Rewriting history: Flora Crockett at Meredith Ward Fine Art

by leslierankowfinearts

Flora Crockett
Untitled, c. 1940s-1950s
Oil on canvas board
20 x 24 inches

 

In the paintings I have described, you encounter three or four different, abstract vocabularies in a single work. Each was done in the 1950s by a woman whose name is hardly known to us, but it should be. Crockett’s vocabularies, ranging from solid to porous to semi- transparent, have their own distinct material presence, which she never calls attention to. These paintings are to be looked at, savored, and reflected upon. We do not exactly know why Crockett seemed to withdraw from the art world or if in fact that was the case.

Working on a modest scale, in a way that can be described as inward, Crockett shares something with Forrest Bess, Charles Seliger, Myron Stout, and Sonja Sekula, whose paintings were recently shown in America for the first time in many years. Crockett does not suffer in any way by these comparisons. For all sorts of reasons — none of them any good — history passed her by, but now we have a chance to rewrite that history, and to further open it up, and include her.

John Yau, Hyperallergenic, 12 Revelatory Exhibitions in 2017,  December 2017

 

Flora Crockett
3-67, 1967
Oil on canvas board
24 x 30 inches

FLORA CROCKETT: WORKS FROM THE 1940s AND 1950s, continued

Photographs of Crockett’s work during these years – compositions of disparate objects pared down to their essentials – suggest that Léger’s teachings were key to her pictorial conception. She was given a one-person show at Galerie La Fenêtre Ouverte on the rue Lincoln in 1937. She also participated in the Salon Surindépendant three years running and in the 1937 International Exposition in Paris, where her painting was awarded a bronze medal by the French government.

Meanwhile, Flora’s relationship with Edmondo was becoming increasingly strained. She complained of his drinking and womanizing and by 1933, the situation had deteriorated enough for her to initiate divorce proceedings in the French court. Their dispute dragged on for several years before her divorce was finally granted in 1937. By this time, too, the political situation in Europe was becoming increasingly perilous, and so after thirteen years abroad, Flora left Paris and returned to the United States in December 1937.

Flora Crockett
16-70, 1970
Oil on canvas roar
24 x 30 inches

Arriving in New York City, she took an apartment at 233 West 14th Street, where she would reside for the rest of her life. Within months, she established a relationship with the dealer Blanche Bonestell, who ran the Bonestell Gallery on 57th Street, and consigned a group of paintings to her for sale. She also got work through the WPA to teach and direct an art program in Potsdam, New York and showed her work in the public library there in 1939. A photograph of her taken with a group of mural artists in Brooklyn in 1940, along with a group of mural studies retained by her family, suggest that she also participated in the WPA mural program.

With the outbreak of World War II, Crockett took a job as an as an inspector of artillery parts. Government work continued after the war at the New York Naval shipyard. These and a variety of engineering and design jobs supplemented her income throughout the 1940s and 1950s, while she continued to exhibit her work at the Provincetown Art Association and in an exhibition of the Bombshell Artists Group at the Riverside Museum in New York City. A one-person exhibition at the Bonestell Gallery followed in 1946, but subsequent efforts to show her work met with little success.

Flora Crockett
Untitled, c. 1967
Oil on canvas board
24 x 30 inches

It is hard to know what prompted her return to painting in the mid-1960s. During her years in Paris, Crockett would have had to confront the problem of whether to embrace a cubist-inspired abstraction that retained recognizable subject matter, or to abandon referential pictorial content to create a purely non-objective composition. She had worked through these ideas in her early compositions, eventually eliminating any figural remnants and paring down her imagery to a limited visual vocabulary of geometric and biomorphic forms. Perhaps because she had confronted these questions years earlier, she was able to quickly and clearly define the parameters of her work when she decided to undertake these paintings in the 1960s.

IN THE NEXT LRFA BLOG, THE EXHIBIT REVIEWED BY ROBERTA SMITH IN THE  NEW YORK TIMES AT MEREDITH WARD FINE ART ADDS  INSIGHT TO THE WORK OF FLORA CROCKETT, AN ARTIST FOR WHOM RECOGNITION IS LONG OVERDUE.