Leslie Rankow Fine Arts

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Tag: Roberta Smith

The ultimate kudo: Flora Crockett’s New York Times review

Flora Crockett
Exhibition Catalogue
Meredith Ward Fine Art

The Observer, a New York arts and culture newspaper, published an article in May 2013 by Andrew Russell who laments the dying tradition of formal art critics.

What is disappearing is not the art critic—you could argue that, with the expansion of websites and social media, there are now more than ever before—but the tradition of a regularly recurring voice in a widely circulated newspaper or magazine or even alternative paper: people who have the opportunity to expose a wide variety of art to a broad audience on a continual basis.

Roberta Smith, art critic for the New York Times, is such a voice and with  a huge amount of exhibitions every month, at galleries, in museums and in non-profit centers, the choice is almost infinite in terms of what she can write about and whom.  It is an honor to Flora Crockett’s visionary paintings and to Meredith Ward’s astute eye and hard work that this tribute of the FLORA CROCKETT exhibition at Meredith Ward Fine Art, a beautiful townhouse gallery at 44 East 77th Street, New York commanded so much space and such great praise!

http://www.meredithwardfineart.com/

ART & DESIGN | LAST CHANCE

 A Forgotten Abstractionist Roars Back in Bright, Jangly Lines

Review: Flora Crockett, a Forgotten Abstract Painter

By ROBERTA SMITH NOV. 10, 2015

The paintings of the American abstractionist Flora Crockett have not been exhibited in New York since a group show at the Overseas Press Club of America in 1965. That was the year she turned 73 and began her most productive period as a painter.

Flora Crockett
Untitled
Oil on canvas board

After Ms. Crockett died in 1979, her canvases from 1965 to 1973 were inherited by a nephew, Austin Hart Emery, an engineer and great admirer of his aunt, who stored them in his barn outside Albany. He always meant to do something with them but never got around to it, and so the job fell to his daughter, Mary Emery Lacoursiere, an artist and designer living on Nantucket, in Massachusetts. She was introduced to Meredith Ward, whose New York gallery specializes in 20th-century American artists, especially forgotten ones. Ms. Ward saw photographs of the paintings and was immediately intrigued.

And so at the moment about two dozen of Ms. Crockett’s sparkling late paintings, with their bright tangles of jazzy lines and shapes floating on pale, brushy backgrounds, form a surprising exhibition at Meredith Ward Fine Art. This is our first sighting of a body of work that could hold its own in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art or the Museum of Modern Art and in the history of American abstract painting.

They are accompanied by a catalog that contains the first published account of Ms. Crockett’s life and speculates about her development, written by Ms. Ward. She used Ms. Crockett’s papers, which are being organized by Isabella Rosner, a Columbia student, working with Ms. Lacoursiere.

Flora Crockett
Mental Landscape
Oil on board

Loosely geometric and modest in size, Ms. Crockett’s paintings are elegant, knowing and at ease, made by a practiced hand. They indicate a familiarity with 20th-century abstraction: Mondrian’s quietly robust brushwork, and the levitating compositions of Kandinsky, Miró and Léger. They also suggest exposure to American liberators of geometry like the painters Charles Green Shaw and Stuart Davis. But the sharp colors and dynamic compositions feel hip, fresh and very much her own. Ms. Crockett’s paintings are in step with their time, a moment after Pop Art and Color Field painting had given color new heat.

Ms. Crockett left very little imprint on the art world, perhaps because she always had to work to support herself. She seems to have had a total of three solo shows during her life. One was in 1937 in Paris, where she had lived since 1924, just before the impending World War drove her back to the United States. The second was in 1939 in the town library of Potsdam, N.Y., where the W.P.A. had sent her to run an art school. The third was in 1946 at the Bonestell Gallery in New York.

Flora Crockett

And yet despite Ms. Crockett’s challenges, the paintings at Meredith Ward attest to an optimism that seems to have been backed by an inborn sense of determination unusual for women of her generation. Ms. Crockett was born in Grelton, Ohio, in 1892, to a family of farmers whose ancestors included Davy Crockett, which may have something to do with the independence gene. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1911 with a major in art and mathematics and headed for Detroit to study to become an art teacher. In 1915 she landed a job as supervisor of art for the public schools of Roslyn, N.Y., where she married an Italian-born sculptor, Edmondo Quattrocchi (1889-1966). Next stop, Paris.

Ms. Crockett seems to have taken full advantage of this sojourn. She studied at the Sorbonne and the school of the Louvre while directing a school for war orphans in Poissy, outside Paris. In 1926 she enrolled as a student in Léger’s Académie Moderne, eventually serving as its director until 1931. And then, in 1937, having divorced, she came home, settling in New York. In 1940 she rented an apartment at 233 West 14th Street, almost directly opposite Duchamp’s studio at 210, and lived there for the rest of her life. She supported herself with various jobs — in design, sales, engineering and also teaching — trying to save enough money so she could take time off for her art.

A belated and remarkable growth spurt ensued as her abstract vocabulary came into its own in a remarkably up-to-date way. Two canvases from 1967 have backgrounds of blocks of pale color, as if painted over an earlier geometric style. Then come a series of works that seem based on energetic doodles of whose peregrinations create delicate amalgams of shapes that are then filled in with vibrant colors. These are wonderful works, but, except for their palette, they might date from the interwar period.

Flora Crockett
77-82
Oil on canvas board

Over the next three years the lines thicken, take on color and come to dominate, flitting and flirting across the canvas while the shapes become fewer and almost disappear. The internal scale is bolder and the compositions have a graphic bounce. In “77-82,” a blue line loops about the surface, while a red one zigzags through the center: Two very different signatures are competing, and they’re both winning.

Yet “66,” from 1966, may be Ms. Crockett’s masterpiece, with its band of yellow- orange snaking among pale wine-red islands, all on a kind of painting- within- a-painting of mint green. Little blocks of blue and pink pin things down and an undulant vertical of red claims the right edge — and its own space. How many more women like Flora Crockett await discovery?

Flora Crockett
66
Oil on board

 

IN OUR NEXT POST, THE LRFA BLOG IS PLEASED TO INTRODUCE THE FEDERATION OF MODERN PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS, AN ORGANIZATION FOUNDED IN 1940 IN RESPONSE TO THE POLITICAL AND SOCIAL TURMOIL OF THE THIRTIES, THE DEPRESSION AND THE WPA MOVEMENT.  A NEW EXHIBITION OF MEMBERS’ WORKS, SOUND & IMAGE IS OPENING AT WESTBETH IN EARLY FEBRUARY. NICHOLAS CHRISTOPHER, A MEMBER, WILL INFORM US ON THE HISTORY OF THE FEDERATION, THE CURRENT EXHIBITION AND ITS FUTURE GOALS.

PLEASE JOIN US!

 

 

Abstract painter Flora Crockett gains recognition thanks to Meredith Ward Fine Art

Flora Crockett
C-68, 1968
Oil on canvas board
24 x 30 inches

A RECENT AND WELCOME TREND IN THE LAST FEW YEARS HAS BEEN THE RECOGNITION OF WOMEN ARTISTS WHO DID NOT HAVE THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVED EARLY IN THEIR CAREERS. CARMEN HERRERA’S EXHIBITION: LINES OF SITE AT THE WHITNEY MUSEUM IN 2016 IS THE FIRST MUSEUM EXHIBITION OF THIS GROUNDBREAKING ARTIST IN NEW YORK IN NEARLY TWO DECADES. THE BRAZILIAN ARTIST LYGIA PAPE (1927-2004) WHO WAS A CRITICAL FIGURE IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BRAZILIAN MODERN ART, HAD HER FIRST MONOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION AT THE MET BREUER, AND THE WORK OF ZARINA, AN INDIAN ARTIST WHO CURRENTLY LIVES AND WORKS IN NEW YORK, REPRESENTED BY LUHRING AUGUSTINE GALLERY, HAD HER FIRST RETROSPECTIVE AT THE GUGGENHEIM IN 2013. AT MoMA, TRADITIONALLY KNOWN AS A BOYS’ CLUB INSTITUTION, THE MUSEUM HELD A GROUNDBREAKING SHOW LAST APRIL ENTITLED MAKING SPACE: WOMEN ARTISTS AND ABSTRACT ABSTRACTION THAT INCLUDED RUTH ASAWA, MAGDALENA ABAKANOWICZ AND ANNE RYAN TO NAME A FEW.

Meredith Ward Fine Arts
44 East 74 Street
New York, NY

MEREDITH WARD FINE ART IS A HIGHLY REGARDED GALLERY SPECIALIZING IN AMERICAN ART WITH A FOCUS ON AMERICAN MODERNISM. MEREDITH IS A CHERISHED FRIEND AND A COLLEAGUE I RESPECT WITH A GREAT EYE AND KNOWLEDGE OF THE ART WORLD AND AN EASY CHARM IN SHARING THESE ATTRIBUTES THAT IS UNIQUELY HER OWN. SHE SUPPORTS HER ARTISTS AND THE ESTATES SHE REPRESENTS BY MAINTAINING LONG-STANDING RELATIONSHIPS WITH MUSEUMS AROUND THE COUNTRY AND PUBLISHING EXCEPTIONAL CATALOGUES TO ACCOMPANY THE THOUGHTFUL EXHIBITION PROGRAM. IN MAY 2017 SHE EXHIBITED PAINTINGS FROM THE 1940s and 1950s BY FLORA CROCKETT THAT HAD NOT BEEN SEEN SINCE THEY WERE FIRST EXHIBITED IN NEW YORK AROUND THE TIME THEY WERE CREATED.

http://www.meredithwardfineart.com/exhibitions.html

Flora Crockett
Exhibition Catalog
Meredith Ward Fine Art

THE LRFA BLOG IS HONORED TO REPRODUCE THE CATALOGUE FROM THE EXHIBITION AND THE NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW IN WHICH ROBERTA SMITH NOTES, “This is our first sighting of a body of work that could hold its own in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art or the Museum of Modern Art and in the history of American abstract painting.”

In 1966, at the age of 74, Flora Crockett embarked on what would become the most productive years of her artistic career. The paintings she produced between 1966 and 1973 display a vitality, joy, and confidence that resulted from a lifetime of exploration, experience, and struggle. Crockett’s colorful abstractions introduce a new name to the story of art in the 20th century.

By the time Crockett started work on this series, she had been active as an artist, teacher, and art administrator for more than forty years. Her paintings were shown in exhibitions in Paris and New York throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and her position as Director of Fernand Léger’s Académie Moderne in Paris placed her at the center of one of the most influential art communities of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, her life and career over those decades had not been easy. Her personal papers tell a story of courage, tenacity, and repeated frustrations as she sought to do her work and earn a living. It is an all too familiar tale of an independent woman fighting for her place in the world.

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

Flora Crockett was born in 1892 in Grelton, Ohio and attended Oberlin College, where she majored in art and mathematics. After graduating from Oberlin in 1911, she attended Thomas Training School in Detroit, Michigan, where she studied to become an instructor in art. In 1915, she took a position as Supervisor of Art in the public school district in Roslyn, New York. In Roslyn, she met Edmondo Quattrochi, an Italian-born sculptor who was then living on Long Island and undertaking sculptural commissions in marble and bronze. The two were married in 1918 and lived for the next few years in Roslyn.

In 1924, Flora and Edmondo moved to France when Edmondo was hired to work with Frederick MacMonnies in executing his La Liberté éplorée (Liberty Weeping), a monumental memorial sculpture honoring Americans who died at the First Battle of the Marne. For the first few years in France, Flora took a position as director of L’Ecole de Champfleury, a school for war orphans at Poissy. Then, probably around 1926, she joined the Académie Moderne, an art school established by Fernand Léger at 86 rue Notre-Dame des Champs in Paris, and was eventually named Director of the school.

Flora Crockett
Untitled, c. 1967
Oil on canvas board
24 x 36 inches

Léger began teaching at the Académie Moderne in 1924, and the following year Amédée Ozenfant joined the faculty. The years spent working with Léger and Ozenfant were critical to Crockett’s artistic formation. A full history of the Académie Moderne has yet to be written, but there is no doubt that it had a lasting and far-reaching effect on artists worldwide and for decades to come. The student body was international, including artists from Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Russia, South America, and Japan, as well as a few students from the United States (including Blanche Lazzell and George L.K. Morris). Crockett’s five-year tenure there put her in regular contact with Léger, Ozenfant, and others, who were among the most important and influential artists of the era.

To be continued… in the next LRFA post!