Cousins, Quarries and a Nickelodeon
19 January - 30 March 2013
Gayleen Aiken’s personal narrative is revealed by the endless depiction of her home (both inside and out) in Barre, Vermont. Her family and friends, the fictitious Raimbilli cousins, all 26 of them, constitute the anchor of her existence. The granite shed plants, mills, and stone cutting machinery are constant fodder too. Through the artist’s imagination they become a child’s playground.
When Aiken is at home, the allure of the wallpaper, the Nickelodeon, other musical instruments, and even the slate kitchen sink capture her creative expression. The viewer smiles at the delight, knowing, and perspicacious insight Aiken has of her surroundings.
The extreme sensual beauty of northern Vermont is cogently felt and portrayed in all seasons. This visceral connection to the land gives Aiken’s work an immediate intensity. We can feel the flutter of the leaves, the deep snow and the coming of spring!
The artist’s obsessive repetition of place, of friends, of family, gave her a sense of security and grounding in her long productive life. Her extraordinary oeuvre included the illustration of about 500 graphic novels as well.
Pardon Up Here
16 November 2012 - 12 January 2013
Pete Schulte’s nuanced pencil and pigment drawings on paper have a presence that belies their small scale. Ideas and images are explored with the artist’s unique touch, sensitivity of line and unpredictable composition. They hover at the threshold between presence and void, image and object, longing and loss. The resulting work seduces and repels, illuminates even as it obscures and operates in the visual space where language fails.
This is Pete Schulte’s first one man exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery. He is an Assistant Professor in The Department of Art & Art History at The University of Alabama.
Thirty Years, Shifting Gears
13 September - 3 November 2012
In John Himmelfarb’s current exhibition, which spans 30 years, we see his energetic inventiveness encompassing drawing, painting, sculpture, and printmaking. Beneath the immediate image of a truck, a face, or cityscape, there are deep psychological connections between artist and subject matter. A bold, 7 foot, ink self-portrait almost accosts us as it stares back. Another emotive entanglement features a man on a raft, surrounded by the clutter of his life. The boat is clearly sinking. Himmelfarb’s fascination with trucks is more benevolent in Blue Motive, a recent three dimensional print; while Juggernaut, an aggressive truck painting, is obviously tangled in its emotions.
Himmelfarb’s work is represented in more than fifty public collections and he has had over seventy solo exhibitions. This is his twelfth solo show in New York.
J.W. Burleson, Ed Freeman, Gail Gregg, Jessica Hines, Paul Hasegawa - Overacker, Phillip March Jones, Tom Mapp, John Mattson, Kendall Messick, Gary Monroe, Olivia Parker, Stan Ries, Margo Newmark Rosenbaum, Paul, Rosin, William Ross, Nina Howell Starr, Savannah Spirit, Jane Terry, Hai Zhang, Karen Zimmerly
28 June - 10 August 2012
Photographs of the poignant, iconic, beautiful, nostalgic and humorous abound in this exhibition, Great Photographs!, at Luise Ross Gallery. The photographers approach their worlds with sensitivity and sincere curiosity in a time when obsessive and narcissistic documentation is the norm. Within this exhibition there is an intimacy and an interaction between photographer and subject. Implied is that they too feel the conflict facing their subjects, the camera magnifying, not excluding them from it.
A 54 Year Survey
10 May - 22 June 2012
“I avoid labels so that I can enjoy the luxury of diversification,” Leo Rabkin has proclaimed over the course of his career. We see in his current exhibition, A 54 Year Survey, sculpture, works on paper, and collage used in unexpected ways.
Flocking, glued multicolored plastics, strung string, and plaster armature, are assembled playfully and inventively. While defying specific categorization, it is clear Rabkin has paid homage to many movements over his decades-long career.
The consistent thread through Rabkin’s oeuvre is his artistic experimentation, both meditative and inventive. A tension exists that is both implied and actual. We are glad to avoid the labels, for it is evident how much of the artist lives in his work.
Extensions of the Head
29 March - 5 May 2012
Gudjon Ketilsson’s art revolves around the human body in its presence as well as absence. Starting with the cranium, the sensuousness of hair is felt through his carved and painted sculptures. Continuing the corporal investigation, Ketilsson draws in exquisite detail, abstractly rendering elements of his own body.
In a major, segmented wall relief, the artist recreates only the headwear used in Brueghel’s famous painting, The Peasant Wedding. These hats indicate the occupation of the wearer and are as animated as the original painting.
The body, Ketilsson feels, is the most classical subject of art and philosophy and never ceases to be of interest as it is the core of our existence. The body is everything and nothing, mysterious and yet scientifically mapped, fragile and strong.
This is Gudjon Ketilsson’s first one person show in New York. He has had over thirty solo-shows and has participated in numerous group shows in Iceland,the Nordic countries, Europe, USA, Canada, China and Australia. His works can be found in the collections of major Icelandic art museums and abroad.
Gudbjorg Lind, Gustav Geir Bollason, Gudny Kristmanns, Gudjon Ketilsson, Gudrun Kristjansdottir, Neils Hafstein, Thordis Alda Sigurdardottir, Jon Laxdal
9 February - 17 March 2012
ICELAND AS A MYTH
Some years ago, Icelandic artists would have been a category unfamiliar to the American art public. It would have seemed a category without discernible unity or order, thus devoid of the kind of meaning that would allow itself to be turned into myth. By connecting all the dots we have the beginnings of a myth centering on a society precariously poised between the civilized and savage, urban and rural, self-depreciation (How do you like Iceland?) and dreams of world domination.
Typically, the Icelandic artists included in this survey both conform to this myth and render it meaningless. All of them have close ties to the countryside; they use it as refuge or incorporate its features and legends into their art, both of which is true of Guðbjörg Lind, Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir and Níels Hafstein. At the same time they are ready to fly to New York, Paris or Beijing at a moment`s notice. Their approach to their work may be firmly centered on the physicality of the body, as is the case with Guðný Kristmanns, or it may be predicated on the dissolution of materiality, which is the kind of thing we find in the work of Gústav Geir Bollason. Or they may take up a position midway between sense and big time sensuality, as happens in the highly literate and knowing work of Jón Laxdal and Thórdís Alda.
5 January - 4 February 2012
Constructed with materials Rivera has on hand, such as the innards of a discarded TV, postal envelopes, playing cards, or domino pieces, the detritus of our homes find new life and new meaning in his obsessive and labyrinthine creations. An acoustic guitar completely covered in broken pieces of crayon is transformed into a colorful, and lyrical three dimensional mosaic. Within his collages, visual poetry is created using words cut out of advertisements, scratch-off lottery tickets, subway maps, and candy bar wrappers.
Jose Rivera’s fluid, yet intricate and intuitively composed work is permeated with a sense of horror vacui. Within his extensive body of works on paper, figures, architectural elements, and unfathomable machinery, emerge slowly from seemingly abstract compositions. Consciously or not, Rivera inserts himself into his drawings, creating self-portraits within these obsessive constructions of his mind. Despite the presence of recognizable forms that can be glimpsed, the work defies categorization and ultimately, like a Rorschach test, is open to a variety of interpretations.
Thomas Lyon Mills
3 November - 23 December 2011
Thomas Lyon Mills creates imagery on the boundary between visible and invisible worlds, where time is malleable, and reality flexible. The resulting works on paper are meticulous renderings not just of the subterranean Roman catacombs where he works, but also startling depictions of an ephemeral world, just beyond our grasp. The catacombs come alive due to his virtuosic, detailed draftsmanship, and a deep knowledge and understanding of the space that comes from years of relentless study and investigation.
While Mills’ work has always been grounded by observation of specific sites, he draws on a wide range of source material. Working from his surreal dreams, images from art history, as well as sounds, smells and sensations, the artist translates this complex amalgam into visual form. He employs a wide range of mediums, incorporating printmaking, painting, drawing, collage and sculpture, pulling together seemingly disjointed elements into his intricate compositions, a process which can take years. In addition, for the first time Mills’ three dimensional tableaux will be shown.
This year Mills was awarded the Rhode Island Council on the Arts Fellowship in painting for the third time. He has been a professor at the Rhode Island School of Design since 1986 and his work is included in many museum collections.
Paintings and Drawings, 1938 - 1980
8 September - 29 October 2011
Highlights of Minnie Evans’ life were often expressed in her art. She spoke of visions in which God told her to “draw or die” and from this instructive, fifty years of artistic creation followed. In addition, her love of nature, stemming partly from her job as a gatekeeper at Airlie Gardens, permeates her work with an intensity similar to her religious fervor.
Her early experiments with drawing often seem child like, with imaginary faces peeking out of decorative scrolls and repetitive dots and dashes. As Evans spent much of her time making art, it became more sophisticated, sometimes highly decorative, and always inventive. The paintings, rugs and urns she saw in the homes where she also worked as a domestic, served as inspirations. These influences only enhanced her already substantial visionary world.
In addition to Evans’ own fantasies, she had an earnest desire to paint in the mold of 19th century painters who she saw in the Metropolitan Museum. Her paintings startle us with their ingenuity and heartfelt renditions of inner life. From the decorative, to dreamlike worlds, to the depths of damnation, Evans makes an experience we don’t forget.
16 June - 29 July 2011
Ranging from Arthur Dove, a member of Alfred Stieglitz’s stable, to the self-taught phenomenon, James Castle, to the master of the funny bone, Edward Koren; these artists prove that ‘small’ is a big idea.
SMALL illustrates a breadth of ideas, mediums and technique that come together in a surprising harmony to show the viewer that good things come in small packages.
Participating Artists:Arthur Dove, James Castle, June Leaf, Bill Traylor, Edward Koren, Minnie Evans, Victor Faccinto, Charles Yuen, Gail Gregg, Travis Head, Marcy Hermansader, John Himmelfarb, Lonnie Holley, Gudjon Ketilsson, Amer Kobaslija, Thomas Burleson, Gudrun Kristjansdottir, Justen Ladda, Tom Cochran, Michael Madore, Alice Trumbull Mason, Thomas Lyon Mills, Louis Monza, Marzie Nejad, Gladys Nilsson, Judith Page, Mary Anderson Pickard, Leroy Person, Peter Schulte, Woohyun Shim, Malcolm Mobutu Smith, TL Solien, Anna Zemankova, Oswald Tschirtner, Gelsy Verna, August Walla, Glenn Goldberg, John Dilg
23 April - 4 June 2011
John Dilg’s new paintings continue his investigation into the individual’s idiosyncratic responses to the contemporary
landscape. In his words, this (contemporary) “landscape is a place where the romantic and the neo-gothic are allies of the
virtual and where humor and the sinister coexist.”
A Master on Cardboard
24 February - 16 April 2011
Cardboard, Showcard Color, an unerring sense of geometry, proportion, and wit make Bill Traylor a timeless master. Luise Ross Gallery presents a rarely seen body of the artist’s work. The gallery has been a champion of this self-taught artist’s work since its inception in 1983. It was at this time Traylor came to prominence in the noteworthy Black Folk Art in America exhibition at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. In general, the artist focused on three basic categories: the figure, animals, and common objects. Using a pencil, a straight edge and poster paint, this self-taught master conveys an unparalleled sophistication of expression. His work has been included in major exhibitions not only in the United States but in Europe and the Far East as well.
In 1940, Jay Leavell, the editor of the New South newsletter wrote of Bill Traylor, “His studio is the street corner, his gallery, the brick wall of a Negro pool room from which he ‘usually sells ‘em in lots of 6 or 8 for 80 cents.' "
Traylor’s work is in many major museum collections such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, and the National Museum of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
The Opened Closet
20 January - 19 February 2011
Iranian born artist Marzie Nejad draws on her heritage, dreams, and early morning reveries in her meticulously painted canvases. A purple jungle, a powerful woodpecker, the agility of a pregnant woman, and the poignant journey of the beloved Iranian leader Mosaddegh are some of the experiences that are revealed through her unselfconscious imagery. Sensitive and brilliant colors draw the viewer in to experience her interior life and its outward manifestation.
This is the first exhibition of Nejad’s paintings. Concurrently the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, NJ will also present her work.
20 November 2010 - 15 January 2011
This survey of Victor Faccinto’s accomplished artistic career traces his development utilizing video, animation, photography, painting, and sculpture, stationary and kinetic with sound. The viewer is enveloped in the artist’s bizarre and darkly humorous world of alien abductions, plastic dolls on parade, and snake ladies to mention a few.
Seduction and repulsion, love and lust, good and evil are the tensions that permeate Faccinto’s work. His compositions are obsessive in their orchestration. His allegiance to bright, vibrant colors belies the sometimes disturbing subject matter, and maintains a level of humorous irreverence that is integrated throughout the work.
The painting Rules of the Game, illustrate Faccinto’s worlds which are filled with powerful women who rule their domains through sheer size, fear, sexuality or a combination. Men operating on the perimeters are seemingly at the mercy of the dominating females.
With Faccinto’s repetitive motion, as in the sculptures Sound Box #4 and Stick Machine, the viewer is constantly being drawn in, unsure of precisely what is happening. We are left to interpret the actions for ourselves. The artist’s world is all a stage and we the viewers are merely players. He is both puppet master and puppet within his improbable scenarios which both entice and terrify.
This is the artist’s ninth solo exhibition in New York, including a one man show at the Museum of Modern Art, where his work is a part of the permanent collection.
14 October - 13 November 2010
In the second exhibition of her work at Luise Ross Gallery, Gail Gregg’s new collages give us a sense of possibility, of hope, of filling in the blanks, of new days to come.
A master of abstraction, Gregg utilizes found objects in a manner mixed with sadness because there are no images. Decorative elements on these album pages become the focal points of her stark, somber compositions. Nevertheless, the pages convey a sense of the emotional connection with which they were originally filled, and now reappropriated.
This exhibition marks Gregg’s fifth solo exhibition in New York City. Her work was the subject of a recent solo exhibition at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art in Manhattan, KS.
Walter Anderson and His Legacy
10 September - 9 October 2010
A visual artist speaks most clearly, most directly, through his chosen language of images. The great body of my father’s work stands witness to the fervor, the compulsion with which he pursued his goal, understanding… ‘realizing’ through his work. –Mary Anderson Pickard
Since 1982 Luise Ross Gallery has presented Walter Anderson’s watercolors to appreciative audiences. Walter Anderson and His Legacy, our fourteenth exhibition of his work includes for the first time watercolors, pastels, oils and drawings by his family, revealing the powerful and enduring influence of his passionate vision.
The deep beauty in nature, that so captured her father, has been the cornerstone of Mary Anderson Pickard’s own artistic expression. The local landscape of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the creatures and flowers of the bayou are all expressed with a sure sensitivity in Pickard’s compositions.
Pickard’s son, Christopher Stebly is following in similar footsteps. Assuredly and intuitively, he paints the Gulf Coast with compositional integrity, bringing high color and formal dexterity to his art.
Many of Leif Anderson’s drawings are reminiscent of her earlier life in dance. She expresses a rhythmic, musical quality in her ink drawings, and like her father, is drawn in by the local flora and fauna.
Another grandchild who is superbly talented is Mary Annette Anderson. Her vivid colors and soft, but sure touch echo Walter Anderson’s love of the natural world. Compositions reveal themselves with almost abstract interpretations.
Some of the first creations of Walter Anderson were his monumental linoleum block prints, many depicting fairy tales. Executed between 1933 and 1950, these prints were exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. His daughter-in-law Carolyn Anderson has continued this pursuit, making sure that all of us remember our fairy tales.
Gudjon Ketilsson and Gudrun Kristjansdottir
10 June - 30 July 2010
Gudrun Kristjansdottir’s personal view of nature stems from her fascination and preoccupation with the constant shifts and changes in the Icelandic landscape wrought by its highly variable weather system. In her installations, she meticulously records these mutations—unique but impermanent patterns, prosaic imprints created by winds, drifting snow, fog and rain—in different media, thereby transforming the exhibition space and highlighting the complex relationship between art and nature, perception and reality.
Central to Gujon Ketilsson’s art is the study of the human condition, and in his narrative the primary vehicle of this study is the human body. Paradoxically, in the wooden sculptures in this exhibition, he eschews the actual presence of the physical body and uses the quotidian appurtenances to the body—the human impedimenta—as though to say these articles “stand in” for the exploration of time, memory and history in the absence of the human form. Ketilsson also utilizes tools similarly as extensions of the body and sees them as lucid signification of our development through the ages.
Parallel Play: Drawings 1979 - 2010
27 April - 2 June 2010
Surely everyone who visits this exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery will readily recognize the work of Edward Koren. The work runs the gamut from drawings for cartoons to what the artist refers to as his “Fine art or uptown stuff.” The distinguishing element in all is Koren’s unique use of line. His line. It may be described as both unrelenting and edgy, fidgety but sure, staccato like as it scratches its way almost rhythmically yet frantically across the picture plane. It animates his actors, and engages and pleasures the viewer.
The subject matter of the drawings here includes the relatively innocent foibles, posturing and excess that accompany ordinary contemporary activities. Cocktail parties, social networking, recreation and the like are treated with gentle irony. Koren saves his sharpest pens and acerbic wit for the big issues currently plaguing our society: the plundering of the economy; the state of our health care system; the environment; energy. Once again, Koren’s art allows us to get it. But in these latter drawings, “it” leaves us with rueful acknowledgement.
18 February - 17 April 2010
In the past, John Himmelfarb--the Chicago born, bred and based working artist-- has occasionally incorporated truck imagery in his work, usually in an ancillary role, or as a single character in larger, more complicated pieces. In more recent years, he has been using the image of a truck as the central organizing principle in his paintings, drawings, prints, and now in sculpture. The latter comprise the predominate work in this exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery.
In Himmelfarb’s world--somewhere between abstraction and figuration—the three bronzes, one large plywood sculpture, and the one wall-filling painting in the show are clearly identifiable as trucks. Rather rickety and tired from countless trips and loads, perhaps, but Himmelfarb captures the very essence of trucks. And with artistic wit and inventiveness in the line and form of his depiction, the truck imagery morphs into almost human physical attributes and attitudes in the viewer’s imagination. The artist’s titles for some of the pieces—“Fortitude,” “Knowledge,” “Perseverance”—suggest human virtues dating to the Aristotelian and Platonic tradition, and are clues to his intended anthropomorphism.
And what do trucks do? They carry stuff, and Himmelfarb’s are loaded. Perhaps a truck aficionado other than the artist will recognize a crane arm at rest, or the suggestion of a crank shaft, but most viewers will be content to categorize the cargo as a collection of forms suggestive of impedimenta, of “stuff” acquired and accumulated over time and experience, just in case. And for the Heads out there, it’s OK to assume that Himmelfarb’s wonderful work in this exhibition is a fitting nod of homage to “Truckin’.”
19 January - 13 February, 2010
This exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery featured the work of Bill Traylor, Thomas Burleson, J.B. Murry, Oskar Jonsson, Louis Monza, Lonnie Holley, Leroy Person, Violetta Raditz, Minnie Evans, Jesse Aaron, John Culver, Peter C. Besharo and Mose Tolliver.
To the West
7 November 2009 - 9 January 2010
This exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery presents a new series of paintings by T.L. Solien commemorating and celebrating—and
perhaps, at times, deconstructing-- the westward expansion in the United States in the 19th century. Several of the paintings
were suggested by old photographs Solien found in researching the period. Others are informed by an amalgam of artistic
invention and interpretation of the institutional history--economic, social, religious, familial—and the impact of the
natural environment on this extended chronological and vast territorial adventure. Underlying all, neither incidentally nor
anachronistically, are the artist’s personal life experience and autobiography.
17 September - 31 October 2009
Luise Ross Gallery will present its third exhibition of China Marks’ sewn drawings. A new vehicle of expression, a sewn
book, will also be included. Chance plays a big role in China Marks’ process. She selects commercially made fabric based
on color, design, texture and appliquéd elements. These are sewn together with an industrial sewing machine to create
flawlessly seamed idiosyncratic compositions. They can range from everyday situations to the completely unbelievable;
always the fabric determines the outcome. In some of her new works, separate scenes of landscape and figures have been
incorporated into the overall composition virtually challenging the viewer’s comprehension. Marks’ intensive and methodical
process of altering the fabric through the accumulation and subtraction of different elements infuses the work with energy.
Sometimes erratic and at other times tightly contained, this dynamism becomes the unifying element.
4 June - 31 July 2009
Visitors to the group exhibition, Pretty, Strange at Luise Ross Gallery will be treated to viewing art that is sometimes pretty, sometimes strange, but mostly pretty strange.
Walter Anderson, Willie Birch, Thomas Burleson, John Dilg, Minnie Evans, Victor Faccinto, Glenn Goldberg, Gail Gregg, John Himmelfarb, Susana Jacobson, Justen Ladda, Michael Madore, China Marks, Thomas Lyon Mills, Ningura Napurrula, John Newman, Gladys Nilsson, Ferdinand Pleines, Frank Rivera, Genevieve Seille, TL Solien, Bill Traylor, Carlo Zinelli, Walnut Farms Inter-Species Artists Collective.
26 March - 23 May 2009
In this exhibition of paintings, works on paper, and sculpture, artist Glenn Goldberg bids a generous welcome to visitors to the exhibition. Implicit in his welcome to the viewer is the ingenuous invitation to join him in his artistic journey, to participate with him in exploring the possible and promise in his inventive and ongoing progress in making art.
Sculpture and Works on Paper
17 January - 14 March 2009
Volumetric abstraction, Peter Pinchbeck thought, attempted to depict consciousness. His late mixed media sculptures investigate this notion at Luise Ross Gallery’s first presentation of his work. Consciousness is expressed through the use of found objects and molded clay painted in primary colors. The juxtapositions are unexpected, and create playful, sophisticated tableaus.
Pinchbeck’s exhibition will also include paintings on paper where the tactility and luscious quality of the paint tries to depict a consciousness described in the artist’s words as, “fluctuating fields of luminous phenomena…The pictorial element in painting is what I find fascinating; the ability of the image to possess presence without literality and to have spaces and shapes that are tangible, yet are also mysterious.” Both aspects of his work show the influence of Minimalism as well as second generation Abstract Expressionism.
This exhibition of Pinchbeck’s sculpture and works on paper is being presented in conjunction with Gary Snyder/Project Space, 250 West 26 Street 4th floor, who will exhibit major paintings, 7 January – 28 February.
Thomas Burleson, Thornton Dial, Tyyne Esko, Minnie Evans, Lonnie Holley, Louis Monza, Leroy Person, and Bill Traylor
2 December 2008 - 10 January 2009
The current exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery features the childhood drawings of Violetta Raditz. A precocious and ebullient child, her natural talent encouraged and abetted by a home environment filled with music and art, Violetta demonstrated an unusually mature ability and prolific propensity for drawing and painting.
Other self-taught luminaries included are: Minnie Evans whom God came to in a dream and said “draw or die”; Leroy Person
who carved designs in any wood that he could find; Bill Traylor who drew memories from rural life in Alabama; Lonnie Holley
whose poetic vocabulary in transforming found objects is legendary; Tyyne Esko from Finland, whose politics and love of
nature are revealed through her poetic sensibility; Thornton Dial whose coupling of figures and animals is always sensitive
yet powerful; Louis Monza whose mastery of a variety of mediums is used to express his political and social beliefs; and
Thomas Burleson whose inner struggles are transformed into brilliantly colored, complex puzzles.
16 October - 22 November 2008
In his first solo exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery, Frank Rivera introduces us to his topsy-turvy world of the visual non-sequitur where there is no distinction between the quotidian and the magical. Employing such disparate references ranging from early renaissance predella panels to the underground pulp comics of the eighties to storyboard graphics and computer art, --and with a dash of Dada thrown in, --Rivera engages, and almost challenges the viewer with his cryptic, enigmatic imagery and narratives. With a truly light sleight of hand, he demonstrates for us that nothing is what it seems to be.
Rivera has shown in many exhibitions in the New York area, including the Whitney Biennial in 1975.
4 September - 11 October 2008
Memory is the source from which Ferdinand Pleines creates his paintings. His mid-western world seems almost obsessed by a youthful journey taken with his family to their ancestral home in Germany, where he was born. Memories from there fill Pleines’ world with surrealistic haunting portraits, sometimes couched in relationships with birds and animals. Eye spirits peer out of his painterly landscapes where man and nature are one. Pleines’ highly personal universe seems collaged together, disorienting us, yet at the same time, we are drawn into the composition. Its surface is marked with wide incessant brush strokes soaked in a unique palette, furthering the viewer’s intrigue. The juxtaposition of these images and the surrealistic overtones are compelling, but ultimately we are left wanting to know more.
Pleines’ previous exhibitions have taken place in the mid-west. This was his first one man show in New York.
Lone Star II
5 June - 25 July 2008
This was the second one-person exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery of works on paper by Thomas Burleson (1914-1997), a self-taught artist from Texas who produced a substantial body of brilliantly colored works during a thirty-year period. Much of the work was done while the artist was employed as a shipping inspector at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in California, and during his retirement.
17 April - 31 May 2008
In her first solo exhibition in New York in twenty years, Chicago’s Gladys Nilsson provided a clinic in the art of watercolor. She also brings back with her the zany cast of figures—with their signature Nilsson attitudes and elastic, elongated arms and legs; the cats and birds and creatures and small-scale figures whereby she gently caricatures and choreographs the quotidian and the mundane as the operatic sub-plots in which we all have roles to play. As is frequently the case in Nilsson’s narratives, the main figures in many of the paintings in this exhibition play the roles of the diva; but perhaps characterized with a subtle difference from the whimsical humor and on-target wit with which they were portrayed previously. Here these qualities are tinged with a palpable—though unsentimental--homage to all our prima donnas, a wistful tribute to their steadfastness, courage, and vulnerability. “Brava!”
Watercolors and Drawings
19 February - 10 April 2008
Luise Ross Gallery presented its thirteenth exhibition since 1985, when the gallery opened, of Walter Anderson's extensive body of watercolors and drawings. It focused on the artist’s favorite subject, the birds on the Gulf Coast as well as the sea life which share an almost psychological affinity with him. Executed in pencil and pen and ink the aviary and aquatic life are drawn directly from Anderson’s observation. His watercolors are characterized by brilliant color and attitudinal certainty.
Victor Joseph Gatto
"You can't paint this way unless you believe in what you're painting."
5 January - 9 February 2008
At about the age of forty-five, with the encouragement of starving artist neighbors in Greenwich Village’s Little Italy--of which there were many in the late 1930’s--and perhaps out of simple desperation, Gatto began to paint. And he did so the way he lived: hard, aggressively, obsessively. Working in oil, building up layer after layer of paint, brushes tailored for minute detail with most of the hairs pulled out, he worked at his new job full-time and on individual canvases for days at a time without sleep. Obviously self-taught, he gradually developed a reputation as a visionary primitive, painting imagined utopian and biblical subjects and resonant images of New York City. In the early forties, the Whitney Museum of American Art purchased and exhibited one of his paintings. This was followed by his first solo exhibition in 1943 at the Charles Barzansky Gallery on Madison Avenue. Gatto’s work at least, had moved uptown.
It has been 65 years since Gatto’s first New York show. The exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery featured a series of his complex utopian visions, alternatives to the gritty world he experienced. Gatto once poignantly said, “I like to paint (outer) space. The material world can hurt you, but in space nobody suffers, and it goes on forever.” Complementing these utopian creations and nature paintings (his inspired jungle oils evoke the spirit of Henri Rousseau with their rich, brooding colors) are rare drawings of brothel scenes, reminiscences from his early years hanging out at a house his elder brother managed. They are touchingly innocent in their simplicity.
Gail Gregg: Recent Paintings
25 October - 21 December 2007
The abstract artist Gail Gregg has turned for inspiration from the aerial landscape views of recent years to more earthbound and quotidian objects: the virtually unnoticed remnants of our consumer culture. Cardboard packing forms, wine box dividers, plastic packaging of all sorts -- all the stuff that comes with the stuff we buy -- is grist for Gregg’s new paintings.
Using the wax-and-pigment medium of encaustic, she transforms these throw-away objects into formal paintings that honor the eccentric forms and patterns of the humble materials. Infused with color—and Gregg is a master colorist -- that is enhanced by the medium’s luminosity, the paintings take on sensuous richness.
On one level, with their saturated color and hand-burnished surfaces, these new paintings speak to the possibility of transformation – and to Gregg’s belief that beauty can be found in the unlikeliest of places. On quite another, her wit and gentle irony provoke questions about our culture of consumerism and proclivity to waste. Finally, her quietly formal pictures are animated by references to (and questions about) negative space, geometric pattern and symmetry.
John Himmelfarb: Ideographic Sequence
6 September - 20 October 2007
This first show for the artist at Luise Ross Gallery is comprised of paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture from 1979 to the present. All are based on the nascent mark making, the integral thread that runs through the evolution of Himmelfarb’s philosophical and artistic preoccupation with calligraphic abstraction. His use of line is key to the emotional communication between artist and viewer--perhaps more so even than between other visual artists and viewer--because the eye is challenged to “read” the texts visually rather than as information which has to be decoded. And this being said, in the more conventional use of the term artistic vocabulary, Himmelfarb’s use of layered colors in the paintings and prints is masterful. Wit, strength, and a touch of restlessness and ambiguity aptly describe the work in this exhibition.
5 June - 27 July 2007
Rare Birds at Luise Ross Gallery presents work by thirty-one contemporary artists in which bird imagery or references are integral elements. The exhibition is replete with a stunning variety of media, styles and treatments. It is of “rare” birds in the sense that our feathered friends play supporting roles—to a greater or lesser degree--in the artists’ overall creative intentions and are not, nor meant to be, lifelike reproductions of species à la Audubon. In fact, some are pure invention. Even among apparent exceptions to this, as in Walter Anderson’s faithful watercolor rendering of “Baby Birds,” the viewer sees the importunate vulnerability of all fledglings—of any species. In Roger Ricco’s photographic capture of a hummingbird in flight, we not only hear whirring wings, but feel the racing heartbeat of life. And surely, Toc Fetch’s pencil crow is artfully “real,” and for that, only more comple-mentary to what “Crow Says.” Humor abounds. Gladys Nilsson pays off her expert watercolor caricature of two self-important matrons with equally puffed-up pigeons. TL Solien’s divining dodo, complete with strap-on wings, satirically portends the götterdämmerung of the Pequod’s voyage. Victor Faccinto’s very modern digital assemblage of a contemporary “Shiva” includes the almost casual presence of two songbirds out of the classic South Asian miniature genre, wryly confirming that the battle of the sexes is an age-old tale. Several artists tellingly employ bird imagery that is more enigmatic, even ominous, in its allegorical reference. Ferdinand Pleines’s “Memory Unravels the Truth” is almost Hitchcockian and it rivets the eye. A brace of pheasants, suddenly flushed into flight in a stark, wintry Kansas landscape, serve as a mnemonic for Doug Martin’s “Brain Storm”—a poignant, dreamlike, beautifully painted narrative of a past Christmas memory. Rare birds, indeed.
Thomas Lyon Mills: 10 1/2 Maps
19 April - 25 May 2007
From a dreamlike vantage at the fantastic intersection of the hidden wetlands of the Adirondacks and the subterranean catacombs of Rome, Thomas Lyon Mills creates expansive and mysterious amalgamations of observations and visions in his second solo exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery. Evoking organic atmospheres appreciated through contemplative solitude, Mills constructs richly painted works on pieced paper, as he builds out his compositions through multiple visits to his two distinct but united locales of inspiration.
Like a mapmaker, Mills draws and paints what he sees, but his paintings inevitably cross over into the unknown, where the visible and invisible meet- where the seen pays a constant debt to the unseen. As the Adirondack swamps and ancient Roman tunnels commingle, a new yet seemingly primeval scene unfolds before the viewer. We bear witness to the imagination of history itself, to the false omnipotence of the present which imposes our humble, penitent contemplation of the past. The brittle sciences of archeology and ecology crumble away as Mills uproots our vision and commandeers our desire for representational accuracy and empirical truths. The work urges us to see light within shadows, and to live within the reverie of a faint, but not forgotten, powerfully vivid dream.
John Dilg: Natural Re-visions
1 March - 14 April 2007
With a unique and idiosyncratic approach, John Dilg investigates the unnatural sources of natural memories in his third exhibition of paintings at Luise Ross Gallery. Through an economy of formal means, Dilg brings personal markers and emblems to life in his small-scale yet potent paintings.
By essentially distilling personal experiences and memories, Dilg transports the viewer to moments of contemplative quietude, whose importance is both immediately apparent and ambiguous. These paintings skillfully balance the simplistic and the complex, the passive voice and active assertion, as they quietly but assuredly venture forth from the artist's imagination. The exquisitely built-up surfaces of these small canvases further emphasize the unnatural artifice of memory, symbolizing perhaps the layered contrivance of our recollection of past events.
The title of the exhibition, "Natural Re-visions," holds in itself a crucial double-meaning. These paintings, for Dilg, both revise and reconstruct memory, as they present unnatural accounts of purportedly natural events, places, persons, and experiences. They are the products of the conditions present when, in the words of the artist, "remaking reality makes the world."
Thomas Burleson: Lone Star
9 January – 24 February 2007
Luise Ross Gallery will present the first major exhibition of works on paper by Thomas Burleson (1914-1997), a self-taught artist from Texas who produced a substantial body of brilliantly colored works during a thirty-year period. Much of the work was done while the artist was employed as a shipping inspector at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in California, and during retirement. A cross-section of the entire oeuvre will be presented.
After making numerous machine-like pencil drawings on small pieces of paper during the late 1960s, Burleson’s work in the 1970’s became taught, brilliantly colored, and intuitively composed. His paintings are mechanistic, architectural, and figural, but defy categorization as the artist blends subjects and perspectives into singular representations. Underlying the art is the multifaceted insertion of his persona into numerous situations and compositions, where the human form, visionary architecture, and mechanistic imagery are integrated. Toward the end of the artist’s life the work became more whimsical and the compositions freer as Burleson continued to experiment in his approach. Most intriguing is the fact that over thirty years the artist produced no two works alike. However, numerous themes appear throughout the work, including a fortress-like construction, a fondness of dogs and chickens, and a central figure entrapped by ambiguously sinister surroundings.
The artist’s work is included in the Neuve Invention section of the Collection de l’Art Brut in Lausanne, Switzerland, founded by Jean Dubuffet.
A 28-page color catalog with an essay by Edward M. Gómez accompanies this exhibition.
Reviewed 17 February 2007 by N.F. Karlins on artnet.com.
Image illustrated 26 January 2007 "A Convocation of the Visionary and Disenfranchised" by Grace Gluek in The New York Times
TL Solien: Insulatus
4 November – 23 December 2006
TL Solien presents large-scale mixed-media works on paper using imagery extracted from the deepest recesses of his memory as well as the pages of 19th-century classics including Melville’s Moby Dick. Coupling literary allusions with mysterious iconography, the artist delivers a deconstructive yet cohesive, deeply personal statement. These works explode with brightly-colored paper cut-outs which contrast with brooding backgrounds as the artist adeptly selects potent symbols to mix with eerie atmospheres. All the while Solien upends the narrative of the hunt for the white whale by coupling and interjecting it with episodes from his own history – parables, hang-ups, and hauntings. Other macabre tales collide in these works, largely nonfiction, such as John Hunter’s 19th-century sperm whale dissections and the spread of the plague through ship-based commerce, on so-called “death ships.”
Musing on the term “Insulatus” (in Latin “isolated” or “made into an island”) the artist uses Ahab’s ludicrous and self-destructive quest as a metaphor for the creative quest of the artist – the solitary, maddening, lifelong pursuit of one’s vision.
This is the artist’s second solo exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery, his seventh in New York.
Reviewed May 2007 by Leigh Anne Miller in Art in America
Robert Birmelin: Citizens
14 September – 28 October 2006
Robert Birmelin’s paintings convey a vision of the city's environment in all its anonymous intimacy, where the physical and psychological boundaries between crowd and self blur. Mobs of people pass fantastically through a woman’s profile; the bust of a man dematerializes by the riverfront. Disjunctive shifts of scale, focus, and orientation spell out this urban narrative, where pictorial restlessness underlies a multifaceted perspective. These paintings attempt to capture the disorienting common space of public life, where strangers may be simultaneously aware of yet invisible to each other.
Having worked and exhibited in New York City for more than forty years, Birmelin displays an acute awareness of the city’s relentless social transformation that is as disconcerting for the immigrant who confronts an alien world as for the long-time resident who struggles with the sense of inevitable change. His provocative, brilliantly colored paintings startle the viewer as they capture the churning, tumultuous, and hallucinatory experience of New York’s melting pot.
This is Birmelin’s eighteenth solo exhibition in New York since 1960. He is a recent grant recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation.
Forthcoming review in Art in America.
29 June – 28 July 2006
Summer group exhibition including works by Henry Speller, Willie Birch, Samuel Rothbort, John Dilg, Pierre Carbonel, Thomas Lyon Mills, Judith Page, Walter Anderson, Robert Birmelin, Tyyne Esko, Edward Koren, James Harrison, Ferdinand J. Pleines, Leroy Person, John Roeder, Louis Monza, China Marks, Jeroen Pomp, Minnie Evans, Michael Madore, Thomas Burleson, TL Solien, Reverend Herman Hayes, and Jean-Pierre Nadau.
China Marks: Fabrications
11 May – 24 June 2006
In her second exhibition of sewn drawings at Luise Ross Gallery, China Marks wields her industrial sewing machine with virtuosic dexterity to produce perplexing scenes of unknown and surreal characters. Comprised of scraps of commercially made fabrics, Marks’s drawings juxtapose myriad patterns, textures, and forms. Spontaneous yet masterful, these works are fashioned from an automatic artistic process, where mysterious figures erupt into fantastic revelries – sometimes horrific, often whimsical, and always startling. What sometimes appear as benign storybook representations often turn out to be bizarre scenes of domination and struggle, which surprise the viewer lulled by the seemingly benevolent appearance of the fabrics. As unclearly as the relationships among the characters are defined, there is nonetheless a theatrical unity in the work, which serves not only as an illustration of the process of collage itself – disparate elements coming together as expression – but as a visual credo, which seems to pronounce ‘this is what is happening when I am creating.’
The New York Times called her 2004 exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery “one of the season’s more original shows,” and the present exhibition reveals an artist in hot pursuit of a singular and magical vision, who says “surprising myself is my definition of success.”
James Harrison: The Future is in the Past
1 April – 6 May 2006
James Harrison (1925-1990) sought spiritual transcendence through art and probed the inner machinations of the self through artistic practice. But unlike the approach of some of his New York School mentors, Harrison’s interrogation of the self was neither lofty in its aesthetic motivation nor didactic in execution. A gritty, uncompromising, deeply personal counterpoint to the haughtier aesthetic ambitions of the abstract expressionists, Harrison’s oeuvre reveals the darker aspects of self-transcendence. Harrison's road to the sublime led him through an intense exploration of sexuality, altered states of consciousness, Jungian dream analysis, alchemy, tantra, astrology and the Kabbalah.
Reviewed in The New York Times by Ken Johnson, 28 April 2006, p. E37.
Reviewed in The Village Voice by R.C. Baker, 18 April 2006
Reviewed in The Brooklyn Rail by Peter Acheson, April 2006, p. 34.
Reviewed in Art in America by Edward Leffingwell, December 2006, p.160.
18 February – 25 March 2006
The four large-scale grisaille works on paper in this exhibition, his fifth at the Luise Ross Gallery since 1994, were completed during his recent fellowship at the CUE Foundation in New York. Displaced from his studio in the Seventh Ward in New Orleans, Birch has been afforded the opportunity to look upon the Big Easy, his beloved, life-long muse, from a brisk Big Apple vantage, and the four large-scale grisaille works on paper evoke the soul and élan of the residents of New Orleans as vigorously as they interrogate notions of memory, identity, and cultural continuity. These paintings compel us to seize the present, to face reality and reject the obfuscation of “truth”, to see things in grayscale – metaphor of flexibility, the locus of reconciliation. The work suggests that were we to embrace the present, and each other, all as saints we might go marching.
The artist is a 2006 grant recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation.
William Fields: The Hidden Miraculous
12 January – 12 February 2006
William Fields (b. 1940), in his second exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery, continues his monumental Illuminations Suite, which now consists of more than 100 large-scale drawings.
Informed by hermetic science and a lifelong study of world religion, Fields’ virtuosic, brilliantly colored drawings transport the viewer to a fantastic universe – a cosmology where gods and demigods exist under moons and constellations of the artist’s own conjuring. Figures dissolve and reconstitute themselves repetitiously in accelerating rivulets of electrified color and delineation; monumental apparitions emerge out of dense, multi-faceted metamorphoses of form. Jewel-like faces materialize and dematerialize in tandem, since the entranced artist doesn’t know what he is bringing to life as the drawing nears completion. The work reveals an artist who is in the service of a magical force.
Mythmaking but eschewing the pitfalls of narrative, Fields presents his visions fully realized under a singular perceptival compass.
Reviewed in Raw Vision by Tom Patterson, Winter 2006, pp. 62-67.
Walter Anderson Surviving: Watercolors, Drawings, Prints
17 November 2005 – 7 January 2006
Luise Ross Gallery, in its twelfth exhibition of Walter Anderson’s (1903-1965) work since 1985, will help to raise funds for the conservation of the drawings, watercolors, sculpture, paintings, and prints which were severely damaged in Hurricane Katrina. At least eighty percent of his considerable opus was underwater during the tidal surge on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in Ocean Springs.
Anderson exhibited large-scale linoleum block prints at the Brooklyn Museum in 1949 (then the largest ever made in the US), illustrated the flora and fauna of the Mississippi Gulf Coast extensively, and spent weeks on Horn Island observing and painting wildlife. He was a watercolorist in the tradition of Burchfield, Dove, and Marin, who captured the essence of nature.
A new documentary film,Walter Anderson: Realizations of an Artist, by Winston Riley and David Wolf, will be screened throughout the exhibition.
Reviewed in ARTNews, March 2006, by Ann Landi.
15 October – 12 November 2005
After locations on 57th Street and Soho, Luise Ross Gallery relocated this August for the third time in the past 23 years to Chelsea. The gallery will present an exhibition of recent work by gallery artists for the inaugural show.
New paintings by Willie Birch feature New Orleans musicians, and John Dilg plays with just the right juxtaposition of ironic elements while Thomas Lyon Mills continues his exploration of the catacombs in Rome. China Marks’ new sewn drawings reflect the artist’s ever-increasing expressive inventiveness and dexterity. New sculpture by Judith Page reveals the artist’s personal, expanding lexicon of everyday surrealism, and a new mixed media painting by TL Solien delves into his series on Melville’s Moby Dick.
Alongside the work of contemporary artists are pieces by the major self-taught artists of the gallery stable, including Minnie Evans and Bill Traylor.
15 June – 15 July 2005
Visual Glossolalia, a group exhibition of self-taught artists at Luise Ross Gallery, explores the theme of inspired, mediumistic – for the Surrealists, “automatic” – writing, where nonsense script, puzzling symbology, and ‘writing in tongues’ abound. The elusive transformation of letters into images, words into art, and the subversion of concrete meaning into a celebration of mystery underlie the paintings and drawings of Minnie Evans, William Fields, Darcilio Lima, J.B. Murry, Leroy Person, Harald Stoffers, Melvin Way, and Carlo Zinelli.
Murry’s flowing and often painterly spirit script (which he read with a glass of water used as a magnifying glass), Evans’ evocative use of symbols (which evolved over her lengthy career), and Person’s colorful, vibrant hieroglyphics defy categorization. Although these artists worked with no knowledge of one another, they nonetheless are linked by their attempts to illuminate the inexpressible otherness of their visionary experiences. Stoffers’ “Dear Mother” lists, Way’s mathematical tableaux, and Carlo Zinelli’s repetitive, graphic announcements invite the viewer to decipher a language which hovers on a cognitive frontier. This exhibition offers us a chance to refrain from the urge to force rational interpretation, to suspend outmoded formal criteria, and to enter into the visionary’s exploration of consciousness and the Beyond.
This exhibition is accompanied with an essay by Jenifer P. Borum, critic and scholar of visionary art.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 1 July 2005, by Roberta Smith.
Guðrun Kristjánsdóttir The Thaw: Iceland
23 April – 10 June 2005
The springtime thaw in Iceland is the subject of Guðrún Kristjánsdóttir’s second exhibition at Luise Ross Gallery. In her videos and paintings, Kristjánsdóttir focuses on the dark patterning that forms on the hillsides in spring and the drifts of snow that linger on well into the summer. She examines the interplay of light, fog and other effects of weather, capturing the moment when details blur and gullies and ridges are drawn out of stillness into an uncoordinated dance. Working on the borderline between film and painting, Kristjánsdóttir uses the video camera for exploring the landscape, creating a space where films are paintings and paintings can be stills from films. The attention shifts from frozen moments to the constant movement of thawing. The difference between the simple and the ornate, the static and the evanescent, blurs and opens up a space for layers of varied perceptions.
John Altoon: Paintings and Drawings 1961-1967
19 February - 16 April 2005
This exhibition of paintings and drawings by John Altoon (1925-1969), the first at Luise Ross Gallery and the first in New York since 1985, spans the last seven years of his short life, during which time his mature style emerged. Gestural abstraction has given way to pensive and restrained airbrushing, exuberant sexual tableaux, and the elimination of illusory space in his non-objective paintings. Altoon distilled his production to include only the bare pictorial essentials, with the result that his canvases became the arena for the focused portrayal of his subconscious, as well as the surreal circus of sexual fantasy. Biomorphisms, tertiary colors, and delicate formal rhymes and balances characterize the work, which is replete with psychological tension and fraught with an underlying desire to express the self’s inherent disgruntlements with the compromises necessary for social collectiveness. The work is honest, intensely personal, and uniquely nonconformist.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 25 February 2005, by Grace Glueck.
Reviewed in Art in America, January 2005, by Michael Duncan.
New - Thomas Burleson
Nouveau - Jean-Pierre Nadau
Nieuw - Jeroen Pomp
4-29 January 2005
The compulsion to articulate a world of abstracted inner reality resounds frenetically across the surfaces of works on paper by three self-taught artists exhibiting for the first time at Luise Ross Gallery.
Thomas Burleson (American, 1914-1997), who worked at odd jobs throughout his life in Texas and California, spent untold hours constructing architectonic drawings which portray imaginary, mechanistic, industrial interiors/exteriors. His inventive, whimsical forms intermingle and conflate into the tableaux of a colorist working with his personal geometry.
The pen and ink drawings of Jean-Pierre Nadau (French, b. 1963) are obsessively imbued with fine detail and contain a nearly hieroglyphic aesthetic, where innumerable narratives, figures, and graphic components pulsate across the page. Broader compositional elements grapple with the dizzying array of tiny details and characters so that the end result is one of both spontaneity and fragile balance.
Jeroen Pomp (Dutch, b. 1985), an autistic artist, reproduces unique scenes of domesticity, public life, and the environs of his city. Working with crayon and pastel, Pomp suffuses his world with exuberant color and obsessive patterning, revealing a mosaic-like representation of his experiences.
Reviewed in artnet.com, 21 January 2005, by Nancy Karlins.
Judith Page: Beauty and Beast
30 October - 22 December 2004
A Gothic sensibility, wry wit, and a gentle, reaffirming testament to the essential resilience of the human spirit distinguish the work of Judith Page. A major installation of small drawings and collages visually relates the artist’s adult autobiography—who she is, who she has become. Arranged in a grid composition complete with diary cover and binding, the installation mimes--but supersedes and edits—Page’s adolescent written diary pages. In the same autobiographical vein as the visual diary, several significant found and received objects, now painted or reconfigured by Page into sculptural forms, become totems and visual signposts of the artist’s history. And through the alchemy of Page’s art, these works transcend the particular and the personal into the experience of being human.
Perhaps the most telling and moving paintings in the show, however, are the contemporary renderings of the Mouseketeers—again, ambiguously iconic images in Page’s youth—now gone off to war. “Bobby in Baghdad” and “Annette Around Abu Ghraib” are quintessential portraits of “innocence…lost” and “beauty defiled,” making a prophetic mockery of “Wednesday: Anything-can-happen day!” and a plaintive prayer of “See you real soon!”
Reviewed in Art in America, April 2005, by Edward Leffingwell, p. 150
Reviewed in The New York Times, 3 December 2004, by Ken Johnson.
Dopes, Dupes, and Demagogues: Viewed by Outsiders
14 September - 23 October 2004
Historically, artists have provided the most potent and lasting images of revolution, war and social change. Moments of collective crisis have often prompted the most far-reaching and heroic of artistic expressions. In the twentieth century, this opportunity has most often been afforded to photographers, film makers, and people working in the medium of television, whose immediacy and access has made their imagery the prime record of modern history.
A select group of twentieth-century outsider artists chose to cling to the somewhat old-fashioned belief in the efficacy of handmade artistic imagery when faced with the dramatic events and issues of the century. Through their work they found a public voice, a private dialogue and a fulsome expression of fear and rage and hope and exultation in the face of horrifying events. These artists did not turn inward nor did they dwell completely in a world of their own making. Instead, they addressed the concerns of the common man and woman, their brothers and sisters struggling to survive in a complex and hostile world. These artists demonstrate a high degree of altruism, far-sightedness, sharp analysis and a great deal of affection for those who were caught in the grip of malevolent powers at home and abroad. Identifying themselves with the underdog, the everyman, the working person doing an honest day's labor or going to war, they created a living record of a history not usually found on television, in school textbooks or engraved on the face of public monuments.
Excerpted from exhibition announcement essay by Susan C. Larsen, Ph.D.
Thomas Lyon Mills
"73 Prayers in the Undergound"
10 June - 23 July 2004
Within the ancient passageways of the Roman catacombs and the primeval forests and swamps of the Adirondacks, Thomas Lyon Mills draws on his personal contemplation of sacred spaces to paint the history around him. Searching for remnants of the past --stone structures of the Colosseum or abandoned dilapidated sheds deep in the woods –he captures their hushed mystery through observation. The artist closely examines stone-hewed labyrinths, glistening with moisture and graffiti, and brings to life the mossy, canopied swamps, isolated from culture and present time. These paintings incorporate a range of different media, including watercolor, ink, collage, woodblock prints and frottage on paper, to create a sometimes transparent, sometimes detailed space that is at once disorienting and awesome. And since Mills believes the work is never finished, he will piece these sheets of paper together as the subject dictates. The end result is a moving panorama that draws us into the artist’s world of myth and memory.
24 April - 5 June 2004
Referencing cartoons, storybook illustration and the drawings of children, the large-scale paintings of T.L. Solien are derived from a personal obsession with childhood memory. With these images, he creates an arena for himself in which both the contemporary Self and the artist's own personal identity become the subjects of a dreamlike narrative. Veiled in seemingly disparate and highly personal iconography and the artist's own invented visual language, Solien explores the peril and fragility of being human and the ambiguity and conflict of the choices we make.
Reviewed in Art in America, January 2005, by Charles Dee Mitchell, p. 128.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 21 May, 2004, by Ken Johnson.
6 March - 17 April 2004
China Marks will have her first exhibition of sewn drawings at Luise Ross Gallery. Three years ago, she began drawing with an industrial, zig-zag, sewing machine, shaping unknown and surreal creatures from a wide variety of commercially made fabrics. These sewn drawings start from scraps, juxtaposed onto a larger ground, cut up, stitched together and delineated into form -- by machine and by hand. Mixing narratives and lush, vivid pattern, her figures are sometimes barely discernable and, at other times, converse and intermingle with the background.
The element of surprise and play in Marks' work culminates in a beauty of opposites. Her drawings are predominantly centered on one or several idiosyncratic characters, posited within unusually captivating settings, spontaneously born from an automatic artistic process. The artist subconsciously weaves themes of beautiful sadness or happy fear into an altogether emotive composition.
Reviewed in Art in America, February 2005, by Jessica Ostrower, p. 132.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 9 April, 2004, by Grace Glueck.
Reverend McKendree Robbins Long
"Salvation and Smothered Passions"
3 January - 28 February 2004
Previously part of a retrospective that traveled to North Carolina museums, this was the first New York exhibition of Reverend McKendree Robbins Long. His large paintings depict God's wrath at human wickedness and the just torments suffered by the damned. After a thirty-year career as an itinerant evangelist preacher, Reverend Long illustrated scenes from the Book of Revelations. Creating a dramatic balance of lush forests and clouds with violent clashes of the divine and the human, Long posited his scenes of 'end-times' within fantasy landscapes. In addition to Long's Revelations paintings, equally fascinating are his obsessive, passionate portraits depicting a mysterious 'Woman in Red.'
Reviewed in The New York Times, 16 January and 30 January, 2004, by Ken Johnson
Reviewed in The New York Sun, 12 February, 2004, by Thomas Disch
Reviewed in artnet.com, 27 January, 2004, by Nancy Karlins
Reviewed in Art in America, September 2004, by Michael Amy.
Walter Anderson "Centennial" 17 October - 19 December 2003
The eleventh exhibition of Walter Anderson's work at Luise Ross Gallery since 1985, celebrating the centennial of his birth. The exhibition features his watercolors and drawings, illustrating the predominant aspect of the artist's long and prolific career. Walter Inglis Anderson (1903-1965) was born in New Orleans and spent most of his life on the Mississippi Gulf coast. On Horn Island, where he lived for weeks at a time, sheltered by only his rowboat, he experienced the natural world, observing its forms and seasons. From his student years at the Pennsylvania Academy to his institutionalization, his serene life at Oldfields, to his defining period on Horn Island, Anderson achieved a unity with nature and was able to depict its essence through patterns of line and color. A master watercolorist who was "more in love with nature than art," he achieved a perfect balance of abstraction and objectivity. This exhibition coincided with two other centennial celebrations, one at the Smithsonian Institution's Arts and Industries Building in Washington DC, and another at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. In addition, a comprehensive catalog will accompany the Washington venue and Christopher Maurer has written a major biography on Anderson, Fortune's Favorite Child: The Uneasy Life of Walter Anderson.
Reviewed in d'art International, Winter 2004 (vol. 7, number 1), by Jeanne Wilkinson, p. 34-35.
Reviewed in Art in America, May 2004, by Nathan Kernan.
Samuel Rothbort "Twilight Fantasies" 9 September - 11 October 2003
Samuel Rothbort's "fantasies" combine an innate spontaneity with skills amassed over sixty years of painting, sculpting and drawing. He kept this large group of watercolors and ink drawings largely to himself during his lifetime. With an intuitive approach, these mysterious compositions display the artist's continued awe for the power of nature as he reached his eighties. His subjects were also drawn from childhood memories, religion and mythology. Born in Russia, Rothbort came to America in 1904 and started painting in 1909. Exhibiting in the teens and twenties with the Society of Independent Artists, the Salons of America and the Brooklyn Society of Artists, he gained early recognition with his oil paintings and sculpture. His work has been exhibited widely in galleries and museums, even in The Rothbort's Home-Museum of Direct Art, which opened in 1948.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 3 October, 2003, by Ken Johnson.
Gallery Group 1 July - 31 July 2003
Group exhibition of paintings, drawings, sculpture and photographs, featuring Willie Birch, Robert Birmelin, John Dilg, William Fields, Steve Lovi, Charles Luce, China Marks, Thomas Lyon Mills, Melissa Polhamus, Geneviève Seillé, T.L. Solien and John R. Thompson.
Autodidacts from Abroad 9 May - 28 June 2003
Highlighted by masters Adolf Wölfli and Carlo Zinelli, this selection of artists from Europe, Africa, Iceland and beyond provided a broader context for untrained artists and merged together the architecture, faces, language and colors of cultures from around the globe. Many of these artists, like Pierre Carbonel, Eggert Magnusson and Serge Vollin, all cull their bold forms in much the same way - inspired by stories, memories, dreams - differentiated solely by their innate aesthetic. Other artists, such as Madge Gill and Anna Zemankova derive their forms and ideas from more spiritual sources, as Frédéric Bruly Bouabré states, "Art is the perfect and eternal imitation of divine works in time and space."
Including Anselme Boix-Vives, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré, Pierre Carbonel, Nek Chand, Tyyne Esko, Johann Fischer, Madge Gill, Martha Grünenwaldt, Óskar Jónsson, Mathias 'Junior' Kawage, Eggert Magnusson, Sava Sekulic, Serge Vollin, August Walla, Adolf Wölfli, Anna Zemankova, Carlo Zinelli.
George McNeil "FE=Form/Energy" 7 March - 3 May 2003
This exhibition of paintings by George McNeil (1908-95) spanned forty years of the artist's long, prolific and illustrious career. McNeil's canvasses pulse with electrifying color and energy. He laid down thick layers of contrasting colors, almost anchoring his figures and objects to the picture plane, and at the same time endowing them with a monumental force. Placing his shapes and figures in ambiguous spaces, which he described as possessing "swing," he created a complementary energy between the object and its space. McNeil believed this energy would dissolve the object and leave only his expression.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 21 March, 2003, by Ken Johnson and in Art in America, December 2003, by David Ebony.
David Butler & Minnie Evans "Color, Pattern and the Fantastic"
9 January - 1 March 2003
Within the brilliant color and multi-layered patterns of their art, Minnie Evans (1892 - 1987) and David Butler (1898 - 1997), two southern self-taught artists, found a way to honor the God that drove them to create. Evans culled her artistic vision - fantastic and bold drawings of creatures, nature and the omnipresent eyes of God - from the luscious flora of Airlie Gardens in North Carolina, as well as from the voice of God. With his house and yard as his stage, Butler used his 'gift' - snipping tin cutouts and decorating them with enamel paints - to animate and embellish his world with creations God sent to him in his dreams. Seen together, they present their inspired visions with a similar love of color, pattern and an obsession with the ethereal.
Willie Birch "Portraits of a New Orleans Majority"
1 November - 21 December 2002
This latest phase in Willie Birch's continuing series of life-sized paintings of his New Orleans neighbors is a tour de force in grisaille, complemented by Birch's ingenious ability to integrate every part of his compositions - background and foreground - into one complex, but harmonious narrative. These large charcoal and acrylic portraits - a street preacher, chess players, a little girl playing jacks - are loving tributes to his community by an artist whose unerring eye informs the viewer of its dignity and cultural richness.
Kaffe Fassett "Pattern as Obsession"
10 September - 26 October 2002
Vibrantly colored and imaginatively conceived, Kaffe Fassett's recent work departs from his purely decorative format into decidedly reflective compositions. Focusing on his love for pattern, the artist has utilized his trademark needlework, along with knitting and rug hooking, and enhanced their visual possibilities with collage -- buttons, beads, shells and pearls. These abstract experiments in pattern range from the intricately complex and luxuriously textured, with backgrounds of marbled cotton and hand-painted Japanese fabrics, to elegantly spare shapes, accented with collage. The spectrum culminates in the non-textile collage Monotone, a paradoxically rhythmic image composed of only clothespins. The show is a rich variety of disparate objects and textile media resonantly unified by Fassett's artistic vision of the universal patterning in all that is human.
Reviewed in The New York Times, 4 October, 2002, by Ken Johnson.
Tyyne Esko "Paintings, Poetry and Protest"
9 May - 26 July 2002
Self-taught, but with a consummate intuitive knowledge of the formal aspects of painting, the Finnish artist Tyyne Esko created oils that document and decry the changing social landscape of her country during the second half of the twentieth century. Mourning the past and assailing the present, she engaged nature and poetry to convey the pain of isolation and loss experienced by the poor and less fortunate, abandoned and then ignored by what she perceived to be an increasingly smug and indifferent society. The result is a subtle style of atmospheric painting which complements and advocates the gentle, idyllic beauty of rural Finland and its inhabitants.
Recent Publicity - "A Social Critic Who Makes the Ordinary a Weapon,"
William Fields "A Visionary's Universe"
23 March - 4 May 2002
From Winston-Salem, North Carolina, William Fields' interest in non-Western religions, as well as a passion for drawing, began early in life. In his first New York exhibition, brilliantly colored, intricately composed drawings record meditative journeys, entitled Illuminations Suite. He sets out to fuse existentialism, the I Ching, Theosophy, Gnostic Christianity, as well as other traditions, to capture the forms, colors and powers of a larger spiritual being. Drawn mostly while in a trance-like state, the artist can feel this being flowing through him, producing agitated portraits - both personal and mysterious - of morphing, composite faces, surrounded by a vortex of iconography.
Reviewed in Art in America, February 2003, by Michael Amy.
Serge Vollin "Dark Nights"
11 October - 10 November 2001
Serge Vollin's richly colored paintings are steeped in the memory of his early life in Algeria, forced out by dreams and nightmares. His troubled mind conjures up forms and figures during long, sleepless nights. At once disjointed, faceless and terrifying, his subjects are often humorous and endearing. This series of acrylic paintings were done mostly during the artist's hospitalization in a Munich psychiatric institute, where he refused traditional help. Artistic creation was substituted for normal therapy.