Editor’s Note: Thank you to Dana Gordon for providing this remembrance of two great artists - George Sugarman and Tony Smith. Reading Gordon’s account, it is also interesting to see the visual conversation the young painter had with these two sculptors. The echoes of that dialogue are also evident in Gordon’s most recent paintings which will be on view at Andre Zarre Gallery, New York from November 11 - December 6, 2014 (Reception, November 13, 6-8 pm).
I worked for Tony Smith as his studio assistant for about a year and a half in 1968-69. I also worked for the sculptor George Sugarman, for a few months in 1967. I met Tony and George when I went to graduate school in art at Hunter College.
Though I was a painter then as now, I was very interested in George Sugarman's use of color in three dimensions, in sculpture. I was making paintings in three-dimensions. The main thing I remember from him as a teacher is that he emphasized that your artwork is the answer to the question you pose in embarking on it, "what is art". This stayed with me for quite a while.
Einspruch introduces the conversation by noting: "While there are only eight objects on display in [the show], the spare installation amplifies the presence and power of each of them. Together they form a sacra conversazione of high modernism. A large-scale Ronald Bladen and a small, two-part George Sugarman share a visual sensibility but differ wholly in attitude. Phillip Pearlstein and Al Held meet along two adjacent walls and trade ideas about how to use large shapes to divide the rectangle. Paintings by Alex Katz, Lois Dodd, and Alice Neel discuss their commonalities in figuration, while a faintly figurative Mark di Suvero sculpture holds itself aloof. At the center of this conversation is Irving Sandler, who witnessed the labors of these artists as they set down their individual paths in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. With figures such as de Kooning and Pollock having established themselves as giants, there was enormous interest in – and heated arguments about – what younger artists were to do in their wake."
Paul Behnke photoblogs the recent exhibition The Lure of Paris at Loretta Howard Gallery, New York. The show highlights the lesser known influence of Paris on mid-century American artists and features work by Biala, Norman Bluhm, Ed Clark, Harold Cousins, Beauford Delaney, Sam Francis, Shirley Goldfarb, Cleve Gray, Al Held, Shirley Jaffe, Conrad Marca-Relli, Joan Mitchell, Jules Olitski, Milton Resnick, Jean-Paul Riopelle, George Sugarman, and Jack Youngerman.
Sol Ostrow writes in the catalogue: "In the 1950s, with the triumph of the New York School, the United States for the first time in history had produced visual art of international consequence. Yet, artists from the United States and from all over Europe continued to flock to Paris just as the center of the western art world was shifting to New York... Their reasons varied. Some saw it as an opportunity to be cosmopolitan or to satisfy their wanderlust; others may have imagined the Paris of Le Jazz Hot, café society, and the romance of the pre-war avant-garde, or the chance to see works by Vuillard, Bonnard, Matisse, etc., that they knew only from black and white reproductions. In most cases the women artists had accompanied their significant others, while like the generation before them, the Afro-American artists, sought to escape the racism that was endemic in the States."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.