Peyton Wright Gallery is pleased to announce “From the Collections,” an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, and works on paper drawn from the gallery’s extensive collections and estates. More than 50 artists will be showcased, including artists from the Washington Color School such as Tom Downing and Paul Reed, as well as Bay Area Abstract Expressionists including John Grillo and Edward Dugmore. The exhibition commences on Friday, October 14, 2016 and continues through November 16, 2016 in our main floor galleries. There is no opening reception.
The Washington Color School was a movement of the late 1950s through the late 1960s. It was a form of abstract art that developed from color field painting. The name derives from the Washing Gallery of Modern Art, where this group of artists first exhibited. This exhibition features two of the school’s founding members, Tom Downing and Paul Reed. Both are known for their strong palettes and precise, hard-edged compositions. Leon Berkowitz is an artist associated with the movement who is also featured in the exhibition.
Bay Area Abstract Expressionism was a movement that centered on Clyfford Still, who taught at the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). John Grillo and Edward Dugmore were two of his most prominent students. Dugmore produced large, imposing paintings that Los Angeles Times critic David Pagel called “translucent configurations … [that] seem to be lit from behind.” Grillo became known as one of the “purest” action painters and helped to define Bay Area Abstract Expressionism. Both Dugmore and Grillo went on to show at the renowned Stable Gallery in New York.
The exhibition features other significant works by prominent artists across the spectrum of post-war American art. These include Hans Hofmann, Roy Lichtenstein, Jochen Seidel, James Brooks, Art Brenner, Mary Abbott, Grace Hartigan, Herbert Bayer, and Ray Parker. The breadth and depth of Peyton Wright Gallery’s collection will be on full display in this exhibition.
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About the Artists
Other teachers at the Workshop who became leaders of the Washington Color School were Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Gene Davis.
Berkowitz and his wife traveled extensively from 1956 to 1964. Berkowitz used that time to further his artistic and spiritual explorations. He painted and exhibited in England, Spain, Greece, Wales, and Jerusalem. Returning permanently to Washington in 1964, he joined the faculty of the Corcoran School of Art. He was promoted to head of the Painting Department in 1969.
Berkowitz had solo exhibitions at the Corcoran Museum of Art in 1969 and in 1973, as well as numerous solo shows at private galleries in Washington,D.C. and New York City. His works are in the permanent collections of the Corcoran, the Phillips Collection, and the MOMA in New York.
Much of Berkowitz's work is a reaction to the work of the Abstract Expressionist School in New York. Berkowitz was never comfortable with the abstract expressionist painters' dependence on internal psychological states. Berkowitz felt he needed to take inspiration from some external authority, rather than an exclusively internal one. In Berkowitz's own words, "I wanted to work in direct response to nature".
Berkowitz's later paintings marry form and structure with color and light. As light penetrates through the layers of thinly applied paint crystalline structures emerge. Berkowitz challenges the viewer to look INTO the color rather than AT the color. Berkowitz restores to color a "depth of vision" in his best work, and in those depths the viewer discovers the natural forms in the universe - sea, sky, and earth.
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Hoff showed in exhibitions at Art Institute Chicago (1945, 1946, 1950, and 1953), winning several prizes. In addition to her long-standing association with Fairweather-Hardin Gallery, which began in 1955 with her first one-person exhibition in Chicago, Hoff's work was frequently shown in New York, including Hadler-Rodriguez Galleries, Saidenberg Gallery, Babcock Gallery, Betty Parsons Gallery, and Banter Gallery; and in Paris at Wildenstein Gallery. Her work can be found in the collections of major museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Corcoran Gallery of Art and the National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and Art Institute of Chicago.
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Burlin achieved a great deal of early artistic success. He visited the Southwest for the first time in 1910. Paintings from this visit were received warmly in New York and exhibited in a 1911 exhibition. As a result of his early success, he was the youngest artist (at twenty-six years of age) to participate in the 1913 Armory Show – the revolutionary exhibition of avant-garde European work that can be credited with introducing modern art to the United States and stimulating the development of modernism in America. There, Burlin’s work was exhibited alongside works by such artists as Picasso, Monet, Cézanne, and Duchamp.
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In 1951 he returned to the United States, and after serving in the U.S. Army, settled in Washington, D.C., where he began to teach, in 1953.
The following summer, he enrolled in a summer institute at Catholic University, studying under Kenneth Noland. He became a friend of Noland, who became a significant influence on Downing's art and who was one of the founders of the Washington Color Field Movement.
In the late 1950s, Downing shared a studio with Howard Mehring, another artist of the Washington Color School and Color Field painting. In 1964 Clement Greenberg included Noland, Mehring, Downing and others in his traveling museum exhibition called Post-painterly Abstraction.
From 1965 to 1968, Downing taught at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. There he taught several people who in their turn became artists influenced by Downing's ideas, including Sam Gilliam.
His paintings to a large extent consisted of circles arranged in precise patterns on the canvas, with colors often chosen according to ideas of symmetry. Downing's Spot Paintings are his best known works.
In the last ten years of his life, Downing lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He died in October 1985 in Provincetown, Massachusetts at the age of 57. In its obituary the Washington Times characterized his death as mysterious. The newspaper was referring to the then recent demise of Washington Color Field artist Gene Davis (1920–1985) and to the earlier death of Howard Mehring (1931–1978), as well.
Like so many color field painters of his generation, Thompson was influenced by Johannes Itten and Josef Albers, as well as by Matisse and Mondrian. During an impoverished time in his early art career he was unable to afford good quality paint so instead he used layers of hand dyed cheesecloth for a large installation at the Cabrillo College Gallery. It helped form the basis of the ideas of transparency that he later produced in his acrylic color field paintings of 1971-75. By 1972 Donald began again to use opaque colors on various sizes of canvas, focusing on the illusion of transparency. By 1974 he began to feel the need for greater physicality. He began to employ the use of stretched canvases of a single color bolted together from large to huge (7.5’ X 10’) now in the Oakland Museum.
Thompson has exhibited solo and group shows both nationally and internationally. These include solo shows at Larry Evans/Willis Gallery, Foster Goldstrom, and Galeria Carl Van der Voort in San Francisco, and Ibiza, Spain. He had solo shows at Frederick Spratt Gallery in San Jose, California, as well as Shasta College Gallery, in Redding California and Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. His group shows include Leila Taghinia-Milani, New York City, Basel Art Fair, Switzerland, Second British International Print Biennale, Yorkshire, England, and "40 Now California Painters," an invitational show that toured the Southeast. Thompson’s Paintings are found in major collections including The Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA.; Seattle First National Bank (Seafirst), Seattle, WA; Crocker Museum, Sacramento, CA, Art Museum of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, CA.
Donald Thompson’s exhibitions have been reviewed well by Thomas Albright of the San Francisco Chronicle, July 28, 1964, Sept. 28, 1967; Henry Hopkins, The Tampa Tribune, April, 16, 1968; Mark Levy, Artweek, December 18, 1982; Claude LeSuer, ArtSpeak, June 23, 1983, New York, N.Y.
Watch an interview with Donald Roy Thompson with art historian Kathryn Davis
Scarlett's dedication to Modernism was expressed in his art and design work. Although Scarlett also created action paintings and surrealist works, he especially loved and was devoted to geometric abstract non-objective painting. Before the end of his nearly 75-year career, Scarlett had returned to geometric abstraction with a greatly brightened palette and a denser composition than used in his earlier work. His commitment to abstraction never wavered and he continued to explore it, until his death at age 94.
"I manipulate spatial conventions within the confines of geometric abstraction and engage the viewer in an interactive exploration of perceptual ambiguity within the shaped canvas as object and its embedded planes.
I use a highly refined chromatic sensibility (developed in my formative years in the Mediterranean desert and later as studio assistant to Washington Color School Painter Gene Davis), to alternatively support or undermine the illusionistic spatial constructs of the painting. To that effect, I have developed a clay-based paint with a deeply flat matte and tactile surface which I layer for maximum light absorption.
I create shaped canvases to eliminate the traditional rectilinear boundary, and allow the internal dynamics of the piece to extend beyond the painting to external vanishing points.
My work expands on the WCS and Colorfield painters who avoided techniques suggesting depth, preferring planar surfaces and repetitive elements, whereas I deliberately explore perceptual mechanisms to create scale, spatial disruption and color ambiguity."
des Indépendents in 1912. Together with fellow American expatriate Morgan Russell, Macdonald-Wright cofounded the avant-garde painting movement Synchromism, whose first exhibition was held in Munich in the summer of 1913 and the second in Paris during the fall of the same year. These were soon followed by shows in London, Milan, and Warsaw. And in early 1914 Synchromist paintings were exhibited for the first time in New York. Similar to its rival Parisian movement Orphism, Synchromism combined color with Cubism, producing luminous and rhythmic compositions of swirling and serpentine forms infused with a rich chromatic palette. As Macdonald-Wright later described it, “Synchromism simply means ‘with color’ as symphony means ‘with sound’, and our idea was to produce an art whose genesis lay, not in objectivity, but in form produced in color”.
At the outbreak of World War I, Macdonald-Wright moved to London with his
older sibling, Willard Huntington Wright, who was an editor and author. Sharing quarters there for the next two years, the brothers collaborated on three art books, including Modern Painting, Its Tendency and Meaning (1915), that were subsequently published in New York. After repatriating himself to the United States in 1915, Macdonald-Wright took up residence in New York, where he participated in the Forum Exhibition of Modern American Painters in 1916 and was given his first one-man show at Alfred Stieglitz’s “291” gallery the following year. His Synchromist paintings had a direct and marked influence on the work of Thomas Hart Benton, Andrew Dasburg, Jan Matulka, Stuart Davis, Arnold Friedman, and Alfred Maurer.
Although successful in New York, Macdonald-Wright became increasingly dissatisfied with what he saw as the “sterile artistic formulism” of modern art and the “academicism” of his own Synchromism. Consequently, he permanently resettled in Santa Monica in 1919 and withdrew from the commercial art scene for the following three decades. Instead, he became an active and energetic force in the southern Californian art world primarily as a teacher and administrator, all the while still continuing his artistic pursuits, which turned heavily toward Eastern representational models, especially Chinese painting. From 1922 to 1930 he served as Director of the Art Students League in Los Angeles, writing a student textbook entitled Treatise on Color (1924). During the late twenties and early thirties, he co-exhibited at several museums in California with Morgan Russell and had a one-man show at Stieglitz’s “An American Place” in New York in 1932. He then worked for the WPA Art Project as Director of Southern California and as Technical Advisor for seven western states from 1935 to 1942, during which time he personally completed several major civil art projects, including the murals at the Santa Monica City Hall. During World War II and up through 1952, Macdonald-Wright taught at UCLA, USC, Scripps College, and the University of Hawaii on the subjects of art history, Oriental aesthetics, and iconography. In 1952-53, he visited Japan as a Fulbright exchange professor and briefly lectured at Kyoiku Daigaku (Tokyo University of Education). Finally, in 1954, he retired from academia. After a hiatus of more than thirty years, Macdonald-Wright returned to nonobjective painting in the mid 1950s with renewed vigor and enthusiasm, producing some of his finest canvases. This new body of Neo-Synchromist work surpassed the artist’s earlier paintings by way of a heightened luminosity and augmented spatiality, creating as a result, in the opinion of the modern art champion, Alfred Barr, a deeper spirituality. As the artist himself described it, “At first I saw my new painting with a certain astonishment, for I had made the “great circle”, coming back after 35 years to an art that was, superficially, not unlike the canvases of my youth. However, at bottom there was a great difference: I had achieved an interior realism, what is called yugen by the Japanese. This is a sense of reality which cannot be seen but which is evident by feeling, and I am certain that this quality of hidden reality was what I felt to be lacking in my younger days.” From 1958 on, Macdonald-Wright spent five months each year at Kenninji, a Zen monastery in the center of Kyoto, Japan. One of the most fruitful outcomes of his exposure to Japanese poetry and art was the creation of the Haiga portfolio (1965-66), a suite of twenty Haiku illustrations in brilliant color that is a masterful synthesis of modernist art in the Synchromist style and the traditional technique of Japanese woodblock printing.
In 1967 the Smithsonian Institution’s National Collection of Fine Arts held a major retrospective exhibition on Macdonald-Wright, honoring his more than six decades of artistic achievement. During the remaining years of his life and up until his passing in 1973 at the age of 83, Macdonald-Wright continued to be productive and inventive, leaving as his legacy a large and diverse body of modernist painting, which has since taken its rightful place as being of premier importance in American twentieth-century art. ~ Andrew Diversey
Daviee, Jerry M. 1982. Stanton Macdonald-Wright: Watercolors and Drawings. San
Francisco: The Art Museum Association.
Figoten, Sheldon. 1985. Stanton Macdonald-Wright: Paintings 1953-1964. Redding, CA: Redding Museum and Art Center.
Scott, David W. and Stanton Macdonald-Wright. 1967. The Art of Stanton Macdonald-Wright. Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Press.
South, Will. 2001. Color, Music, and Myth. Stanton Macdonald-Wright and
Synchromism. Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Museum of Art.
Wight, Frederick. 1970. Stanton Macdonald-Wright: A Retrospective Exhibition 1911-1970. Los Angeles: The UCLA Art Galleries.
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