In the early 1980s, Leonard McGurr's name was often uttered in the same breath as those of his artist friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Known then as Futura 2000, he was a rising star of New York's graffiti scene, his celebrated subway murals bridging the gap between graphic street art and abstraction.
But then, as galleries began merging street art with fine art -- an evolution that would propel some of his contemporaries to multi-million-dollar stardom -- he grew disillusioned with the establishment. "I got sour," he recalls.
In the decades that followed, he moved beyond walls, canvases and aerosols, finding new mediums for an aesthetic that nods to particle physics and the space age. With two children to support, McGurr shunned exhibitions in favor of graphic design and, later, edgy brand collaborations with the likes of Comme des Garçons and Nike.We meet in the labyrinthine basement of Hong Kong's upscale Landmark mall, where McGurr's "Futuraland" sculptures, mobiles and streetwear are available via a pop-up store that counts Dior and Gucci as neighbors. In the atrium above, his largest work to date -- a 20-foot-tall stainless-steel rocket -- regularly shoots clouds of smoke over passing shoppers.
The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse, organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, investigates the aesthetic impulses of early 20th-century Black culture that have proved ubiquitous to the southern region of the United States. The exhibition chronicles the pervasive sonic and visual parallels that have served to shape the contemporary landscape, and looks deeply into the frameworks of landscape, religion, and the Black body—deep meditative repositories of thought and expression. Within the visual expression, assemblage, collage, appropriation, and sonic transference are explored as deeply connected to music tradition. The visual expression of the African American South along with the Black sonic culture are overlooked tributaries to the development of art in the United States and serve as interlocutors of American modernism. This exhibition looks to the contributions of artists, academically trained as well as those who were relegated to the margins as “outsiders,” to uncover the foundational aesthetics that gave rise to the shaping of our contemporary expression.
ERIC FIRESTONE GALLERY | NEW YORK
In 1958, Clement Greenberg penned a short essay that posited aesthetic parallels between Byzantine art and modernism. Despite their differences, he said, these movements were united by an emphatic pictorialism, their transcendent qualities tied up with a shared repudiation of illusionism. In this text, the critic cited the work of certain painters, such as Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, as examples. “This new kind of modernist picture,” Greenberg wrote, “like the Byzantine gold and glass mosaic, comes forward to fill the space between itself and the spectator with its radiance.”
During the acent of Abstract Expressionism, Reynal reinvented the art of msaics, embracing lyrical geometries and biomorphism in a glimmering, varied body of wall-mounted and freestanding works. This bountiful survey, filling two floors at Eric Firestone Gallery, spans three decades of the New York School artist's career, from 1940-1970. (Reynal died in 1983, at the age of eighty.) Her novel approach involved a degree of spontaneity that is not usually assocated with the ancient medium; a short documentary on view, from 1968 captures Reynal speedily sketching into wet cement and scattering stone tiles. Her early compositions are flat and graphic, as examplified ina 1943 collaboration with Isamu Noguchi, for which she decorated the surface of a low triangular table. But moody, encrusted works fromt he fifties play up the craggy topographical potential of mosaics, which Reynal studied with a Russian master, in Paris, in the ninteen-thirties. By 1970, her pieces had become quai-figrative, seen here in striking procession of undulating, patterned pillars rising from a bed of white gravel.
Raised in and around New York by French parents, Jeanne Reynal (1903-83) spent most of the 1930s apprenticed to a Russian mosaicist in Paris. She came back with strong opinions: Mosaic was neither painting nor sculpture, she wrote in a 1964 monograph, and Renaissance artists had “taken an ax” to the ancient art form by laying their tiles flush instead of letting them protrude to catch the light.
Policing genre boundaries no longer seems so important. But the strongest pieces in this show, titled “Mosaic Is Light: Work by Jeanne Reynal, 1940-1970,” derive much of their considerable impact from their disconcerting perch between painting and sculpture.
“Ogo,” a cement-on-board panel just over 4 feet by 5 feet, is a busy abstract whorl of reds, grays and blacks. As a painting, it would be overwrought. But the variety of its textures — the pits, the streaks, the unexpected glitters as you shift from foot to foot — draw your attention away from the composition and, in a way, counterbalance it. Three 1959 monochromes — a flat red hexagon, an enormous yellow diamond, and a triptych of blue squares, all of them strewn with broken glass and mother-of-pearl — go further, wringing so much action out of a broken surface that the very notion of a flat one comes to seem absurd.
Seven elegant monoliths that Reynal made in the early ’70s after a trip to Africa do something like the opposite. Covered with red, black and gold tiles so shiny they’re almost reflective, and studded, in one case, with palm-size pieces of mother-of-pearl, their surfaces dazzle, letting their sinuous shapes slip right behind your eyes.
“Futura 2000” at Eric Firestone Gallery
Born in New York City in 1955, Futura 2000 (Leonard Hilton McGurr) emerged as one of the pioneering graffiti artists of the 1970s, tagging subway cars and Bowery walls, and showing works alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring at the pivotal 1980 Times Square show. Now, after a career focused on abstract art (still inflected with spray-paint and graffiti-gestures) Futura 2000 is finally getting a long-awaited solo exhibition at Eric Firestone’s ground floor space. The show features more than 20 new paintings inspired by the artist’s fascination with science fiction and natural phenomena.
The week before he turned 65, Futura was contemplating his legacy. Considered one of the progenitors of graffiti art, and one of its most recognizable figures, he was sitting in Eric Firestone Gallery in NoHo, where “Futura 2020,” his first solo exhibition in New York in 30 years, is on view. Across the river, in Queens, his installation at the Noguchi Museum, a suite of hand-painted Akari lanterns, had opened the day before. Futura, who is rangy and was wearing a wool knit cap pulled to just above his eyes and a jacket from his recent collection with Comme des Garçons, was discussing the long arc of his career, one that has taken him from painting in unlit subway tunnels to working for the United States Postal Service to being a frequent presence in the global luxury fashion market.
“My ambition to be successful in a monetary way never interested me,” he said. “I just wanted to support my family, take care of my children” — he has two. “As it turns out, I’m actually doing much better now, so I guess it’s a question of my patience. I stayed even when things weren’t there for me, or I saw other people running past me on the track of life. But here I am.”
The artist known as Futura — to close friends, he’s Lenny — estimates that he visited around 17 countries last year. This year looks much different; he’s spent the majority of 2020 at home in New York.
He’s discovered that there’s plenty upside to staying close to home, including “Futura 2020,” his first solo gallery show in New York in 30 years, and the release of his eponymously titled monograph with Rizzoli.
On a recent rainy afternoon, Futura walks into the Eric Firestone Gallery in NoHo with a small cardboard box nestled in the crook of his arm. Inside are six cans of spray paint and a blue 3-D-printed version of his signature, which he’s been using as a reverse stencil to sign work. Despite being grounded by the pandemic, the artist is still busy as ever; he’s in the midst of working on a project with the Noguchi museum, painting lamps for an exclusive exhibition (hence the box of paint).
EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. — The art collectors were finally coming out of hiding here recently, albeit quietly and tentative-ly. The artists were, too. The lure? All of a sudden, they have a lot more gallery options lining the immaculate streets of this famously upscale summer town, a seemingly unexpected development in the middle of a pandemic. Since the beginning of June, five major art galleries have opened here: Pace, Skarstedt, Van de Weghe, Michael Werner and So-theby’s, all arms of New York art powerhouses. And more are on the way soon, in Montauk (Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann’s new venture, South Etna Montauk) and Southampton (Hauser & Wirth).
In October, the The Milton Resnick and Pat Passlof Foundation opened its third exhibition, “Pat Passlof: The Brush Is the Finger of the Brain,” a survey of Passlof’s paintings curated by Karen Wilkin. Comprising twenty-six works on three floors, the show efficiently and effectively samples Passlof’s art from 1949 to 2011. Although she showed regularly in New York galleries (in recent decades, primarily at Elizabeth Harris), Passlof often garnered more attention for her active art-scene presence and her associations with other artists than for her own work. Happily, this seems to be changing. In 2017 the Museum of Modern Art in New York acquired its first work by Passlof, a ca. 1950 oil on paper that the museum has already shown twice, in “Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction” in 2017 and in the current reinstallation of the collection.
This exhibition invites viewers to consider how size and repetition can be interpreted as political gestures in the practices of many women artists.
Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale examines the approaches of women artists for whom space is a critical feature of their work, whether they take the space on a wall, the real estate of a room through sculpture and installation, engage seriality as a spatial visual practice, cast a wide legacy in art history or claim the space of their body. This exhibition invites viewers to consider how size and repetition can be interpreted as political gestures in the practices of many women artists.
Featured artists include Mequitta Ahuja, Polly Apfelbaum, Jennifer Bartlett, Maria Berrío, Chakaia Booker, Emily Brown, Joan Brown, Tammy Rae Carland, Squeak Carnwath, Vija Celmins, Elizabeth Colomba, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Eiko Fan, Louise Fishman, Audrey Flack, Mary Frank, Viola Frey, Hope Gangloff, Judy Gelles, Nancy Graves, Guerrilla Girls, Ellen Harvey, Clarity Haynes, Orit Hofshi, Barbara Kruger, Winifred Lutz, Vanessa Marsh, Ana Mendieta, Leah Modigliani, Elizabeth Murray, Wangechi Mutu, Alice Neel, Dona Nelson, Louise Nevelson, Ebony G. Patterson, Liliana Porter, Debra Priestly, Ana Vizcarra Rankin, Faith Ringgold, Mia Rosenthal, Brie Ruais, Betye Saar, Miriam Schapiro, Mira Schor, Alyson Shotz, Sylvia Sleigh, Becky Suss, Mickalene Thomas, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Marie Watt, Dyani White Hawk and Deborah Willis.
Featuring works from the permanent collection, including many recent acquisitions, Taking Space is one of three exhibitions at PAFA in 2020–2021 celebrating women artists in honor of the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
Frieze New York proved surprisingly robust, answering the question, “Can a fair survive online?”
Eric Firestone, who sold Charles Duback’s 1960 oil on canvas “Black and White (Anne Waterhouse)” on opening day for $200,000, said he appreciated the data feedback, which told him which works got the most views and how long they were viewed. He also said the price transparency was a welcome development. “It’s very intimidating sometimes for the viewer to ask what a painting price is,” he said. “It helps level the playing field to say, ‘This is what we’re asking.’”
Encapsulating the moment of the arrival of the Pilgrims, both from their perspective and the perspective of the native tribes (primarily the Nauset and Wampanoag), this exhibition will feature life-sized figures, a to-scale Mayflower, and proportional sea and sky, turning one PAAM gallery into the shores of Provincetown as it existed 400 years ago. It will also highlight the concept of water – both the idea of water as a mover, and as a necessary source of nourishment, exploring the absence of water as among the reasons the Pilgrims left Provincetown.
“In her proposal for the exhibition, the bow of the Mayflower is seen crashing through the wall, intruding on an established society. It’s a thoughtful consideration of the arrival of the Mayflower in what is now Provincetown, with its implications of the arrival for the land and the Native population, as well as for the Pilgrims themselves. The story is presented uniquely through the artist’s eyes–one who understands the complexities and historical inaccuracies this occasion conjures,” curator Breon Dunigan told Provincetown Arts Magazine.
One late night in the spring of 1979, a man wearing high-waisted white corduroy pants on the corner of First Avenue and East Fifth Street immediately caught
Keith Haring’s attention. “He was so eccentric looking that I knew I had to meet this person,” Haring wrote in his journals. “I ended up sort of cruising him, but then we became friends.”
Last year the Armory Show weathered a crisis when Pier 92 over the Hudson River was condemned shortly before the art fair opened, precipitating a last-minute reshuffling of booths and the shutting down of a satellite display.
Founded in 1994 by four gallerists—Colin de Land, Pat Hearn, Matthew Marks, and Paul Morris—the Armory Show began life as the Gramercy International Art Fair, a yearly event at which art dealers took over rooms in the then-funky Gramercy Park Hotel, displaying art on chipped bureaus and in dimly lit bathrooms.
On an evening in December, 1980, the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi gate-crashed the party of the year: the gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was the opening night of “The Manchu Dragon,” an exhibition (organized by Diana Vreeland) of Chinese costume from the Qing dynasty.
For most of the last four decades, Pattern and Decoration art seemed wonderfully outré to many observers, an eccentric violation of the standards and norms of serious painting and sculpture that was itself not to be taken too seriously.
In 1898, the renowned Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote: “Real art, like the wife of an affectionate husband, needs no ornaments, but counterfeit art, like a prostitute, must always be decked out.”
On the busy thoroughfare of Grand Concourse in the south Bronx stands a contemporary building resembling origami folds. Home to the Bronx Museum of the Arts, this cultural institution offers the Bronx and greater New York City seasonal exhibitions and an impressive permanent art collection. Currently on display is Henry Chalfant’s graffiti archive and Alvin Baltrop’s queer photography. The museum relies on donations and grants to guarantee free entry to all visitors, so a celebratory fundraiser dinner was a natural fit. 2019 marked the museum’s inaugural BxMA Ball, a multi-sensory gala co-chaired by Angel Otero and Jerome Lamaar.
Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 foregrounds how visual artists have explored the materials, methods, and strategies of craft over the past seven decades. Some expand techniques with long histories, such as weaving, sewing, or pottery, while others experiment with textiles, thread, clay, beads, and glass, among other mediums. The traces of the artists’ hands-on engagement with their materials invite viewers to imagine how it might feel to make each work.
When Henry Chalfant arrived in New York City from suburban Pittsburgh in 1973, as an aspiring sculptor, he found a place teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. This was “Ford to City: Drop Dead” New York. But amid the turmoil a new form of art making was taking shape — one that took up space where it could, which was mostly everywhere.
Joe Overstreet’s 1972 unstretched, untitled canvas unfurls from the wall in a similar fashion to Eric N. Mack’s “Pelle Pelle” (2017), which is made with a microfiber blanket, polyester fabric and silk curtains tacked to the wall. Paintings and assemblages from the ’70s based on the grid by Joan Snyder, Howardena Pindell, Sean Scully and Al Loving sit comfortably next to more recent riffs on geometry by Sadie Benning, Matt Connors and Dona Nelson.
Titled “Double Portrait,” this electrifying exhibition unites Mimi Gross and Marcia Marcus, who began making figurative paintings in the 1950s. Born 12 years apart, Ms. Marcus and Ms. Gross crossed paths in downtown New York, as well as on sojourns to Italy and Provincetown. Both were putting paint to canvas at a time when Minimalism and Conceptualism reigned supreme, and both were interested in representations of their gender.
The exhibition title “Go Figure” at the Eric Firestone Gallery in East Hampton has multiple meanings, which suits an exhibition that exuberantly presents a plethora of ways to address the genre of figurative art.
Often double and even triple hanging, the show appears to be a salon-style exhibition from afar, but once inside, cohesion becomes readily apparent. Beth Rudin DeWoody, a collector known for her discerning eye and ability to launch artistic careers just from a single purchase, served as curator. She brought together artists who came of age in the mid-20th century, many from the Firestone inventory, with contemporary artists. For years she had a house in the Shinnecock Hills artist colony enclave and is well familiar with the artists who have lived and worked here over the decades.
Where Art Might Happen: The Early Years of CalArts focuses on the legendary founding years (1970–1980) of the California Institute of the Arts, which has produced numerous well-known artists. This wide-ranging group exhibition presents a variety of perspectives on the school: parallel movements from the milieus of Conceptual Art, feminism, and Fluxus as well as the school’s radical pedagogical concepts will be brought together for the first time.
Body Language: Picturing People
July 18, 2019 —June 2020
This exhibition considers how the pose, the gesture and the body in motion are used by artists to convey meaning. Figural artworks from the CU Art Museum’s collection are brought into conversation across cultural geographies and historical eras. Whether in presenting portraits of individuals or fictional personages, or in picturing religious icons, artistic depictions of the body speak volumes about personality, character and the values of a time or place.
Exhibition curated by Hope Saska.
Joe Overstreet, an artist and activist who in the 1960s took abstract painting into the sculptural dimension and later created a home in New York for art- ists who had been ignored by the mainstream, died on June 4 in Manhattan. He was 85.
My paintings don’t let the onlooker glance over them, but rather take them deeply into them and let them out—many times by different routes,” artist Joe Overstreet once said, describing viewing experiences that can be variously harrowing and exhilarating. “These trips are taken sometimes subtly and sometimes suddenly.”
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists to an important period in American history and art. Featuring the work of 60 artists and including vibrant paintings, powerful sculptures, street photography, murals, and more, this landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts is pleased to announce Henry Chalfant: Art Vs. Transit, 1977-1987, the first U.S. retrospective of the pioneering photographer, on view from September 25, 2019 to March 8, 2020. Recognized as one of the most significant documentarians of subway art, Chalfant’s photographs and films immortalized this ephemeral art form from its Bronx-born beginnings, helping to launch graffiti art into the international phenomenon it is today. The historic exhibition looks back at a rebellious art form launched in the midst of a tumultuous time in New York City history. Chalfant’s graffiti archives are a work of visual anthropology and one of the seminal documents of American popular culture in the late twentieth century.
The internationally acclaimed exhibition Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power will travel to San Francisco this fall. Celebrating the works that African American artists created during two pivotal decades in American history (1963–1983), the exhibition—organized by Tate Modern, London—examines the very purpose of art and the role of artists in society.
When the acclaimed touring exhibition Solidary & Solitary reaches the BMA, it will significantly expand to more than 80 paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works and take on a new title, Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art. The exhibition offers a sweeping new perspective on the contributions black artists have made to the evolution of visual art from the 1940s to the present moment. Artists featured include pioneers of postwar abstraction once overlooked by history, such as Norman Lewis, Alma W. Thomas, and Jack Whitten, as well as artists from a younger generation such as Kevin Beasley, Mark Bradford, Martin Puryear, Lorna Simpson, and many others.
With Pleasure: Pattern and Decoration in American Art 1972–1985 is the first full-scale scholarly survey of this groundbreaking American art movement, encompassing works in painting, sculpture, collage, ceramics, installation art, and performance documentation. Covering the years 1972 to 1985 and featuring approximately fifty artists from across the United States, the exhibition examines the Pattern and Decoration movement’s defiant embrace of forms traditionally coded as feminine, domestic, ornamental, or craft-based and thought to be categorically inferior to fine art.
Ornament as Promise was the premise of the Pattern and Decoration movement in the United States (1975–1985). In this exhibition, mumok presents the rich collection of works from this movement of Peter and Irene Ludwig, in the largest presentation of Pattern and Decoration in German-speaking Europe since the 1980s.
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists made over two revolutionary decades in American history, beginning in 1963 at the height of the civil rights movement. The exhibition examines the influences, from the civil rights and Black Power movements to Minimalism and developments in abstraction, on artists such as Romare Bearden, Barkley Hendricks, Noah Purifoy, Martin Puryear, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Alma Thomas, Charles White, and William T. Williams.
This exhibition explores the personal vision of iconic artists of the 1950s and 1960s. Many artists of the mid-twentieth century felt that academic traditions and the societal conventions they implied had become obsolete.
Painting and fiber art—artwork made with woven or nonwoven natural or synthetic fibers—have traditionally been viewed as distinct genres. This installation questions that division. It includes works by fiber artists whose formal art studies first centered on painting. There are also works by painters, some who have influenced fabric design, and others who have paid close attention to textile patterns and the relationship of clothing to the female body. Featuring many new additions to Mia’s collection, this display illustrates how artists often think and create outside the categories of art that museums generally like to employ. Among the thirteen artists included are Sheila Hicks, Yayoi Kusama, Marcia Marcus, Elizabeth Osborne, Christina Ramberg, and Shinique Smith.
Iconic Figurative Artists Featured in Exhibition at Shirley Fiterman Art Center
On May 23 in the Shirley Fiterman Art Center, a reception will celebrate the opening of Double Portrait: Mimi Gross and Marcia Marcus. Gross and Marcus are innovative figurative painters whose work from 1958 to 2012 will be on display
Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989 is the first major exhibition to examine the impact on visual culture of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) liberation movement sparked fifty years ago with the Stonewall Uprising. The show includes works by openly LGBTQ artists such as Scott Burton, Vaginal Davis, Lyle Ashton Harris, Greer Lankton, Catherine Opie, and Andy Warhol. Also considered are the practices of straight-identified artists such as Alice Neel, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Lynda Benglis, and Kiki Smith in terms of their engagement with the newly emerging queer subculture. Divided in two parts, the show is on view at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, which primarily presents works from the 1970s, while here at the Grey Art Gallery, art from the 1980s is featured.
When an international art star curates an exhibition revisiting one of the most dynamic eras in American art history, expect fireworks. Eric Fischl, master of the loaded group portrait, has been the curatorial advisor for a stunning show featuring more than a hundred works by all the great personalities of the Eighties, beginning with him and his wife April Gornik, along with Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Ross Bleckner, Bryan Hunt, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Jenny Holzer, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annette Lemieux, Charlie Clough, Tseng Kwong Chi, Jonathan Lasker and others. The show also features a “hall of fame” of music and sports memorabilia, including Michael Jackson’s glove, Prince’s fashion, Madonna’s jewelry, and autographed items from the Islanders, Mets and the 1980 Olympic hockey team.
From 1979-1981, over twenty-eight children and young adults were abducted and murdered in the city of Atlanta. Collectively known as the Atlanta child murders, the killings drew the attention of the nation and altered daily life in the de facto capital of the South. The city imposed curfews. Some parents withdrew their children from school and forbade them from playing outside. On June 21, 1981, Wayne Williams was arrested and ultimately convicted of two murders and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. This past March, the Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Bottoms, reopened the cases hoping to use modern technology to lead to further convictions. Williams maintains his innocence.
Less Is a Bore: Maximalist Art & Design brings together works in painting, sculpture, ceramic, dance, furniture design, and more that privilege decoration, pattern, and maximalism.
Borrowing its attitude from architect Robert Venturi’s witty retort to Mies van der Rohe’s modernist edict “less is more,” Less Is a Bore shows how artists, including those affiliated with the Pattern & Decoration movement of the 1970s, have sought to rattle the dominance of modernism and minimalism. Encouraged by the pluralism permeating many cultural spheres at the time, these artists accommodated new ideas, modes, and materials, challenging entrenched categories that marginalized non-Western art, fashion, interior design, and applied art.
I was reminded of the phrase, Other Traditions (2001), the collective title John Ashbery gave to the publication of his six Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University, when I was looking at Marcia Marcus’s grisaille portrait of “Edwin Dickinson” (1972) in the timely exhibition, Double Portrait: Mimi Gross and Marcia Marcus, at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (May 23–July 27, 2019), curated by Lisa Panzera.
The medium of fiber is also weighted with gendered, socio-political signifiers that are imparted onto the final work of art. To put it plainly, fiber is feminine. Weaving, embroidery, knitting and sewing are thought to be the domain of women, whose productions in these areas have long been relegated to the status of “decoration.” Objects described in these terms traditionally do not fall into the rarefied, male-dominated Pantheon of “Fine Art,” which has long been the province of painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking. But given the shift of values in contemporary culture, does this distinction hold true today?
Forty-some years ago, Henry Chalfant trained his camera on the graffiti artists who turned New York’s streets, trains, and underground stations into their own personal canvases. Now, the photographer is returning to the Bronx—the place where it all began—for his biggest institutional outing yet.
In June of 2015, Miriam Schapiro, the pioneering feminist artist and founding member of the Pattern and Decoration movement, passed away at the age of ninety-one. Surprisingly, given her status as the elder stateswoman of the feminist art movement, the tremendous impact of her oeuvre on contemporary art has yet to be fully acknowledged or critically assessed. This exhibition seeks to redress this gap in the history of American art through an exploration of Schapiro’s signature femmages, the term she coined to describe her distinctive hybrid of painting and collage inspired by women’s domestic arts and crafts and the feminist critique of the hierarchy of art and craft.
Among Friends: 1958–63, the exhibition of Mimi Gross’s paintings and drawings from the early 1960s at Eric Firestone Gallery, is not only a sheer visual pleasure, it also adds to our understanding of American modern art. Like so many “re-discovered” bodies of work, usually by women, it reveals dimensions of artistic practice that were always present but never given critical attention within certain over-determined narratives of 20th-century art.
Slab City Rendezvous, whose title comes from a 1964 painting by Red Grooms, features the work of a group of young New York-based avant-garde artists who in the years following World War II discovered the pleasures of summering and working in Maine. They became some of the most successful and important artists of their generation, charting new directions for contemporary art. Their work presented a return to realism and figuration in the face of Abstract Expressionism, the style then dominating the increasingly important center of international contemporary art in New York. Their accomplishments formed another chapter in the story of Maine’s ongoing role in American art.
The exhibition will include works by Rudy Burckhardt, Lois Dodd, Rackstraw Downes, Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, Yvonne Jacquette, Alex Katz, Neil Welliver, and Bernard Langlais, among others.
Practically overflowing with radiant portraits, “Mimi Gross: Among Friends, 1958–63” at Eric Firestone Loft should be of the major crowd-pleasers of the moment, but it feels like it’s flying under the radar. Channeling a rare, quicksilver sense for detail, Gross was only in her late teens and early 20s when she made these pieces in crayon, paint, and pastel, working in New York, Provincetown, and Europe, where she and friends traveled northern Italy by horse-drawn carriage, doing shadow-puppet shows in small villages. (To think that young artists today believe a night at Berghain is bohemia!) Two highlights of many: Grand Street Boys and Grand Street Girls (both 1963), whose many young sitters look interesting enough to sustain a few seasons of prestige television about the Lower East Side during the Kennedy years. The show depicts an artistic life that was just getting started, and already being lived very well.
The exhibition Mimi Gross: Among Friends, 1958-1963 helps to set the record straight: Gross was a strong, confident artist when she met Red Grooms at the age of 18, and that her work continued to grow right up to their marriage in 1964.
Taking inspiration from Mia’s recent acquisition of Frank Bowling’s map painting False Start(1970), “Mapping Black Identities” challenges the notion of Black identity as monolithic. Championing the diverse experiences of artists from America, Africa, and the diaspora, this exhibition seeks to amplify underrepresented voices and create connections around the concept of Blackness in contemporary art across time and place.
MAMCO examined in this large group exhibition the “Pattern & Decoration” movement, formed in the 1970s and that enjoyed international success in the 1980s, before fading in the decades thereafter.
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power shines light on a broad spectrum of Black artistic practice from 1963 to 1983, one of the most politically, socially, and aesthetically revolutionary periods in American history. Black artists across the country worked in communities, in collectives, and individually to create a range of art responsive to the moment—including figurative and abstract painting, prints, and photography; assemblage and sculpture; and performance.
Patchworks and decorative patterns on the one hand and a political-emancipatory claim on the other – the Pattern and Decoration movement combines apparent contradictions. In the mid-1970s, the movement developed in the USA as one of the last art movements of the 20th century, brought forward by as many female artists as no other movement before. It was supported, among others, by feminist artists such as Joyce Kozloff, Valerie Jaudon, Robert Kushner and Miriam Schapiro.
The period covered in the exhibition and film tells the story of Jean-Michel’s early work, peers, and creative community in gritty, pre-AIDS, downtown New York—before the rise of the 80s art and real estate juggernaut. It was a time when decay, drugs, and dissolution fueled a boom in creativity where the definition of fame, success, and power was not based on money, Facebook likes, and self-promotion. For these creators, to be a penniless published poet or a musician gigging at CBs was the height of success. In the rawness of the work, the focus on street art and graffiti, and the experimentation and cross-pollination of styles and disciplines, the era has become a flash point for younger generations seeking to learn about and understand the authenticity, closeness, and community expressed in the work of the artists in Zeitgeist.
Born on January 2, 1940 in Sewicley, Pennsylvania, Chalfant is a renowned and acclaimed photographer and cameraman dedicated to urban culture, renowned for his graffiti and photography and films about breakdancing. Distinguished by his knowledge of hip hop and underground culture, his photographs are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
This amazing Noho gallery is lighting up the past with the enormous “flesh wall” paintings of Martha Edelheit. Born in New York in 1931, she is still painting and, judging from what’s here, has one of the most mysteriously erotic-hot inner lives of any painter of the 1960s. Witness lounging female and male bodies and men with enormous erections performing acrobatics for women.
Martha Edelheit is yet another indication that 20th-century art history is still under construction, with large areas unfinished or invisible. Ms. Edelheit was included in last year’s “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965” at the Grey Art Gallery, which featured several artists unfamiliar to wider audiences. Now “Flesh Walls: Tales From the 60s” at Eric Firestone is devoted to Ms. Edelheit’s work from that era. She was part of the downtown, artist-run Reuben Gallery, where she had her first solo show in 1960. The “Flesh Walls” title is not metaphorical or accidental. Ms. Edelheit’s meaty, sexy paintings and drawings iterate tales of the sexually permissive ’60s. She approached the human body through the skin, inspired initially by the writings of the anthropologist Claude LeviStrauss, who suggested that the body was the original canvas for painting, in the form of tattoos.
Joseph Overstreet is the 2018 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts presented by the Mississippi Arts Commission. Born in Conehatta, Mississippi, in 1933, Joe Overstreet is an artist with a record of accomplishments as an artist, arts promoter, and activist that spans 60 years.
The Menil’s growing collection, while not encyclopedic, spans the prehistoric era to the present day. Particular areas of strength include Byzantine art, West and Central African art, Surrealism, and 20th and 21st century American and European art. On September 22, 2018, the museum reopened with a year-long permanent collection initiative featuring many of the museum’s most well-known paintings and sculptures, as well as recent acquisitions and other works and promised gifts that have never before been on view in the museum. The installations will be changed several times over the course of the year-long period.
The opening installation in the African art galleries features more than 60 masks, figural sculptures and shrines, and vessels from regions of West and Central Africa. Introducing the galleries is a new presentation of paintings, works on paper, and sculptures that explore the shared histories Africa and Europe after 15th century.
Nothing in art is more powerful than color. From Matisse to Mark Rothko and Frank Stella, and onward to the huge Color Field canvases and pulsing neon sculptures of today, color as a means of expression is the keynote for this wildly exuberant show.
Joe Overstreet’s experimental paintings from the early 1970s were made to be suspended from ceilings and tied to floors using a system of ropes and grommets. As a result, they occupy a good deal of three-dimensional space, and by design their shapes change every time they are installed, depending on how they are stretched out, draped, or crumpled. In some works, such as St. Expedite II and Untitled, both 1971, and Untitled, 1972, Overstreet has painted squares of canvas in solid colors-red, green, navy blue, deep purple-edged in contrasting stripes. Other works, such as the enormous Boxes, 1970, play with vibrant patterns of geometric abstraction but, at the same time, appear haunted by the ghosts of earlier, more figurative gestures.
Featuring work by thirty-six global artists, Women House challenges conventional ideas about gender and the domestic space. The exhibition is inspired by the landmark project Womanhouse, developed in 1972 by Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. With works that disrupted traditional ideas about the home as a feminine realm, Womanhouse was the first female-centered art installation to appear in the Western world. In the new exhibition, Women House, women artists from the 1960s to today examine the persistence of stereotypes about the house as a feminine space.
“Abstraction represents self-determination and free will.” So avowed the painter James Little at a recent panel discussion held in conjunction with an exhibition of works by his fellow painter Joe Overstreet, but with the broader purpose of examining the question of “Black Artists and the Abstraction Idiom.” Little’s ringing declaration of aesthetic independence was couched in a language both explicitly political (self-determination being a right underwritten by the United Nations in its 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, which held that “All peoples have the right to…freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development”) as well as theological (though the problem of free will has earlier roots, it became urgent when Christian thinkers had to explain the origin of sin and damnation in a world created by a perfect and benevolent God). The implication of Little’s statement is that abstract art, by eschewing the forms of representation through which political and religious narratives are conveyed, enacts and exemplifies a kind of self-emancipation.
Way Bay is a sweeping exploration of the creative energies that have emerged from the San Francisco Bay Area over the past two centuries. An innovatively organized exhibition of art and film, plus poetry, performance documentation, and archival materials, Way Bay features nearly two hundred works that reveal the depth and diversity of artists’ engagement with the region’s geographic, social, and cultural landscape.
In a 1989 interview, the artist Miriam Schapiro discussed her admiration for “heroines” like Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Frida Kahlo. Noting their rather fraught lives, she said “that doesn’t stop you from expressing your point of view in whatever manner you choose to do it.” In the 1970s, Schapiro herself chose to make craft works that she termed “femmages” (a portmanteau of “feminine” and “collage”), which staked a claim for women, both in the art world and outside it, by centering the home as a site of resilience and subversion. And she certainly lived by these principles of resistance, deliberately situating her practice against artistic norms of her day.
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists to an important period in American history and art. Featuring the work of 60 artists and including vibrant paintings, powerful sculptures, street photography, murals, and more, this landmark exhibition is a rare opportunity to see era-defining artworks that changed the face of art in America.
The history of postwar American abstract painting remains a work in progress. We are barely beginning to understand its sheer multiplicity in terms of the artists’ races and cultures and the works’ physical character. New information arrives in regular and humbling batches. The latest is Joe Overstreet’s stunning exhibition “Innovation of Flight, Paintings 1967-1972” at Eric Firestone. With 20 rarely seen works, it covers a brief period when Mr. Overstreet’s disavowal of painting’s usual standards and practices was unfolding rapidly in several directions, alongside efforts by Sam Gilliam, Harmony Hammond, Alan Shields and Howardena Pindell, among others.
The East Village of the 1970s and 1980s continues to thrive in the global public’s imagination. Located in the basement of a Polish Church at 57 St. Marks Place, Club 57 (1978–83) began as a no-budget venue for music and film exhibitions, and quickly took pride of place in a constellation of countercultural venues in downtown New York fueled by low rents, the Reagan presidency, and the desire to experiment with new modes of art, performance, fashion, music, and exhibition. A center of creative activity in the East Village, Club 57 is said to have influenced virtually every club that came in its wake.
New York artist Marcia Marcus (b. 1928) emerged mid-century as a promising painter of portraits and figurative tableaux, depicting herself, friends, and acquaintances in scenes that often have a mythological or theatrical feel. In the early 1950s, she studied painting at Cooper Union, where her peers included Alex Katz and Lois Dodd, and shortly thereafter attended the Art Students League, where she absorbed the lessons of Edwin Dickinson. She collaborated on Happenings with Allan Kaprow and, in 1960, showed a series of self-portraits at the Delancey Street Museum, an alternative space run by Red Grooms. Despite an impressive exhibition record and a peer group of downtown luminaries, Marcus eventually fell into obscurity. The recent show at Eric Firestone included twenty-four paintings she made between 1958 and 1973, amounting to a small-scale retrospective for this audacious and fascinating artist.
Western art history is often viewed as a neat succession of individual artists and their singular masterpieces. This narrative runs parallel to the American story of westward expansion, propelled by the idea of individualism and independence. West by Midwest offers a messier alternative—one that illuminates the ways that contemporary art practices spread and develop by tracing the intersecting lives of artists who have migrated from the American Midwest to the West Coast since the mid-20th century. Lured by career opportunities, warmer weather, and the prospect of a better life promised by the postwar boom, artists in this exhibition attended art schools together, shared studios, exhibited work in the same galleries, collaborated on projects, engaged in activism, and dated. Following these crisscrossing lines of kinship, West by Midwest reveals social, political, artistic, and intellectual networks of artists and their shared experiences of making work and making a life.
Marcia Marcus Through Dec. 2. Eric Firestone Gallery, 4 Great Jones Street. Art history is in constant flux, as you can see by the recent rise of artists who were left out of earlier narratives. This year, the exhibition “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965,” at the Grey Art Gallery, featured many overlooked artists whose contributions to mid-20th-century art are noteworthy. One of them is the painter Marcia Marcus, whose work is currently on view in “Role Play: Paintings 1958-1973” at Eric Firestone Gallery.
The show opens in 1963 at the height of the Civil Rights movement and its dreams of integration. In its wake emerged more militant calls for Black Power: a rallying cry for African American pride, autonomy and solidarity, drawing inspiration from newly independent African nations.
The twenty-three paintings by Marcia Marcushere deliver one knockout after another. In the oval portrait Nude with Mirror, 1965, a woman languorously appraises her own reflection. In Florentine Landscape, 1961, three ghostly, pale figures and a pumpkin patch appear like holograms beamed into an ancient garden. In Frieze: The Porch, 1964, three distinctly different pictures—a double portrait of the critic Jill Johnston and the painter Barbara Forst, a self-portrait of the artist in a billowing floral robe, and a picture of her as a child with her father—are all crammed together in a way that feels weirdly spacious.
Between the apex of Abstract Expressionism and the rise of Pop Art and Minimalism, the New York art scene was transformed by artist-run galleries. Inventing Downtown presents works from fourteen of these crucibles of experimentation, highlighting artists’ efforts to create new exhibition venues for innovative works of art—ranging from abstract and figurative painting, assemblage, sculpture, and works on paper to groundbreaking installations and performances.
Two exhibitions offer a broad overview of the 60-year career of influential first-generation feminist artist Miriam Schapiro, who died last summer at the age of 91. With Judy Chicago she established the CalArts Feminist Art Program in 1970 and organized the legendary CalArts “Womanhouse.”
“Miriam Schapiro, A Visionary,” at the National Academy is the artist’s first survey in New York and ranges from her de Kooning–esque fleshy Abstract Expressionist paintings of the ’50s to her gorgeous hard-edge acrylics of the ’60s to her subversive crazy-quilt florals, pinwheels, and fan collages of the Pattern and Decoration ’70s and beyond. Dollhouse (1972), which was included in “Womanhouse,” contains soft Oldenburgian kitchen appliances, a witty endless column of wine corks, and a tiny cloth doll—wearing Barbie’s plastic cowboy boots—that could almost have been by Louise Bourgeois.
“The California Years: 1967–1975” documents a momentous shift in Miriam Schapiro’s practice, from the wry, abstract feminist-futurism of her hard-edge paintings to the busy decadence of her mixed-media “femmages.” For her handsomely mod paintings in the former category, she used computer software to model and manipulate three-dimensional geometric structures. While the exhibition’s press release notes that these images are often “coded depictions of yonic forms,” we’re not talking about seashells and split melons here. In the pristinely painted Keyhole, 1971, a fiery red-orange and rose-colored mother ship approaches from a cloudless blue sky. The chic all-blue Horizontal Woman No. 2 from the same year slyly references a reclining nude with its blank virtual architecture. A kind of landscape, the painting depicts something resembling a compound of modernist bungalows built into a featureless hilltop.