The pantheon of Abstract Expressionism begins with
Pollock, de Kooning and their circle of peers in the New York School.
Of late, however, the circle has widened, and artists long on the
fringes by virtue of age, race, gender and geography have gradually
been incorporated into a less exclusive company of innovators and
Encore: Five Abstract Expressionists at the Mishkin
Gallery from Friday, May 12 – Tuesday, June 6, presents the
work of Amaranth Ehrenhalt, Leonard Nelson, Jeanne Reynal, Thomas
Sills and Ary Stillman, whose bold artistic experimentations, individually
and collectively, are part of the legacy of Abstract Expressionism.
Opening reception, Thursday, May 11, 6 to 8 pm.
Leonard Nelson was part of the first generation of
Abstract Expressionists whose paintings were exhibited in the influential
galleries of Peggy Guggenheim and Betty Parsons. Nelson however
left the galleries and the prestigious New York art scene and chose
to go his own way, becoming a well known Philadelphia artist and
Jeanne Reynal also diverged from the early paradigm
of the Abstract Expressionist. In addition to being a woman, she
was a mosaicist. Reynal’s materials were sparkling stones,
glass and cement, but her technique was gestural and spontaneous.
Like most of the Abstract Expressionists, she created her compositions
as she worked, with no preliminary sketches or models. Her densely
worked surfaces evoke ravaged, primordial landscapes.
Ary Stillman, the oldest of the five artists shown
in Encore, studied in Paris in the 1920s. Though the Paris art scene
swirled around Picasso, Braque and the Cubists, Stillman was primarily
influenced by the Impressionists. But WWII shattered his early artistic
ideals. “For me, the world of surface realities is no longer
paintable,” he wrote, turning for inspiration to indigenous
cultures and automatic drawing.
Thomas Sills was born in North Carolina. He was an
African-American and self-taught, not a prescription for easy success
in the art world of his time. Sills came to Abstract Expressionism
through the artist Jeanne Reynal, whom he married and who introduced
him to Willem de Kooning and other prominent avant-garde artists.
Sills’ work was highly intuitive and he too sought inspiration
from primitive art—in the 1950s he made frequent trips to
Mexico to study the sculptures, frescos and architecture of Chiapas
and the Yucatan.
Amaranth Ehrenhalt is the youngest of the artists
in this grouping, but clearly belongs to the Abstract Expressionists.
Her canvases explode with energy, vibrant color and organic forms.
The designation “action painter” fits her paintings
perfectly. Too young to be a pioneer, Ehrenhalt found her milieu
in Paris in the 1960s.
The work of this group of artists, as seen in Encore,
adds more than a footnote to the history of Abstract Expressionism.
It adds diversity and depth.
|Zane Berzins (news office)
|Sandra Kraskin (gallery)
© 2006 Sidney Mishkin Gallery, Baruch College