Article Excerpts on Stephen Pace (1974-2010)
Hilton Kramer, “Art: Stephen Pace,” New York Times, April 13, 1974.
Into a pictorial style fundamentally derived from the late Milton Avery, Mr. Pace introduces some of the nervous energy and quick pictorial notation of the abstract expressionists. Thus, there is always a certain tension in these paintings between their large, simple shape, defining landscapes and figures and the color-saturated brushwork that fills them. In at least one remarkable painting, entitled “Iowa,” all delicious greens, whites and blues laid out with an elegance of design worthy of Avery himself, the artist has produced a work that brings this tension to a beautiful resolution. This Iowa can be set beside Avery’s Gaspé and Provincetown.
Piri Halasz, “Art: Shows at 3 Colleges Cover a Wide Range,” New York Times, March 2, 1975.
. . . The New Gallery at Drew University in Madison is showing canvasses by Stephen Pace, a New York artist who paints large light-filled figure studies and landscapes in the tradition of Milton Avery.
Although his subjects are recognizable, Mr. Pace has assimilated the lessons of abstract expressionism in his techniques of open composition and his use of vigorous, clear hues.
Vivien Raynor, “Art: . . . Stephen Pace,” New York Times, March 31, 1978.
A former Hans Hofmann student who was once an Abstract Expressionist, Stephen Pace uses color as a wit uses words. In fact, it is almost possible to hear a voice-over while studying his seascapes and landscapes, with and without figures. The point of one scene is that all the color is locked up in a green boat with purple oars containing two fishermen with arms and faces tanned scarlet. The surrounding northern sea and sky is white touched either with blue or gray. In another picture, a fisherman in daffodil overalls and a violet cap holds a brown lobster at arm’s length, while the light sky above him is filled by a barely perceptible pattern of flapping gulls, incised rather than painted. Green conifers ranged under, again, a white sky express the essence of Maine. The artist’s vigorous brushwork is supported by confident and economical drawing, and there is some pleasure to be had in raking through what looks like a very nonchalant technique to discover the firm structure below. Matisse has had some effect on Stephen Pace—probably through his offshoot, Milton Avery—but the diffident and humorous sensibility is the artist’s own. One could perhaps fault him for dealing only in visual reportage and wish that he would stay longer with his subjects. Still, nowhere is it written that everyone has to try for the heavy roles.
Vivien Raynor, “Art: Stephen Pace,” New York Times, January 25, 1985.
Stephen Pace (Sachs Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue at 77th Street): The gallery’s new premises sparkle; so do the new canvases of Stephen Pace. A former Abstract Expressionist who has painted figuratively for some years, Pace has hitherto seemed related to Milton Avery in both his subject matter and his knowing way with color. The affinity is still apparent in two views of a redheaded nude reclining on a gray-and-white-checked drapery. A large watercolor and an oil, respectively, they are about the way light can hit flesh, making it a glowing pink in one case, a refractory beige in the other. But in the landscapes, particularly those of blueberry fields turned red in the fall, a touch of anxiety makes itself felt. Pace’s brush still rips across the canvas, leaving plenty of white space and stating only the bare essentials—of, for instance, a figure in blue digging for clams at sunset with arms burned cerise. All the same, in one large composition of three horses that are black silhouettes transfixed by the sight of a full moon, he could be uttering a ‘‘cry’’ akin to Munch’s. (Through Jan. 30.)
Vivien Raynor, “Art: ‘The Figure Revisited,’ Figural Energy Is Explored,” New York Times, April 30, 1989.
Hanging near the quilt is the show’s other major attraction—Stephen Pace’s life-size study of a woman taking an outdoor shower. The artist seduces the eye with his nonchalant brush strokes and adroit juxtaposing of shapes—note the white space separating the torso and upraised arm from a pink mass on the left. He can do the same with color, although he seems to use some combinations—pink and gray, for example—not because he sees them but because they are in his repertory. But if there are occasional flaws in Mr. Pace’s art, they are far outweighed by the pleasure it gives.
Bruce Brown, “The Figurative Years,” in Stephen Pace: Maine and Reminiscences, 1953-1993: Oils and Watercolors from Four Decades, exh. cat. (Rockport, Maine: Maine Coast Artists, 1994).
[Pace and Milton Avery met] in 1946, while studying in San Miguel Allende, and remained fast friends until Avery’s death in 1965. Pace painted abstractly until near the end of Avery’s life, but as he turned his attention later on to paintings of everyday affairs, the work invites comparison to Avery’s interests and techniques. Pam Pace, however, notes major differences in technique and visual impact. “Milton’s aesthetic was based on very sensitive joining. Very often all of the elements in an Avery painting are so correct that even in the subtle work a wonderful tensile strength exists. That’s a totally different approach from Stephen’s much bolder, more gestural stroking.”
Among recent Maine artists, Pace seems to share Blackie Langlais’s sense of joy and humor, Hans Moller’s and Karl Schrag’s fauvist colors and expressionist shapes, and Neil Welliver’s concern for space that fluctuates between surface and depth. In the end, however, Pace is his own man—a unique Maine voice that has been tempered by direct instruction from Hans Hofmann, by the work of his friends Milton Avery and Willem de Kooning, and by his study of Henri Matisse, Edward Munch, Emil Nolde and oriental painting and calligraphy. Pace presents a Mediterranean Maine of intense color and intense light which separates itself from the moody, dark tradition associated with Winslow Homer, Marsden Hartley and even Andrew Wyeth.
Grace Glueck, “Art in Review: Stephen Pace,” New York Times, April 28, 2000.
There’s an endearing klutziness to Stephen Pace’s light-struck, loosely brushed paintings celebrating the nude, ranging in date from 1964 to 1999. In Fauvist colors and casual postures, they shun unnecessary detail to make large, impersonal generalizations about the female body: how it stands, sits, sprawls. In one, a red-haired nude is flopped on a summery-looking green couch gazing out a window, backside to the viewer, the essence of relaxed joie de vivre. In another, four nonchalant nudes whose colors range from palest white to lavender commune in a sunny yardscape evoked with a sensuousness equal to that of the figures.
A third painting, of a woman showering outdoors, blends her body with a joyous setting of foliage, flowers and sun. In a rendering of a nude splayed awkwardly on a rug, her contour, crowned by a mop of red hair, is flattened against the rug to create an almost abstract shape, recalling this 81-year-old artist’s start in the 1950’s as an abstractionist. (He turned to representation in the 1960’s.)
These exuberant canvases owe something to Matisse and Milton Avery, but their influence enhances rather than drowns Mr. Pace’s own sophisticated voice.
Roberta Smith, “Stephen Pace, Painter and Abstract Expressionist, Is Dead at 91,” New York Times, October 7, 2010.
. . . By the early 1950s, Mr. Pace was meeting with considerable success as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, known for dark, energetically worked abstractions achieved through a distinctive blend of brushwork, drawing and staining.
. . . By 1963, he had developed a broad-brushed representational style and a range of subjects that celebrated everyday life and labor. . . . The force of these images resides in their deft command of bodies in space balanced by saturated colors painted patchily on bare canvas. The result is a magnified Fauvism or Post-Impressionism that takes inspiration from Avery, Matisse and Bonnard, as well as Chinese painting.
These works seem executed at high speed, with a once-over-lightly panache that leaves little margin for error. In fact, Mr. Pace was adept at discreet reworking. "You might call me a fake Zen painter,” he once said.
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