Leslie Rankow Fine Arts

INTERNATIONAL ART ADVISORY SERVICE

Tag: women artists

Airport, please! the LRFA blog heads to London for Pace’s exhibition Creating Abstraction of seven international sculptors

Pace Gallery
Hanover Square
London

 

Creating Abstraction, a group exhibition that brings together seven female artists whose experimental approach to material and engagement with Modernism has pushed the boundaries of abstraction opens on February 3rd. Airport, please! the LRFA blog is looking forward to visiting Pace’s new gallery in Hanover Square and seeing this thought provoking exhibit co-curated with Carla Chammas, that centers on the idea of multi-disciplinarity as a means of exploring abstraction. In a time of Covid, complicating  travel, communication and personal connecting, the LRFA  blog applauds Pace Gallery for assembling such a diverse and intellectual survey show very much worth a visit.

In bringing together an array of work by these seven artists, Creating Abstraction offers a window into each individual’s complex, layered, radical work as well as the broader context of their practice.

https://www.pacegallery.com/exhibitions/creating-abstraction/

THE ARTISTS


Carla Accardi

On view from 3 February through

12 March, across the full expanse of Pace’s recently opened Hanover Square gallery, Creating Abstraction looks at the ways in which various Modernist movements were disseminated across the world and interpreted by artists from Britain, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Portugal, Singapore and the United States. This exhibition creates dialogues between the sculptures, paintings, textiles, works on paper, video, photography, and installations of Carla Accardi (1924-2014), Leonor Antunes (b. 1972), Yto Barrada (b. 1971), Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916-2017), Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Kim Lim (1936-1997) and Louise Nevelson (1899-1988). Despite vastly disparate nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds, there is a shared sensibility between these artists who each found inspiration in Modernism’s non-hierarchical approach to material, and abstraction’s rich capacity for multi-disciplinary experimentation.

Saloua Rouada Choucair

Saloua Raouda Choucair is widely considered the first abstract artist in Lebanon. Inspired by mathematics, architecture and Islamic design and poetry, her pioneering practice encompassed sculpture, painting, drawing, jewellery, and textile. The modular structure of her sculptures, such as Poem (1972-74) or Poem (Ramlet el Beida) (1966/2013), which, like the stanzas of Arabic poetry can stand alone or be presented as a whole, have a particular resonance with the sculptures of Singaporean-British artist, Kim Lim. Lim’s practice, which traversed wood, bronze, marble, stone, fibreglass, aluminium, slate, and ink primarily took the form of sculpture and printmaking. Like Choucair, Lim took immense inspiration from the aesthetics of ancient Eastern art, travelling extensively across the Middle East and Asia throughout her life. In sculptures such as Caryatid (1961) Lim’s elegant fusion of historical sculptural forms with a distinctly Modernist aesthetic is particularly apparent.

Kim Lim

Lim and Choucair’s prints, works on paper and paintings have a shared sensibility with the work of Italian artist Carla Accardi, who’s avant-garde practice paved the way for many twentieth century movements in Italy. Best known for her experiments in sicofoil, a transparent plastic material, Accardi’s sculptures and paintings investigate both the formal and spatial effect of line, shape and gesture. The graphic quality of Accardi’s work such as Fondo Rosso (1959) or Segni Grigi (1986), resonates strongly with Choucair’s dynamic gouache paintings on paper.

Barbara Hepworth

An innovator of the Direct Carving technique and the first sculptor to pierce their forms, Barbara Hepworth is recognized as a master of British Modernism. Though most commonly recognised for her groundbreaking sculptures, which included bronze, stone, wood and string, her practice also encompassed painting, lithograph, collage, and drawing. Three Forms (1971) and Stringed Figure (Curlew) (Maquette) (1956) creates an enchanting dialogue with Louise Nevelson’s sculptures and collages. Unlike Hepworth, Nevelson’s artistic practice was additive, assembling materials found in the streets surrounding her studio to construct sculpture, collage, and installation. By painting the elements of her sculptures entirely black, white, or gold, Nevelson erased their former functions, focusing attention on their form. In Untitled (1971), a monumental monochromatic black sculpture, Nevelson nestles forms within a larger structure akin to a cabinet of curiosities.

Louise Nevelson

By including both twentieth century artists who were instrumental in the development of abstraction, and contemporary artists – Yto Barrada and Leonor Antunes – Creating Abstraction considers the legacy of Modernism today. Barrada’s work in textile, photography and video speaks at once to the multifaceted, multidisciplinary histories of Modernism and to her own personal landscape. In Velvet collage #6 (2021) Barrada references the hard-edge abstraction and Modernist history of the ‘grid’ while also drawing from her own daily life – the velvet is dyed using homemade pigments forged from the plants in her Tangier studio garden. Similarly, Antunes’s research-based practice actively responds to the histories of overlooked female Modernists, anni #26 I (2020) is a reimagining of Anni Albers’s abstract weavings in glittering brass. Antunes’s installation, indirect lighting (group 2) (2021), which extends from floor to ceiling with ceramic sculptural pieces spiralling in space, echoes the modular sculpture of Choucair, Lim, and Nevelson.

Yto Barrada
Marian Goodman Gallery
New York

   

 PACE GALLERY

Pace is a leading international art gallery representing some of the most influential contemporary artists and estates from the past century, holding decades-long relationships with Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Barbara Hepworth, Agnes Martin, Louise Nevelson, and Mark Rothko. Pace enjoys a unique U.S. heritage spanning East and West coasts through its early support of artists central to the Abstract Expressionist and Light and Space movements.

Leonor Antunes

Since its founding by Arne Glimcher in 1960, Pace has developed a distinguished legacy as an artist-first gallery that mounts seminal historical and contemporary exhibitions. Under the current leadership of President and CEO Marc Glimcher, Pace continues to support its artists and share their visionary work with audiences worldwide by remaining at the forefront of innovation. Now in its seventh decade, the gallery advances its mission through a robust global program—comprising exhibitions, artist projects, public installations, institutional collaborations, performances, and interdisciplinary projects. Pace has a legacy in art bookmaking and has published over five hundred titles in close collaboration with artists, with a focus on original scholarship and on introducing new voices to the art historical canon. The gallery has also spearheaded exploration into the intersection of art and technology through new business models, exhibition interpretation tools, and representation of artists engaging with technology.

Today, Pace has nine locations worldwide including London, Geneva, a strong foothold in Palo Alto, and two galleries in New York—its headquarters at 540 West 25th Street, which welcomed almost 120,000 visitors and programmed 20 shows in its first six months and an adjacent 8,000 sq. ft. exhibition space at 510 West 25th Street. Pace was one of the first international galleries to establish outposts in Asia, where it operates permanent galleries in Asia and the first to Seoul.

Saloua Raouda Choucair,
Trajectory of a Line, 1957-59,
brass,

CREATING ABSTRACTION

Despite vastly disparate nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds, there is a shared sensibility between these artists who each found inspiration in Modernism’s non-hierarchical approach to material, and abstraction’s rich capacity for multi-disciplinary experimentation.

On view from 3 February – 12 March, across the full expanse of Pace’s recently opened Hanover Square gallery, Creating Abstraction looks at the ways in which various Modernist movements were disseminated across the world and interpreted by artists from Britain, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, Portugal, Singapore and the United States. This exhibition creates dialogues between the sculptures, paintings, textiles, works on paper, video, photography, and installations of Carla Accardi (1924-2014), Leonor Antunes (b. 1972), Yto Barrada (b. 1971), Saloua Raouda Choucair (1916-2017), Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975), Kim Lim (1936-1997) and Louise Nevelson (1899-1988).

During a time of intense personal concerns, it is refreshing to see women artists exploring the legacy of Modernism and abstraction in this beautiful exhibition.

 

 

Geri Thomas, an expert in staffing and consulting for arts and culture organizations

Geri Thomas

EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO, GERI THOMAS FOUNDED THOMAS & ASSOCIATES, INC., AND ART STAFFING.COM, AN INNOVATIVE STAFFING AND CONSULTING FIRM FOR ARTS AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS AND BUSINESSES FOLLOWING A LONG CAREER IN MUSEUM MANAGEMENT IN BOTH THE UNITED STATES AND ABROAD. SHE CLOSED THE BUSINESS IN SEPTEMBER 2017 TO BECOME A FINE ARTS APPRAISER AND AN ADVISOR TO INDIVIDUALS AND ORGANIZATIONS ON PROJECTS AND CAREERS.

THE LRFA BLOG HAS ASKED GERI TO REFLECT ON THE CHANGES IN THE ARTS INDUSTRY AND WHAT SHE SEE AS MAJOR TRENDS GOING FORWARD.

GERI, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR REVISITING THE LRFA BLOG.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR CAREER THAT SHAPED YOUR PROFESSIONAL  HISTORY? YOU HAVE SO MUCH EXPERIENCE IN THE FIELD. HOW HAS THAT LED TO WHAT YOU FOCUS ON NOW?

Harlem on my Mind

Without going too far back in ancient history, I was always intrigued with organizations and how they function and pursued a degree in Sociology. Although I always loved art and visited museums in Chicago where I grew up, it wasn’t until I took a class in Far Eastern Art that I knew I was “hooked” and changed my major to Art History. The late 70s and early 80s, when I and some of my colleagues from diverse economic backgrounds entered the field, were decades of great change in museums – they attempted to be more inclusive, realizing the need to reach out to a variety of audiences not only for survival but also to fulfill their educational mission. 

Tutankhamen
Metropolitan Museum of Art

We all know that exhibitions such as Harlem on My Mind, and Tutankhamen were pivotal in changing museum approaches to exhibitions and collections by making an effort to represent the cultures inherent in their holdings. In addition, “grass roots” arts organizations as they were known then, were already showcasing the work of women artists and people of color and were significant in influencing the more mainstream institutions. Significant exhibitions followed such as Randy Rosen’s Making Their Mark: Women Artists Move into the Mainstream, 1970-85; and, the pivotal Black Male exhibition at the Whitney, curated by Thelma Golden. Now there are significant exhibitions and acquisitions focused on artists of all backgrounds worldwide.

Making Their Mark: Women Artists Move into the Mainstream
Randy Rosen

THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL OF 2017 CERTAINLY CRYSTALLIZED THE NEW CHAPTER OF SO-CALLED POLITICAL ART. THE SHOW SELECTED 63 ARTISTS WORKING “AT THE INTERSECTION OF THE FORMAL AND THE SOCIAL. MANY OF THESE ARTISTS CONFRONT SUCH AMERICAN REALTIES AS INCOME INEQUALITY, HOMELESSNESS, IMMIGRATION, HATRED AND BIAS.”

DO YOU SEE THIS AS A NEW DIRECTION OR A CONTINUATION OF A RECURRENT FOCUS?

Black Male
Diptych
The Whitney Museum

“Inclusion” and “diversity” are once again in the rhetoric but have never really gone away.  Museums, perhaps because of relatively low salaries and because they often seem to lack institutional memory are once again trying to devise ways to be more inclusive – from efforts to diversify staffing and leadership roles to establishing better and more diverse boards. 

With the worldwide interest in art as an asset class coupled with foundation support for inclusion (such as the new Ford Foundation initiative to establish a “pipeline” of diverse arts leaders), another new call for change is underway. My company had a mantra – just hire qualified people from diverse backgrounds and increase compensation.  It is that simple!

Whitney Biennial 2017

IN OUR NEXT LRFA POST, GERI WILL SPEAK ABOUT THE UNIQUE COMPANY SHE CREATED TO SERVICE OUR NON-PROFIT MUSEUM AND CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS.

PLEASE JOIN US!

 

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!

A focus on the accomplishes of women in the arts with historian and curator, Avis Berman

Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, UK home of the New Hall Collection of Art

Murray Edwards College, University of Cambridge, UK
home of the New Hall Collection of Art

THE NEW HALL COLLEGE FOR WOMEN STUDENTS AT CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY WAS FOUNDED IN 1954 BY ROSEMARY MURRAY, EDUCATOR, PIONEERING CHEMIST AND FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE COLLEGE. IN 2004, SHORTLY AFTER HER DEATH, NEW HALL WAS RENAMED MURRAY EDWARDS COLLEGE IN HER HONOR AND HOUSES THE LARGE COLLECTION OF CONTEMPORARY ART BY WOMEN ARTISTS IN EUROPE.

THE LRFA BLOG IS DELIGHTED TO WELCOME AVIS BERMAN TODAY TO SHARE IN HER DISCOVERY OF THIS COLLECTION AND TO LEARN ABOUT ANOTHER OF HER CONTRIBUTIONS ON OUTSTANDING WOMEN IN THE ARTS, HER STUDY OF JULIANA FORCE, GERTRUDE VANDERBILT WHITNEY AND THE FORMATION OF THE WHITNEY MUSEUM.

AVIS, THANK YOU FOR OUR CONTINUED CONVERSATION.

DO YOU PROPOSE THE SUBJECTS YOU WISH TO WRITE ABOUT TO PUBLICATIONS THAT YOU FEEL ARE APPROPRIATE? I KNOW THERE ARE LITERARY AGENTS FOR BOOKS BUT ARE THERE REPRESENTATIVES FOR SHORTER CONTRIBUTIONS SUCH AS ARTICLES?

As a rule, there are no agents for articles about art and art history – there’s not enough money involved for the labor to be worth their while. I have often proposed subjects to magazines and just as frequently an editor has come to me with an idea.

Amaranth Ehrenahlt Three Streams Acrylic on paper Gift of Anita Shapolsky

Amaranth Ehrenahlt
Three Streams
Acrylic on paper
Gift of Anita Shapolsky

I ASSUME WITH YOUR PROFESSIONAL HISTORY AS AN ART HISTORIAN, CRITIC AND WRITER, YOU RECEIVE MANY REQUESTS TO WRITE ON A SPECIFIC TOPIC? WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MOST GRATIFYING SUBJECTS, AND WHY?

The most gratifying subjects are either those that bring someone or something valuable to light that has been forgotten or overlooked or those for which I find that I have a genuinely new idea about. The latter being the most elusive not merely to possess, but to articulate in a sustained manner beyond the original aha! perception. The initial concept that seems so brilliant in your head is always subject to banal execution on the page.

Sandra Fisher Portrait of Jake Auerbach Oil on canvas Gift of R.B. Kitaj

Sandra Fisher
Portrait of Jake Auerbach
Oil on canvas
Gift of R.B. Kitaj

One was “Through the Eyes of Women,” an article that ran last fall in Antiques Magazine about a large collection of contemporary women’s art at Murray Edwards College at Cambridge University;   In discovering the existence of the art collection in Cambridge, I had the delight of exposing my own provincialism – here was a whole  slew of artists of whom I knew little, and writing the article helped me conduct my education about them in public.

http://www.themagazineantiques.com/articles/as-seen-through-the-work-of-women-the-new-hall-art-collection-at-cambridge-university/

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FROM AVIS BERMAN’S ARTICLE IN ANTIQUES ON AN ECLECTIC INTERNATIONAL COLLECTION OF ART BY WOMEN. NEW TO ME!

Art pilgrims intent on making Cambridge, England, their destination should extend their journey beyond the university’s majestic Fitzwilliam Museum and its old masters and Kettle’s Yard, the fey modernist cenacle of British art between the wars, to include the New Hall Art Collection at Murray Edwards College, one of three exclusively women’s colleges at the University of Cambridge. Unknown to many Cambridge students and faculty, and a substantial number of British art historians and critics, the college has collected and exhibits more than four hundred works of art by women. It is the most significant collection of its kind in Europe, and the second largest public collection of women’s art in existence, surpassed only by the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., which houses some forty-five hundred objects.

One of the most laudable aspects of this unsung treasure is the message its installation sends: art is for everyone. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints are not sequestered in gallery spaces. Instead, they are installed everywhere within the college, from the dining room to the corridors and the lecture halls. Their presence underscores the notion of intellectual freedom in a community of women living and working together, one in which individual expression is an everyday occurrence that permeates their lives.

Thus the collection is not so much a hidden gem as a multiplicity of riches hiding in plain sight.

Juliana R. Force Founding Director Whitney Museum of Art

Juliana R. Force
Founding Director
Whitney Museum of Art

In 1990, YOU AUTHORED AN OUTSTANDING BOOK ENTITLED “REBELS ON EIGHTH STREET: JULIANA FORCE AND THE WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART”. THIS WAS THE FIRST AND ONLY BOOK ON THE HISTORY OF THE WHITNEY MUSEUM. HOW DID YOU ACCCOUNT FOR THAT AND WHAT PROMPTED THE PUBLICATION AT THE TIME THAT YOU WROTE IT?

I wrote a brief and early article on Juliana Force in the mid-1970s for the AAM journal Museum News, and thought no more about it. Then a couple of years later, one of her nephews, whom I had not known about, saw the article and got in touch with me. He liked what I had written and persuaded me that there was a book about his aunt if I cared to tackle it. He couldn’t help me financially, but he would turn over the family papers and introduce me to people he knew, and I in my innocence said yes. And then my real life began.

That there had not been a book before was the ultimate challenge – at the time, if something in 20th-century American, particularly in American modernism, hadn’t been done by the Museum of Modern Art or by Stieglitz, it didn’t exist. I wanted to change that perception.

Portrait of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney by Robert Henri, 1916

Portrait of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney
by Robert Henri, 1916

WHAT IS THE RESEARCH PROCESS THAT WAS NECESSARY TO WRITE A BOOK ON A SUBJECT OF SUCH SIGNIFICANCE THAT HAD BEEN PREVIOUSLY IGNORED?

I spent 10-12 years on that book, because I had to cover so much. Not just Juliana Force, the first director of the Whitney Museum, but Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, the woman who hired her and made her possible. And then I had to judge the quality of their achievement, so I had to steep myself in all the artists and exhibitions of the Whitney-Force enterprises between 1908 and 1948. So it was a tremendous educational grounding in the art and culture of the New York art world between the wars. I had to read the books, the articles, the memoirs, the exhibition checklists, not to mention the 120 people I interviewed.

I also made a vow not to write around anything. If I didn’t know something, I didn’t skip it. I made myself sit there, figure it out, and cast it into prose.

THE NEW WHITNEY MUSEUM, DESIGNED BY ARCHITECT RENZO PIANO, SITUATED BETWEEN THE HIGH LINE AND THE HUDSON RIVER, IS A DAZZLING BUILDING. IT INCORPORATES 13,000 SQUARE FEET OF OUTDOOR EXHIBITION SPACE AND TERRACES, ALLOWS THE MUSEUM TO EXHIBIT A GREAT DEAL MORE OF ITS OUTSTANDING PERMANENT COLLECTION AND PROVIDES CURATORIAL FREEDOM TO PRESENT A MUCH BROADER RANGE OF EXHIBITIONS, PERFORMANCES AND THEATER. MOST OF ALL, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, THE EXTRAORDINARY ARCHITECTURAL DESIGN RESPONDS EXQUISITELY TO THE CHARACTER OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD AND THE MULTI-DIRECTIONAL VIEWS OF THE GREAT CITY OF NEW YORK.

THE NEXT LRFA BLOG WITH AVIS BERMAN WILL FOCUS ON THE WHITNEY, ITS FORMATION AND UNIQUE HISTORY.  THE LRFA BLOG WELCOMES ALL COMMENTS AND QUESTIONS AND URGES YOU TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF AVIS’ PRESENCE AND DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE.

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