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New exhibition at Levis Fine Art features works solely from the estate of Beauford Delaney
Beauford Delaney (1901-1979), Abstraction in Light, 1962. Oil on canvas, 51.5 x 38.5 inches (130.8 x 97.8 cm), signed on reverse.
NEW YORK, NY.- Levis Fine Art announced Beauford Delaney: Internal Light, an exhibition of the extraordinary artistic legacy from the Paris period (1953-1972) of this modern master, who exhibited in museums throughout Europe and the United States. Many of these historically significant paintings have not been viewed since the artist’s landmark 1978 exhibition, Beauford Delaney: A Retrospective was held at the Studio Museum in Harlem. The solo exhibition runs through June 15.

It is broadly recognized that Delaney’s Paris works are among the most significant of his body of work. A number of these Paris-period works shown were rescued from Delaney’s apartment shortly before his death. About to be seized by the French Government and auctioned to satisfy delinquent accounts, the paintings were shipped to New York through the efforts of a coterie of the artist’s devoted friends including James Baldwin, Henry Miller, Richard Powell and Richard Long. These paintings would form the core of the 1978 retrospective.

After thirty-five years of uncertain fate, and the enormous efforts over the past seven years by the estate’s court-appointed Administrator, Derek Spratley, many of these estate paintings have been recovered and are now being presented for the first time in this exhibition. A fully illustrated color catalog with essay by Lily Wei, New York-based independent curator and art critic, is available. Levis Fine Art represents the estate of Beauford Delaney.

Beauford Delaney is one of the most under-appreciated masters of postwar Abstraction, both in America and Europe. He was born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and studied with a local artist before moving to Boston in 1923. While in Boston, Beauford Delaney studied art at the Massachusetts Normal School, the Copley Society and the South Boston School of Art and spent time admiring the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

In 1929, Delaney moved to New York City and studied for a brief time at the Arts Students League with John Sloan and Thomas Hart Benton. His paintings of the 1940s and early 1950s consist largely of portraits, modernist interiors and street scenes executed in impasto with broad areas of vibrant colors. Delaney’s interest in the arts also included poetry and jazz, and he formed close friendships with writers such as James Baldwin and Henry Miller, and other artists, including Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O’Keefe, and Al Hirshfeld. He formed a life centered on questions concerning the aesthetics and development of modernism in Europe and the United States; primarily influenced by the ideas of his friends the photographer Alfred Stieglitz and the cubist artist Stuart Davis (painter), and the paintings of the European modernists and their predecessors like Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh.

Although he was a member of the Harlem Artists Guild, Delaney was consumed by his own artistic vision and was firmly connected to the Greenwich Village artistic community. In 1953, Beauford Delaney left New York and traveled to Europe, settling in Paris. Feeling a new sense of freedom from racial and sexual biases, Delaney focused on creating lyrical, colorful non-objective abstractions. These paintings, consisting of elaborate and fluid swirls of paint applied in luminous hues, are pure and simplified expressions of light. Many of his most celebrated abstractions are those from his 25 years in Paris. In 1978, The Studio Museum in Harlem organized his first major retrospective exhibition. Delaney died in 1979 in Paris while hospitalized for mental illness.

Some exhibitions of Beauford Delaney's work include the Vendome Gallery, Roko Gallery and Artists' Gallery, New York City, in the 1940s; Galerie Paul Fachetti, 1960, The Black Master, Studio Museum in Harlem, 1978, , and more recently the Fogg Art Museum, High Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and numerous galleries including Michael Rosenfeld Gallery and Aaron Galleries. Levis Fine Art represents the Estate of Beauford Delaney.

David Leeming, who knew Beauford Delaney, wrote a biography of the artist entitled Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney, Oxford University Press, 1998.

Works by Delaney are in numerous public collections, among others: Art Institute of Chicago; Beck Cultural Exchange; Greenville County Museum; Minneapolis Institute of the Arts; National Gallery of Art; The Smithsonian Museum of American Art; Baltimore Museum of Arts; Newark Museum of Art, University of Michigan Museum of Art, MOMA and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

In the 2013 exhibition catalog for Beauford Delaney: Internal Light at Levis Fine Art, Author, Lilly Wei wrote: “Abstractions dominate the exhibition and are difficult to single out. In Flowers: Abstraction (1962), a patterned orange red, green and yellow work that appears woven out of paint, the rhythmic Abstract Movement in Red and Yellow (n.d.) and the elegant Abstraction (1969), Delaney’s love of jazz and improvisation seems more apparent than ever. Impressionistic, expressionistic, the dancing, fugitive light in these animated, at times dissonant paintings seems to spill out into the viewer’s space. Other highlights include the glowing Abstract White Light (n.d), a mélange of yellows, greens, whites, and the delicately colored and filigreed Abstraction #5 (1963), valentines to the pastoral, to joy, their surfaces a swirl of interconnected egg-like oval or spiral motifs that are another Delaney hallmark. In some instances, they look floral, like the involutions of a rose, a flower Delaney adored. Or, as in Movement Abstraction (n.d.), with its clear figure/ground composition, they become calligraphic signs or even schematic human figures, the readings of his paintings multiple, encoded. Delaney’s color sense is superb, his treatment of reds also ravishing, as seen in Abstraction #12 (1963) and Abstraction in Red (1963), the former a masterpiece, its red incomparable, a thicket of almost impenetrable monochrome to the latter’s more open traceries. While the riffs of the surface have star billing and are given preeminence, it is the ground that is the matrix and holds the composition steady, giving it ballast. At the top of Delaney’s game, matter and the ineffable are handily, beautifully balanced.”

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