Louisa Chase was among the wave of Neo-Expressionist artists of the 1980s-including David Salle and Julian Schnabel-who rejected the detached, pared-down approach of Minimalism and Conceptualism in favor of traditional easel paintings in which they conveyed their emotions through a dynamic technique and the use of symbolic imagery. She initially established her reputation on the basis of her evocative oils, in which she combined natural forms with references to the human figure to create landscapes of the mind. Chase’s work includes pure abstractions, too, as well as drawings and prints that likewise reveal her expressionist tendencies.
Chase was born in Panama City, Panama, in 1951. Seven years later, her family moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She went on to study painting and sculpture at Syracuse University (B.F.A.,1973) and at the Yale University School of Art (M.F.A., 1975). In 1975, she moved to New York and had her first one-man show-consisting of three- dimensional wooden floor pieces-at Artists Space, a well-known alternative gallery. Following this, she focused primarily on painting, going on to produce enigmatic oils depicting natural elements, such as schematized flowers, leaves and vines, and fragments of figures, such as disembodied hands and feet, floating in broad, empty spaces.
In 1980, Chase went to Italy, where she studied the work of early Siennese and Florentine painters. Throughout the ensuing years, she adopted a more abstract, gestural style, imbuing her paintings with a greater sense of atmosphere while continuing to incorporate figural and landscape references, such as mountains, cliffs and waterfalls, in her work. Her paintings from this period are romantic in tone, alluding to the power of nature while serving as pictorial metaphors for her own state of mind; as one critic observed in 1981: “Chase combines images the way a chef mixes vegetables in a salad - each element can still be distinguished in the final result, but together they also cohere into a new and somewhat indefinable ‘other’.” Chase’s interest in the work of Jackson Pollock led to a number of calligraphic abstractions, begun in the 1980s, in which she covered the surface of her support with spontaneous lines and squiggles interspersed with floating geometrical shapes. Drawing on her distinctive brand of Neo-Expressionism, she has continued to creating intense, energetic works of art that bridge the gap between representation and abstraction; as noted by one commentator in 2003, her recent work “gleefully slides between abstraction and expressionism, never pausing long enough to be either.”
In addition to her paintings, Chase also creates drawings and woodblock prints. She has had numerous one-man shows at commercial venues in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto and elsewhere. Over the course of her career, Chase has also participated in many group exhibitions held in the United States and abroad, including The Old and New Masters of the 20th Century
(Daimaru Exhibition Hall in Osaka, Japan, 1990), Making Their Mark: Women Artists Move into the Mainstream, 1979-1985
(Cincinnati Art Museum, 1989), The New Generation: The ‘80s American Painters and Sculptors
(Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1988) and Paradise Lost/Paradise Gained: American Visions of the New Decade
(American Pavilion, Venice Biennale, Italy 1984). In 1984, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston organized a traveling exhibition of her work and in 1997 the Madison Art Center held a retrospective exhibition of her prints. The recipient of National Endowment for the Arts grants in 1978-79 and 1982-83, Chase taught at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1975 to 1978 and at the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1980 to 1982. In 1985, she was a visiting artist at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine.
Chase currently resides in Sag Harbor, New York. Her paintings and works on paper can be found in major public collections across the country, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; the Denver Art Museum, Colorado; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City the Madison Art Center, Wisconsin; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; New York Public Library; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
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