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Paul Waters: In the Beginning, Paintings from the 1960s and 70s

40 Great Jones Street | New York, NY

February 4 – March 26, 2022

Paul Waters, You and Me, 1969

Paul Waters

You and Me, 1969

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

45 1/2h x 60w in

115.57h x 152.40w cm

PWAT354

Paul Waters, Victims, 1971

Paul Waters

Victims, 1971

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

34h x 30w in

86.36h x 76.20w cm

PWAT256

Paul Waters, Happy Times, 1972

Paul Waters

Happy Times, 1972

collage on board

40 1/4h x 30 1/4w in

102.23h x 76.83w cm

PWAT1440

Paul Waters, Another Time, 1969

Paul Waters

Another Time, 1969

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

65h x 45 1/2w in

165.10h x 115.57w cm

PWAT355

Paul Waters, Happy Dream Time I, 1972

Paul Waters

Happy Dream Time I, 1972

paper collage on board

40 1/4h x 30 1/4w in

102.23h x 76.83w cm

PWAT1441

Paul Waters, Survival Committee, 1970

Paul Waters

Survival Committee, 1970

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

50h x 136w in

127h x 345.44w cm

PWAT378

Paul Waters, Portrait of a Young Lady, 1972

Paul Waters

Portrait of a Young Lady, 1972

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

96h x 42w in

243.84h x 106.68w cm

PWAT274

Paul Waters, Syllables of Survival, 1969

Paul Waters

Syllables of Survival, 1969

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

70h x 60w in

177.80h x 152.40w cm

PWAT374

Paul Waters, In the Beginning, 1970

Paul Waters

In the Beginning, 1970

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

70h x 237w in

177.80h x 601.98w cm

PWAT011

Paul Waters, Enduring Life, 1969

Paul Waters

Enduring Life, 1969

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

76h x 44 1/2w in

193.04h x 113.03w cm

PWAT019

Paul Waters, Two Birds, 1972

Paul Waters

Two Birds, 1972

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

48h x 36 1/2w in

121.92h x 92.71w cm

PWAT252

Paul Waters, Three Faces, 1971

Paul Waters

Three Faces, 1971

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

44h x 75w in

111.76h x 190.50w cm

PWAT035

Paul Waters, Two Women, 1970

Paul Waters

Two Women, 1970

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

60h x 46 1/2w in

152.40h x 118.11w cm

PWAT030

Paul Waters, Love Story, 1970

Paul Waters

Love Story, 1970

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

60h x 46 1/2w in

152.40h x 118.11w cm

PWAT261

Paul Waters, Beautiful Dancer, 1972

Paul Waters

Beautiful Dancer, 1972

cut paper collage on paper

35h x 23w in

88.90h x 58.42w cm

PWAT505

Paul Waters, Eight Birds, 1972

Paul Waters

Eight Birds, 1972

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

30h x 36 1/4w in

76.20h x 92.08w cm

PWAT220

Paul Waters, Love Birds, 1973

Paul Waters

Love Birds, 1973

ink on paper

29h x 23w in

73.66h x 58.42w cm

PWAT460

Paul Waters, Quiet Listening, 1972

Paul Waters

Quiet Listening, 1972

paper collage on board

44h x 28 1/4w in

111.76h x 71.75w cm

PWAT1246

Paul Waters, Circle Survival Dreams, 1971

Paul Waters

Circle Survival Dreams, 1971

cut paper collage on paper

23h x 34 5/8w in

58.42h x 87.95w cm

PWAT906

Paul Waters, Freedom Dream, 1971

Paul Waters

Freedom Dream, 1971

cut paper collage on paper

23 1/8h x 34 3/4w in

58.74h x 88.27w cm

PWAT898

Paul Waters, Faith and Fear, 1971

Paul Waters

Faith and Fear, 1971

cut paper collage on paper

23 1/8h x 34 5/8w in

58.74h x 87.95w cm

PWAT905

Paul Waters, Mother and Her Seven, 1970

Paul Waters

Mother and Her Seven, 1970

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

70h x 178w in

177.80h x 452.12w cm

PWAT012

Paul Waters, The Sweet By and By, 1971

Paul Waters

The Sweet By and By, 1971

oil on cut linen collage on canvas

60h x 75w in

152.40h x 190.50w cm

PWAT336

Press Release

Paul Waters: In the Beginning, Paintings from the 60s and 70s

Eric Firestone Gallery

40 Great Jones Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY

February 4th - March 26, 2022

Eric Firestone Gallery is pleased to announce “Paul Waters: In the Beginning, Paintings from the 1960s and 70s.” The exhibition opens Friday February 4, and will be on view through March 26, 2022. With this exhibition, the gallery is also pleased to announce representation of artist Paul Waters (b. 1936, Philadelphia). This will be the first solo exhibition of Waters’s work in fifty years.

On view will be several canvas collages, ranging from midsize to monumental: richly colored, celebratory, playful, and immediate works. Painted silhouettes suggesting primordial forms and imaginary animals are arranged and collaged onto canvas supports in rhythmic patterns. It is a unique process and vision, and these works have only rarely been on view.

Paul Waters, who still lives and works on the Bowery in lower Manhattan, is an African-American artist whose works are concerned with direct communication and an intuitive process. Waters exclusively used his hands and fingers to apply paint, rather than brushes. The paintings reflect his interest in indigenous traditions, teaching and children’s books, as well as Western painting. His use of scissors as a “drawing” tool connects his work to that of Matisse.

Waters was the subject of a solo exhibition in 1968 at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum. He was included in several historic shows of African-American artists in the 1970s, including "Afro American Artists: New York and Boston," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1970); and Contemporary Black Art: A Selected Sampling, Florida International University, Miami (1977). The current show will include several paintings originally presented in these historic exhibitions.

The silhouetted forms in his paintings suggest dancers, birds, imaginary animals, female warriors, and plants, as well as purely geometric, abstract shapes. Waters often used sap green as a base color and Chinese white as a layer color for the canvas supports. His handprints are visible upon close viewing. This process, and the layers of paint, gives his work complex textural qualities, despite the monochromatic fields of color.

As a child growing up in Philadelphia, Waters attended Saturday classes at the Fleisher Memo- rial Art School. Waters was also fascinated by his parents’ collection of original African art and artifacts from tribes including the Bariba, Ndebele and the Toma people. He has taken inspiration from them and also rock and cave paintings in his work.

Waters graduated from Goddard College in Vermont, where he studied with Hungarian Abstract Expressionist Joseph Fulop. He also studied privately and worked closely with Romare Bearden. Waters received his Master’s degree from the Bank Street College of Education, New York. He traveled to Europe, Asia, the South Pacific and South America, and extensively through the African continent, before making his home and studio on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the 1960s.

Romare Bearden, who lived around the corner, became an important mentor and friend. Waters spent many hours at Bearden’s home and studio in long discussions about art. Waters’s community on the Bowery also included the photographer Robert Frank, Tom Doyle and Eva Hesse, Robert Rauschenberg, Adolf Gottlieb. Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones), musicians Charlie Mingus and Archie Shepp, and William Burroughs, who was living at 222 Bowery while writing Naked Lunch. They all tended to see each other at a breakfast and lunch shop called Moishe’s.

Waters has also been an influential arts educator and cultural programmer throughout his career. He served as a principal of both a school in a prison and a detention center in Newark, New Jersey. This led to Waters curating a major, scholarly exhibition for the Newark Museum in 1971: "Black Artists: Two Generations." The show balanced work from the permanent collection of the museum, with work by younger artists, many of whom Waters met through grassroots community outreach.

Waters was the Director of the Department of Community Affairs, Newark Museum, Newark, NJ from 1972-75. His role was to improve and engage relationships between the local community and the museum, during a time of division. From 1975-79, Waters served as Director of the Jamaica Arts Center, Jamaica, NY. There, he curated a major exhibition of the master printmaker Robert Blackburn. He also curated a historical collection of Black Theater on Broadway.

Waters says of his work:

I try to keep it very simple. I don’t speak the art language. I don’t talk much about my work. Just doing has always been the excitement and the process, rather than overthinking. I don’t really understand the process or how I arrived at it, except that I really enjoy it.

I’ve always been fascinated by the shadow. I think about walking down the street as a little boy, and noticing how the light reflects on you, and how it changes as you gain distance. You realize you can tell time by the sun. I’ve always been fascinated by that. I still am. Maybe that has something to do with my cut outs.

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