JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues
JUL-AUG 2019 Issue
ArtSeen

Painters of the East End

Being among these grand women’s works make me feel that, as women writers, we all have a chance to make our way.

Nell Blaine, <i>Merry-Go Round,</i> 1955, oil on canvas, 70 x 54 inches, 177.8 x 137.2 cm. Courtesy Reynolds Gallery and Kasmin Gallery.
Nell Blaine, Merry-Go Round, 1955, oil on canvas, 70 x 54 inches, 177.8 x 137.2 cm. Courtesy Reynolds Gallery and Kasmin Gallery.
On View
Paul Kasmin Gallery
July 11 – August 16, 2019
New York

Many of the European avant-garde artists who arrived in New York during World War II found themselves reaching out for a less expensive kind of living, and discovered larger studios in a rural landscape and waterscape on Long Island’s South Fork. In the mid-twentieth century, a group of women painters developed there a collaborative community sharing a culture mingling bohemian instincts and creative inspiration. This kind of art colony thrived on their interwoven affinities, gossip, affection, envies, and dislikes. Gathered there were Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, whose painting on board of 1949 has the side-sway of Lyonel Feininger’s oddly European buildings, and also Jane Freilicher with her gorgeous landscapes, as well as Joan Mitchell, whose paintings instantly stand out anywhere, as happens with the most striking figures of various groups and periods, reminding me of how, for instance, Charles Olson’s being and writing stood out in Black Mountain College times.

Helen Frankenthaler, White Flight, 1979, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 39 1/2 inches, 40.6 x 100.3 cm. Artwork © 2019 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Private Collection. Courtesy of Kasmin Gallery.

Sometimes it is a joy not to know the creators. For example here, since I knew nothing about Jane Wilson, her quiet-colored still life called Four Paper Palettes of 1973 intrigued me, as did Charlotte Park’s small paintings, as did Nell Blaine’s astonishing and rhythmically captivating Merry-Go-Round of 1955, so very unlike her Shell and Wine Bottle of 1967, and both delightfully odd in their details. A smallish acrylic horizontal by Helen Frankenthaler, White Flight of 1979, with its two lifting white shapes against the green and orange space startled me, and reminded me of a magnificent long panel at the Menil Collection I had just seen, with a running streak along it. It reminded me of reading, in Mary Gabriel’s recent and superb NinthStreet Women, how, as a young child, she made a sign on the sidewalk with a stick of chalk and drew one continuous line from 82 and Fifth to her family’s building at Park and 74th, marking the way. Being among these grand women’s works make me feel that, as women writers, we all have a chance to make our way.

Jane Wilson, Four Paper Palettes, 1973, oil on canvas, 25 x 35 inches, 63.5 x 88.9 cm. Artwork © The Estate of Jane Wilson. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery, New York and Kasmin Gallery.

Contributor

Mary Ann Caws

MARY ANN CAWS is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature, English, and French at the Graduate School of the City University of New York. Her many areas of interest in twentieth-century avant-garde literature and art include Surrealism, poets René Char and André Breton, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, and artists Robert Motherwell, Joseph Cornell, and Pablo Picasso. Conceptually, one of her primary themes has been the relationship between image and text.

close

JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues