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Making it New: George McNeil & His Students
Thorpe Feidt , The Frieze: the Ambiguities 385, acrylic on canvas, 2002+2006, 37.5” x 49.5”.

BEVERLY, MA.- The Montserrat College of Art Gallery is pleased to announce its new exhibition Making it New: George McNeil & His Students. McNeil was a first-generation American Abstract Expressionist painter taught by Hans Hofmann and considered to be a “painter’s painter” by such artists as Willem de Kooning. The exhibit, co-curated by Montserrat Gallery Director Leonie Bradbury and Artist Adele Travisano, will feature six pieces by McNeil that were chosen from different phases of a career that spanned more than six decades.

In order to highlight McNeil’s tremendous success as a teacher, work from nine of McNeil’s students, including Thorpe Feidt and Rose Olson, both long-time faculty members at Montserrat, will also be part of the exhibit. In addition to Feidt and Olson, other artists whose work will be included are: Estherly Allen, Jim Jackson, Tobi Kahn, Margery Theroux, Adele Travisano, Maria Vitagliano and Maxine Yalovitz-Blankenship. All of the exhibit participants were former students of McNeil and although some have never met, they all share a common understanding that their artistic experience with George McNeil was “life changing.”

Thorpe Feidt, a Painting and Drawing professor at Montserrat since 1973, studied with McNeil while at Pratt Institute in the 1960s. Feidt participated in an art history course taught by McNeil while at Pratt and explained that it “was so bloody interesting … it gave you an enormous understanding of the whole scope of art. McNeil could bring it [art history] to bear on your art, which made you feel like part of it all.” Feidt remembers most about McNeil “the generosity of his spirit as an artist and a teacher in a manner that showed that he truly cared about how you did.”

Rose Olson, a full-time professor of Painting and Drawing at Montserrat since 1986, studied with McNeil in 1985 at the Vermont Studio Center, where she was a resident and visiting artist. When referring to her experience with McNeil she shares, “He was part of history and very current at the same time … he was alive, and his paintings were alive! I admired the way he directed his incredible energy at work with such intense focus.”

Although his name was never as widely recognized as his contemporaries Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, McNeil was widely respected by his fellow artists as both an abstract painter and teacher. All of McNeil’s work reflects the influence of Hofmann’s Modernist theory of painting. His early work was done in a geometric Cubist style, with compositions divided into dynamic planes of bold and often contrasting colors that prompted the viewer’s gaze to shift actively throughout the canvas. In his own words, McNeil’s artistic goal was “to make my paintings come alive pictorially and psychologically … to celebrate the pulsating vividness of being.” In later decades, figures became more prominently featured as the main subject of his art. He experienced a resurgence of commercial success in the 1980s because of a rise in popularity of the Neo-Expressionist movement.

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