Myron Lechay (1898-1972)
City Street Scene with Figures, 1924
Oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches
Click here to view 34 works
For further information, please email Betsy Ann Craig
Spanierman Gallery is pleased to announce the opening on July 21, 2011 of Fifteen Modern and Contemporary Artists, featuring works created from the 1920s to the present by Mary Abbott, Malcolm Bray, Jasmina Danowski, James Henry Daugherty, Burgoyne Diller, Balcomb Greene, Gertrude Greene, Elaine Grove, James Lechay, Myron Lechay, John Little, Stephen Pace, Melville Price, Pamela Stzybel, and Susan Vecsey.
The earliest example in the show is that of Russian émigré Myron Lechay, who embraced the modernist spirit of experimentation of the 1920s. He joined his friend Stuart Davis in eschewing a realistic approach for a symbolic, reductive treatment of form and color in the aim of communicating a clearer and greater sense of life. This viewpoint is apparent in City Street Scene with Figures (1924), in which Lechay incorporated figures, buildings, and sky into a puzzle-like planar surface of broad color areas, which emanate light and express optimism and vitality.
In the 1930s, the pervasiveness of Depression-era Regionalism and its insularity were challenged by a group of artists who went against the grain by maintaining ties with European avant-garde currents. Among them, Balcomb Greene absorbed a knowledge of Cubism, Dada, and other modern trends. He developed an individualistic purist, style, free of reference to nature, setting hard-edged interlocking forms into a dynamic dialogue within the picture plane, as in Black and Red Tension (1935). Greene was a founding member and the first chairman of the group known as Abstract American Artists. Another participant in the organization, Burgoyne Diller was among the first American painters to understand and adopt the principles of Russian Constructivism and Neoplasticism. Called “certainly the most brilliant artist working in this style in America” by Elaine de Kooning, Diller adhered to Neoplasticism’s formal and ideological precepts. Using a rectangular opposition of straight lines and primary colors, he created a spare and clear art free of uncertainty, which expressed an “equilibrium of non-equal but equivalent forces.” The balanced elegance of his art is demonstrated in Untitled (ca. 1938).
Over the course of the 1940s, the nucleus of artistic innovation shifted from Paris to New York, as it became clear that a striking new idiom had emerged with the rise of Abstract Expressionism. The emotional directness afforded by this dynamic aesthetic is potently apparent in an untitled work by Gertrude Greene (wife of Balcomb) of 1950. The trajectory toward a spontaneous subjective expressivity is also apparent in the art of Mary Abbott, one of few women to be at the center of the male-dominated Abstract Expressionist milieu that gathered at New York’s Cedar Bar. Abbott’s muscular, painterly images exemplify the important contribution—just beginning to be recognized—of women artists to this movement. Abbott was one of few women to attend the short-lived experimental The Subject of the Artist School (which fostered the careers of Mark Rothko, Barnet Newman and Robert Motherwell). John Little, a friend of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, settled in East Hampton, on Long Island’s East End in 1950, where he was a leading figure in this outpost for the avant-garde and formed an abstract style involving flattened paint layers and massed areas of overlapping and interlocking color.
The heady era of the 1960s is represented by a number of artists. Stephen Pace epitomizes the inspired independent painter of the time, his works expressing theme of a straining for freedom, while contending with its limits. In an article in the New York Times in 1960, the critic Dore Ashton noted that within his works, “energetic elements battle their way to equilibrium.” Another dimension of the decade is demonstrated in a mixed-media collage on canvas by Melville Price, in which the artist converged allover gesture with Pop elements, conjoining a direct method with an arch commentary on it. In the 1960s, James Daugherty, a leading figure in the Synchromist movement in the 1930s, returned to abstraction after a hiatus. Creating some of his finest works, he expressed the wonder of an age of space exploration in images such as Simultaneous (ca. 1965). In such late works, he put into physical form what he called the “out rushing forces of the cosmos” in an “ever expanding infinitude.”
Several artists typify the pluralism of artistic creativity beginning in the late twentieth century. An artist whose career lasted from the 1920s until his death in 2001, James Lechay (brother of Myron) reinterpreted the still-life theme over the decades, exploring the midpoint between figuration and abstraction, as in Untitled (Still Life with Two Objects) of the 1990s. Other artists remained within the framework of abstraction. Among them, Malcolm Bray left behind the angst of Abstract Expressionism, while using its spontaneity and physical gestural release to trace inner emotional states pertaining to his interpersonal relationships and his responses to the natural world. Working in a studio context, he organizes his experiences into layered and lyrical dreamscapes such as Cameo (2010). Pamela Sztybel is a modern-day Tonalist, whose atmospheric canvases convey the essential moods of places she has experienced. Seeming to glow with inner light, they are imbued with a spiritual quietude. Susan Vecsey works in the tradition of Tonalism and Color Field painting. Her canvases, stained in subtle colors, convey the emotion of places remembered and deeply felt. The jubilant canvases of Jasmina Danowski always seem to teeter on the edge of being out of control. Her works, such as Yowza (2011) are evocative of Monet’s water lilies filled with an explosive feeling of stars coming into being. Danowski’s use of homemade ink and oil give her images a sparkling freshness that matches their expressive qualities. A sculptor working in welded steel, Elaine Grove carries on the legacy of David Smith in witty constructions. Suggestively anthropomorphic, her forms seem to carry on a conversation with the viewer, while evoking the distinctive terrain of eastern Long Island, where she lives.