Anita Shapolsky Gallery
Art For Art's Sake - Credo of the 50's
New York in the Fifties asserted its artistic independence. Breaking with tradition, the artists painted not to impress other people but for Art's sake. They shared a common ideal but approached their subjects in extremely diverse ways, avoiding stylistic classification. Each developed a format in which to explore ideas that had a very personal subtext.
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Many used the simple square shape of the canvas as a point of departure. Michael Loew said, "For me, the use of the rectangle or square... may liberate the hidden and unforeseen. I have no particular "mystique" of the rectangle. I prefer it as a shape because of its suggestiveness in creating meaning on different levels in painting, that interests me." And just as Loew began painting watercolor landscapes and gradually moved toward grid-like arrangements of color, Nassos Daphnis first went through a period of biomorphic abstraction before approaching hard- edged geometry. In the Fifties he developed his "Color Plane" theory in which each color has its own range of position in space. Ilya Bolotowsky as well discovered a passion for the geometric discipline inspired by Piet Mondrian, creating a perfect balance between spatial divisions and color tones.
Seymour Boardman's own geometric style emerged form a period of dark, brooding colors, and calligraphic brushwork. He would later turn his attention to the interior of the canvas, using saturated color to define and explore space. After arriving in New York from the West Coast in the Fifties, Ernest Briggs was investigating the use of lyrical color and the cataclysmic power of nature in his work. He wrote that the challenge of painting for him lay implicit in the act - to penetrate conceptual deposits and attempt the possible impingement of spirit. Also emerging from California was Richards Ruben whose shaped canvases bring an element of sculpture to the flat plane of the canvas, while celebrating the poetry of light and shadow. Another painter who would turn to shaped canvases was Joe Overstreet, the son of a mason, was one of the few African-American artists of the 50's. His knowledge of construction may have influenced him to use cement trowels to slather paint onto canvas and certainly influenced his interest in architectural structure. More important than paint and process to Overstreet was the search to solve problems, which he said, "Technique will never solve. They always got solved at the level of content: memory, consciousness, unconsciousness. Not technique."
L. Alcopley, worked as both a painter and medical scientist for more than 40 years. He was at the same time one of the founding members of "The Club". In his painting he used broad sweeping areas of color and referred to his paintings as "letterless writing". He saw that the inspiration for art and science came from the same place, the unconscious. "What unifies them is the spirit which originates in human being and which is communicated to human being." Ethel Schwabacher's intense interest in the unconscious mind led her into psychoanalysis and the study of Freud in Vienna. She would return to New York and develop the language of her work with free, loosely brushed areas of color. Another woman who influenced the movement, and one of the first female members of The Club, was Perle Fine whose sinewy tangles of line and color distinguish her paintings.
Sidney Geist's sculpture alternated between figurative and abstract columns, often with biomorphic lines. Working with wood, he took an element of nature and transformed it into a permanent, enduring representation of his reality. Sculptor Ibram Lassaw relied heavily upon experimentation in his method of creating open web-like network of shapes. The forms he was attracted to were difficult to produce through the process of casting and thus he welded his imagination into form. "One must think and dream with the material", he said, to get the "feed back" necessary to his process.
Bach flute performance by Andrew Bolotowsky on December 2, 2000, at 3 PM.