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Rosemarie Beck - Abstraction into Figuration: Paintings
Rosemarie Beck, House of Venus III, 1957.

NEW YORK.-From October 16th through December 1st, Lori Bookstein Fine Art will exhibit a survey of early paintings by Rosemarie Beck. The eleven works in the show will demonstrate how Beck's painting style evolved out of her New York School origins and into a highly personal and idiosyncratic commitment to figuration. This is the second solo exhibition of the artist's work at Lori Bookstein Fine Art. An illustrated catalogue, with introduction by Martha Hayden, has been printed for the occasion.

The earliest works on view, dated to 1952 and 1953, rely on the interplay between vibrant color and a muted palette of grays and browns to produce abstract structures. By the mid-Fifties, however, the bold and spontaneous strokes of Beck's Abstract Expressionist beginnings had morphed into more controlled arrangements, often alluding to the grid, although never appealing to it directly. Her House of the Sun and House of the Moon paintings remained stubbornly abstract, but the small, built-up strokes suggest a new atmospheric dimension. Evident in this work is the influence of her friendship with Philip Guston, with whom, Hayden writes, Beck "listened, learned, and contributed." And like Guston, Beck would undergo a definitive shift away from abstract painting in the coming years.

Progressing from the foundation she had created in the dematerialized House series, Beck began introducing—or extracting, depending on one's point of view—objects, figures (often, her own) and perspectival space. In the works of the late Fifties and early Sixties, complex still lifes and multi-figure compositions coalesce out of discrete marks, both recalling the stitch paintings of Marsden Hartley and presaging Beck's own embroidered "paintings" from the last three decades of her life.

Over time her style continued to concretize, and Beck's imagery turned increasingly to mythological and literary subject matter. The stories of Antigone, Atalanta, and Icarus would all make recurrent appearances, as well as scenes from Shakespeare. Despite this transformation into figuration, Beck never sought to dissemble her technique, nor does the viewer ever forget that they are standing before paint on a canvas. One aspect which would remain constant throughout was her ability to produce form out of an aggregation of simple brush strokes. Whether working abstractly or figuratively, Beck never lost sight of the essential stroke, no matter where the image took her.

Rosemarie Beck (1923-2003) studied art history and music at Oberlin College and New York University's Institute of Fine Arts. Significantly, her formal art education took place through her mentors Guston, Bradley Walker Tomlin, and Robert Motherwell, as well as through classes at the Art Students League. She was the subject of exhibitions all over the country, frequently showing at Peridot Gallery and Ingber Gallery in New York. Her long teaching career included positions at Vassar College, Middlebury College, Queens College and the New York Studio School. Selected public collections to which Beck's work belong include the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Corporation of Yaddo and the National Academy of Design.

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