Tarin M. Fuller
Iandor Fine Arts
About Iandor Fine Arts (IFA)
Iandor Fine Arts exerts a global focus dictating an emphasis on signiﬁcant contemporary museum-quality works of art that is designed to acquaint the novice and yet stimulate the incentive of the most expert collector. IandorFine Arts began as a small private gallery in Manhattan’s trendy SoHo District in 1996, catering to a select clientele. The gallery moved to Newark in 1999 and after a hiatus, IFA relaunched in a new space in Newark’s Ironbound Section in 2012.
The New York Times:
A Conversation Spoken in Paint
Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis at the Jewish Museum
Critics think they have the last word, but sometimes art keeps talking. In 2008, while organizing the Jewish Museum’s boisterous survey of Abstract Expressionism, “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976,” the curator, Norman L. Kleeblatt, noticed that two paintings — Lee Krasner’s “Untitled” (1948) and Norman Lewis’s “Twilight Sounds” (1947) — seemed to be speaking to each other. He had the good sense to listen and, later, to orchestrate a deeper conversation. The result is “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945-1952,” a nuanced, sensitive and profound exhibition.
The show isn’t really a dialogue, in the conventional sense. But it bravely elides differences of gender, race and religion, finding that Krasner and Lewis — a Jewish woman and an African-American man — shared a visual language that was a subtler, more intimate dialect of Abstract Expressionism. And it does so while recognizing the cultural accents in both artists’ works, the influence of Hebrew writing on Krasner’s grids of glyphs and the connections to jazz in Lewis’s meandering lines.
Probably the most refreshing aspect of the show is the chance to see Krasner matched up with a man who is not her husband, Jackson Pollock. And Lewis, whom curators have too often shown as either a lone visionary or as part of a well-defined circle of black artists, also benefits from the pairing.
Building on a section of the 2008 show called “Blind Spots,” “From the Margins” also suggests that Krasner and Lewis were hidden in plain sight: Krasner as the spouse of an art celebrity, Lewis as a black artist whose paintings were more formal than political. (“I’m sure if I do succeed in painting the black experience, I won’t recognize it myself,” he said in a 1968 interview.)
Both Krasner (1908-1984) and Lewis (1909-1979) embraced abstraction in the 1940s, after early flirtations with Social Realism: They both had been involved in the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (and may even have met through that organization), and Lewis had been a member of the Harlem artists’ group 306 (which included the socially minded artists Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence.)
Some other formative influences are apparent in the show’s first room of paintings: for Krasner, it was the abstract painter and pedagogue Hans Hofmann; for Lewis, the Harlem art school director Augusta Savage. For both, Picasso and Mondrian. Krasner comes across as the more restless of the two painters, moving from the flat, interlocked shapes of “Lavender” (1942) to the dense, peaked brushwork of “Noon” (1947); Lewis seems to hit on his mature scuffed-and-scumbled style without much deliberation.
Even here, though, you can see what Mr. Kleeblatt has called a “magical synergy,” especially in two canvases that feature floating rectangular grids in a palette of reds and mauves.
Norman Lewis’s “Twilight Sounds” (1947).CreditSaint Louis Art Museum, The Estate of Norman W. Lewis, Iandor Fine Arts, New Jersey
More of these moments occur in the second room, the heart of the show, which brings together Krasner’s “Little Image” paintings and the “Little Figure” paintings of Lewis. It suggests not only an obvious common interest in diminutive imagery, but also an obsession with painting-as-writing (or, as the Abstract Expressionist progenitor John Graham called it, “écriture.”)
With their neat rows of pictographs, the “Little Image” paintings relate clearly to Krasner’s religious education as a child of Jewish immigrants from Russia. She painted them from right to left, as Hebrew is written. But her glyphs can be read in a broader context, as evidence of a general interest in codes and ancient scripts. (A fascinating catalog essay, by Lisa Saltzman, mentions World War II cryptography and the effort to decipher clay tablets at Knossos as possible influences.)
Lewis’s “Little Figure” paintings can appear similarly impenetrable, with their bluesy palettes and jazzy noodlings. (Some, like “Magenta Haze,” make explicit reference to music.) Like Krasner’s “Little Image” paintings, they eschew the big, swashbuckling gestures of textbook Abstract Expressionism in favor of a wiry sgraffito (or occasionally, in Krasner’s case, a thin and tightly controlled drip).
Scale matters, too: These are intimate paintings, made in small, domestic spaces. (Krasner worked in the upstairs bedroom of the house she shared with Pollock in Springs, a bucolic East Hampton community; Lewis in his apartment on 125th Street.) And they come in very un-Abstract-Expressionist shapes and proportions: long, vertical canvases that resemble Asian scrolls, and even a tondo.
The homeyness of their work is reinforced by the installation, with such midcentury touches as mint green walls and Eames chairs in the museum’s wood-paneled second-floor galleries. (“Action/Abstraction,” by contrast, informed by the pronouncements of Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, was shown in the museum’s white-box ground-floor space.)
In the final gallery, which goes beyond the dates in the show’s title to accommodate a couple of works made in the 1960s, both artists do experiment with bigger canvases and brighter palettes. Krasner’s “Kufic” (1965) unleashes sweeping golden brush strokes, reminiscent of Arabic script, on a straw-hued ground. And Lewis’s “Alabama II” (1969) deploys a small, barely visible line of marching stick figures on a searing expanse of sunset pink, hinting at the struggle for civil rights while still insisting on being read as an abstract painting.
The show’s organizers (Mr. Kleeblatt, the museum’s chief curator, with an assistant curator, Stephen Brown) finish with a short audio program, which weaves together snippets of interviews with Krasner and Lewis. It’s an appropriate way to end “From the Margins,” an exemplary show that says to curators everywhere, keep listening.
The Wall Street Journal:
Jewish Museum Opens ‘From the Margins:
Lee Krasner & Norman Lewis: 1945-1952′
A funny thing happened when the Jewish Museum was hanging its 2008 show, “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976.”
The exhibition curator, Norman Kleeblatt, already knew it would feature the work of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning as championed by that era’s most prominent art critics, Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg. But in looking at other artists of that era for context, Mr. Kleeblatt noticed visual similarities between Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, two of the lesser-known New York artists of that era.
“The modest scale of their work, as well as the heightened personal nature of the paintings, created a very different kind of energy,” Mr. Kleeblatt said. “They were two artists who were part of the scene, but who were overlooked in all of the critical writings of the time.”
On Friday, the Jewish Museum’s newest show, “From the Margins: Lee Krasner & Norman Lewis: 1945-1952,” casts light on both painters, investigating how these two artists—one a Jewish woman, the other an African-American man—remained at the periphery of New York’s postwar art scene, yet whose respective works have parallels.
“Because of scale of canvas, color palette, the nature of what they’re both doing, Krasner and Lewis really do speak to each other in the way that a different pairing of Abstract Expressionism artists (from that era) wouldn’t,” said Lisa Saltzman, an art-history professor at Bryn Mawr College who contributed to the museum’s accompanying catalog. Dark and densely patterned paintings like Krasner’s “Untitled, 1949” and Lewis’s “Congregation (1950),” indeed show a resemblance to one another.
Both artists drew on their heritage for their work. Krasner’s lines evoke the practice of Hebrew calligraphy, while Lewis’s work often references Harlem night life and jazz clubs. In contrast with the colossal scale of much of their peers’ paintings, Krasner’s and Lewis’s canvases are of a more modest scale, many under 2 feet in height.
Krasner and Lewis were born and raised in New York City to immigrant families: Krasner to Russian Jewish parents in Brooklyn, Lewis to Bermudian parents in Harlem. They got their artistic starts within Work Projects Administration art projects in the 1930s and ran in social circles with prominent artists of their time.
“Lewis would drink with these painters, was friends with them,” Mia Bagneris, an assistant professor of art history at Tulane University, said, “but when it mattered in terms of getting notice from critics, that was when they couldn’t see him.”
Krasner, too, “was very much a part of the New York art scene,” Ms. Saltzman said. “Despite that, her exclusion says more for how close she was yet how little attention she garnered.”
As Pollock’s wife, her career was frequently overshadowed by her husband’s fame. When the two painters moved to Springs, N.Y., Pollock’s studio was in a large converted barn, while Krasner’s studio was relegated to an upstairs bedroom.
Lewis often painted within the cramped confines of his Harlem apartments, and like Krasner, “the actual physical constraints of their studios explain why they both worked on such an intimate scale,” Ms. Bagneris said. “In a period when the most well-known painters are known for their monumental-sized paintings, the fact that both Krasner and Lewis worked on a smaller scale is almost telegraphic.”
Lewis died in 1979, followed by Krasner in 1984, and for both artists, larger-scale exhibitions and critical reassessments came posthumously. “In their various interviews, both artists talk about the exclusionary practices of the period,” Mr. Kleeblatt said. “They were very cognizant of how much they struggled and how difficult it was as an African-American and a woman. Lewis and Krasner were passed over.”
Two Artists Overshadowed in the ’40s
Get a Second Look
When Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning were transforming abstract expressionism in New York City in the ’40s and ’50s, they were not alone.
Several artists were showing their work in the same galleries, navigating the same circles. But they often were ignored by critics, and ended up at the margins of art history.
The paintings of two of them are now side by side at the Jewish Museum.
One is Lee Krasner, a Jewish woman, who was Pollock’s wife. The other is Norman Lewis, who was African American.
The exhibit, called “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis,” highlights how they experimented with abstract painting, according to Norman Kleeblatt, who curated the show. He explained they were both fascinated by culturally-specific references. “For Lee, Hebrew in particular; for Norman Lewis, it was also the locale of Harlem, African textiles — and jazz, as a kind of improvisational means of making abstraction,” he said.
Lee Rosenbaum, an art critic who writes for The Wall Street Journal and herCulture Grrl blog, said the work in the show contrasts with the sweeping statements of more famous abstract expressionists.
“These were more intimate works, more densely painted, and somehow seem to have some resonance with each other, so when I saw that they were going to do a whole show of these two artists I was very intrigued,” she said.
“From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis” will be on view until February.
Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis,
Jewish Museum, New York – review
A thoughtful survey of two artists who were unjustly marginalised in their lifetimes
The Jewish Museum’s From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945-1952 takes a subtle, thoughtful look at two artists – one female, one black – often consigned to the fringes of art history. Both were first-generation Americans (her parents were from Russia, his from Bermuda), New Yorkers, children of the Depression, and beneficiaries of the Federal Art Project. Both reached maturity just as Abstract Expressionism was taking hold, and both watched their friends romance collectors and dazzle the public while they waited for someone to notice them. And yet this is a show about ambivalence, not just neglect. They wanted to be known for their talents, not slotted into special categories. And so Krasner struggled to be anything but a female artist, and Lewis went out of his way to avoid being labelled as a black painter. They responded to rejection by hiding in plain sight.
The rarest, most delectable treat in this elegantly conceived and beautifully installed show is the cornucopia of works by Lewis. Usually his paintings pop up, one or two at a time, in roundups of black modernists or galleries devoted to the early New York School. Now he’s hitched a ride into the Jewish Museum with Krasner, and the pairing’s greatest benefit is that it offers a whole lot of Lewis.
Krasner has been less ignored. True, her reputation mouldered for decades – the macho posturing of her Abstract Expressionist cohort made sure of that, and so did the out-and-out sexism of its chief promoters. Hans Hoffman, her teacher, believed that “only men have the wings for art”; the highest compliment he could bestow upon a female student was “this painting is so good you’d never know it was done by a woman”. That disdain, plus Krasner’s role as Pollock’s long-suffering wife and warden, conspired to keep her out of the Ab-Ex canon. But the critical tide turned in her favour a long time ago, and a lavish retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 2000 cemented her reputation as one of the premier painters of the movement.
That exhibition embraced the entirety of a half-century-long career that didn’t really take flight until after Pollock’s death in 1956; the current show cuts off while Pollock was still in the, um, picture. Around 1947, as he was beginning to experiment with his radical technique of painting without a focal point, Krasner embarked on a similar series of adventures, called “Little Images”. In “Noon”, gobs of clotted pinks, blues, oranges and yellows ooze across the canvas. Yet a rigid armature holds the whole thing together, preventing the smudges from seeming chaotic and turning a sensual explosion into a systematic tour de force. Other works in the series mimic ideographs of a forgotten language. Whatever Krasner might be trying to communicate, she mutes meaning with a scrim of unintelligible signs.
In 1949, she and Pollock exhibited their work in a group show with the loaded title Artists: Man and Wife. The reviews were scathing. One critic remarked on “a tendency among some of these wives to ‘tidy up’ their husband’s styles. Lee Krasner (Mrs. Jackson Pollock) takes her husband’s paints and enamels and changes his unrestrained, sweeping lines into neat little squares and triangles.” Scarred by the experience, she did not exhibit again until 1951, and two years later destroyed a trove of work from this period. But she pushed forward with unyielding determination. Later on, she took pride in having beaten the odds. “The only thing I haven’t had against me was being black,” she said. “I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent.”
Lewis did have Krasner’s missing disadvantage, of course, and though he painted exquisitely, race stood in the way of his reputation. Most African-American artists of Lewis’s generation fought to expose the plight of poor and working class blacks, and they avowed the dignity of labour. In the 1930s he, too, aligned himself with a programme of social commitment, painting destitute drifters and washerwomen. But he grew disillusioned and chafed against the Left’s oppressive demands. “I used to paint Negroes being dispossessed, discrimination, and slowly I became aware of the fact that this didn’t move anybody, it didn’t make things better.”
His spirit drew him towards abstraction, though he never gave himself over to it entirely. Like Krasner’s, his pictures function as screens that both hide and expose his identity. Behind the swaying lines of “Jazz Band”, you can just make out the shapes of instruments and musicians in a darkened club. In “Untitled” (1946), an orange, violet and aqua grid resolves into a Harlem block with its row of brownstones cleaved by narrow windows. “Crossing” (1948) animates a vertical lattice with the sidewalk ballet. People rush along the busy sidewalk, leaving animate traces on shimmering canvas.
Like the other founders of the New York School, Lewis aspired to the sublime. He prized aesthetics, arced toward the universal, and set his sights on transcendence. But when political turmoil overtook him in the late 1960s, Lewis struggled to adapt his ethereal style to inner rumblings of rage. In a 1968 interview he posed the question: “I find that civil rights affects me; so what am I going to paint, what am I going to do? I just hope that I can materialise something out of all this frustration as a black artist in America.”
His solution, “Untitled (Alabama II)”, looks at first like a salmon-coloured rectangle with a darker pink patch of chunky, slashing brushstrokes off the right. Without a wall label, we might even mistake the painting for pure abstraction. But the parenthetical title instructs us to read it as a historical illustration. That wedge of strokes is unmistakably a crowd of protestors, marching undefeated into the blood-red distance, demanding to be recognised, no matter how long it takes.
To February 1, thejewishmuseum.org
FROM THE MARGINS:
LEE KRASNER / NORMAN LEWIS,
As this exhibition’s gauche title implies, the two painters showcased here were at a slight distance from the Cedar Tavern scene, favoring subtle, small-scale painterly gestures rather than Abstract Expressionist swagger. Although the show points up certain cultural specificities—Krasner, a Jew, wrote glyphs right to left on some compositions, while Lewis, an African-American, drew inspiration from jazz for his forests of whisper-thin lines—it largely treats the artists as pure formalists, feeling their way from Surrealism-inspired mark-making into pure abstraction. The pairing is inspired, but the final gallery, with a few later examples of Krasner’s calligraphic swoops and Lewis’s sfumato clouds, leaves you hungry for proper retrospectives of each. Through Feb. 1.
New York Observer:
Painting Outside the Lines:
New Shows at the Jewish Museum
and EFA Project Space
The show “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945 – 1952,” at the Jewish Museum through February 1, makes the case that race, gender and class identity mattered to American postwar abstraction. It also puts on view some thrilling paintings. The subjects are two very different, historically overlooked artists: Krasner and Lewis, both marginal figures in the story of postwar art.
Both were New Yorkers. Krasner was from a family of Jewish immigrants in Brooklyn and studied at the Cooper Union. The curators call Lewis “the only African-American among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists”; his family emigrated from Bermuda, and he lived in Harlem where his friends included Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Richard Wright. Both made a living painting realist murals for the WPA. The year 1945 is significant to the show not because this is when Krasner married Jackson Pollock, but because during the seven years that follow both artists developed their abstract style.
Norman Kleeblatt, chief curator at the Jewish Museum, and Stephen Brown, assistant curator, emphasize the role of cultural influences on the work that follows. The paintings, while abstract, do often evoke African textiles, Hebrew script and jazz. In a sound recording from 1964, Krasner describes learning to write at temple as an influence on her painting. But they also draw on European innovations: Giacometti’s thin figures, Paul Klee’s scribbled marks and the Cubism of Picasso and Braque.
In the show’s second gallery, the paired paintings rhyme well visually and share a modest scale we don’t often associate with Ab-Ex. Both artists favor the line over the brushstroke, and paint is applied through a tight motion of the wrist rather than broader elbow sweeps. As Krasner and Lewis break with the realism of the WPA, the rich cultures of New York visibly enter their dense paintings. Still, some of the most moving visual surprises are innovations that emerge unheralded: circular canvases, and above all, Lewis’ startling sense of space and layering in his later abstract works.
The last room has the best paintings. Krasner’s Noon, 1947, got me: an all-over abstraction thick with gloopy yellow, white, blue and green curls of paint. Her elegant Kufic, 1965—consisting of skeins of yellow gestures on a yellow ground from which figural forms seem to emerge—looked like a predecessor to Amy Sillman’s queering of Ab-Ex, especially Sillman’s Fatso (2009).
Lewis’ Untitled 1965, in which thick purple paint seems to melt over a field of greys, is a fabulous painting. He shows his range in these later works gleefully inventing and exploiting new spaces in the picture plane: 1951’s Every Atom Glows: Electrons in Luminous Vibration is a delicate black-and-white oil painting, while his Alabama II, 1969, is a strong protest work—a rectangular field of red in which a triangular wedge evoking bodies marching or a megaphone’s amplified language emerges in glossier red on the painting’s surface.
So does identity matter when we look at art? A new show, “As We Were Saying,” curated by Claire Barliant, curator of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts’ EFA Project Space on West 39th Street, focuses on younger artists who, as Barliant puts it, are concerned with “Art and Identity in the Age of ‘Post.’ ” The question the young curator asks is similar to the one Kleeblatt and Brown engage with at the Jewish Museum: does difference matter in art? Standouts include Michael Wang’s cage of fancy ruffed purebred pigeons communing with citybirds. We project a seeming class consciousness onto the animals.
Josh Kline’s surrealist 3-D printed sculptures play cannily with branded surfaces, portraying an office cleaning trolley on which household detergents and the texture of cleaning tools slip from one surface to another, and human limbs are dismembered and folded in upon themselves, revealing linings of sponge or office uniform. The show evoked, for me, the Jewish Museum’s curatorial premise. Yet for the young artists, class and sexual identity seemed to trump questions of race or religion.
In an art world seemingly obsessed with art as a form of capital rather than art as an expression of culture, both shows brilliantly suggest that being an outsider matters very much, and encourage us to pay attention to the place of the culturally marginalized in art.