Life, 1980

Oil on canvas

32h x 42w in
81.28h x 106.68w cm

EDEK005

Hedda Sterne, Cowles, 1949

Hedda Sterne

Cowles, 1949

Oil on canvas

41 1/2h x 29w in
105.41h x 73.66w cm

HEDST001

Ibram Lassaw, Ourania, 1980

Ibram Lassaw

Ourania, 1980

Mixed metals

37 1/2h x 40w x 51d in
95.25h x 101.60w x 129.54d cm

LAS010

Jack Tworkov, Hymnos (Q3-76 #3), 1976

Jack Tworkov

Hymnos (Q3-76 #3), 1976

Oil on Canvas

55 1/2h x 96w in
140.97h x 243.84w cm

JTWO004

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

EAST HAMPTON, NYEric Firestone Gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition Montauk Highway III: Postwar Abstraction in the Hamptons, opening August 17th, and on view through September 29, 2019. The exhibition features work by:

Paul Brach · Ernest Briggs · James Brooks · Peter Busa · Nicolas Carone · Elaine de Kooning · Willem de Kooning · Jim Dine · Jimmy Ernst · Perle Fine · Jane Freilicher · Sidney Geist · Joseph Glasco · Ibram Lassaw · Michael Lekakis · Seymour Lipton · Conrad Marca-Relli · Fred Mitchell · Joan Mitchell · Kyle Morris · Robert Motherwell · Louise Nevelson · Costantino Nivola · Alfonso Ossorio · Charlotte Park · Betty Parsons · Pat Passlof · Philip Pavia · Miriam Schapiro · Theodoros Stamos · Hedda Sterne · Jack Tworkov · Michael West · Manoucher Yektai

In the 1950s and 1960s, the Hamptons became one of the most significant meeting grounds of like-minded artists, who gathered on the beach, in local bars, and at one another’s homes and studios.  It was an extension of the vanguard artistic activity happening in New York City around abstraction, which constituted a radical redefinition of art.  But the East End was also a place where artists were freer to experiment. For the third time, Eric Firestone Gallery pays homage to this rich and layered history in Montauk Highway III.

The show includes work from the period by more than thirty artists who played an important role in the Hamptons scene, and had studios in the area. In this moment, when Ninth Street Women is one of the most talked-about books in the art world, Eric Firestone Gallery continues to re-investigate the depth of this scene and the role of women artists and lesser-known abstractionists.

Uncluttered sight lines and expansive fields by the sea define the landscape of the East End. In the 1950s and 60s, when the artists lived mostly amidst farmers and fishermen, it was particularly so. The influence of this landscape and its light permeates the painting and sculpture on view.

Much of the painting and sculpture presented here has a sense of hope and expansiveness, but is also fractured and elegiac. This aesthetic also becomes a visual metaphor for what the East End represented to these artists.  It was a refuge from the pressures of the city. It was bucolic but punctuated by serious challenge and tragedy: alcoholism, suicide, the heavy shadow of the second World War, and Jackson Pollock’s death in a car crash in Springs during the summer of 1956.

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner were among the earliest artists of the scene to decamp to the Hamptons; they moved to the Springs in 1945.  One early gathering place on the East End was the home of Leo Castelli and his wife Ileana Sonnabend, on Jericho Lane in East Hampton. Willem and Elaine de Kooning spent two summers in the early 1950s living there.  It was during this time that de Kooning was struggling with his “Woman” series, and he was able to carve out his own studio on the porch of the rambling house. His palette lightened during this period of artistic transition; the sea and water seemed to infiltrate the paintings.  Soon after, he established his own home in the Springs, where he was known for riding around the area on his bicycle.

Charlotte Park and James Brooks first came to the East End after visiting Pollock and Krasner in 1948.  They originally lived in Montauk, but after the studio was badly damaged by Hurricane Carol in 1954, they moved to Springs in 1957. Miriam Schapiro and her husband Paul Brach bought a house in 1953 in Wainscott, where they would summer and eventually live full time. It was there that Schapiro began to develop an abstract language of form that reflected her experience as a woman and a mother. Working outside of the “center” of the art world freed her to find the independent voice that established her as a pioneer feminist artist.

Alfonso Ossorio, a painter born into a wealthy Filipino family, first encountered and purchased Pollock’s work in the late 1940s.  The two artists became friends, and Ossorio and his partner Ted Dragon spent the summer of 1949 with Pollock and Krasner. In 1951, Pollock encouraged Ossorio to buy the East Hampton estate, “The Creeks,” which Ossorio would make his full-time home until his death in 1990.

In 1957, Alfonso Ossorio, along with John Little and Elizabeth Parker, decided to bring a major art gallery to the area. They each contributed five hundered dollars to lease a space in the center of town for the Signa Gallery. It was designed to show great, international art, and its opening attracted more than five hundred guests. Over the gallery's three years in operation, it showed the works of many of the artists in this exhibition including Ernest Briggs, Perle Fine, and Conrad Marca-Relli.

Also part of the first wave of artist migration was the sculptor Costantino Nivola, who was born in Italy, and had a background in architectural decoration and graphic design.  He moved to the East End with his wife Ruth, and their 35-acre property and home in the Springs became another gathering place. Nivola, who made plaster and concrete sculptures, revived the technique of sand casting after observing his children at the beach.

The landscape also deeply impacted the sculptor Philip Pavia, a founder of the Club, the legendary association of artists and writers who met on 8th Street in the late 1940s and 50s.  Pavia lived on the North Fork from 1965-69, and in East Hampton from 1979 until his death in 2005.  His sculptures of the 1960s utilize and reflect the natural landscape.

This year, the exhibition will not focus solely on abstraction; instead, including figurative and landscape works by Jane Freilicher, Elaine de Kooning, Hedda Sterne, and Louise Nevelson. A painting by Miriam Schapiro exists exactly at the nexus between figuration and abstraction.

In 1955, the debates around whether painting could be truly modern if objects or figures appeared were intense. Frank O’Hara published an essay called “Nature and New Painting,” including work by Jane Frelicher, Larry Rivers, Elaine de Kooning and Grace Hartigan to illustrate his point. And Elaine de Kooning published her own essay in 1955 in ArtNews, “Subject: What, How, or Who” to challenge the dominance of Clement Greenberg’s ideas.

The East End became the backdrop for a lively exchange among artists. The exhibition shows that this community was bigger and more varied than a few well-known names; there were many, distinct voices at the party.

 

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