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Weatherspoon Art Museum opens "Louise Fishman: A Retrospective"
Louise Fishman, “Ashkenazi”, 1978, oil on linen, 32 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist and Cheim & Read, New York.

GREENSBORO, NC.- The Weatherspoon Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is the only southern venue for the exhibition, Louise Fishman: A Retrospective. Organized by curator Helaine Posner for the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, the exhibition is the first comprehensive look at five decades of Fishman’s artistic production and the range, authenticity, and originality of her work.

Featuring more than fifty painting and drawings from 1968 to the present, the exhibition traverses Fishman’s career from hard-edge grid paintings to recent work inspired by late Venetian Renaissance painting and the work of British artist J.M.W. Turner. Filling the span between these bodies of work are the “Angry Paintings” of the 1970s; “Remembrance and Renewal”—works acknowledging her Jewish heritage and made in response to a transformative trip to Auschwitz and Terezin; and the large gestural abstract paintings for which she is best known.

Fishman was highly influenced by the physicality and emotional force of Abstract Expressionism as practiced by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, embracing it but re-defining it into works both more visually poetic and intimate in tone. The 1960s were a tumultuous time on many fronts: The women’s liberation movement was emerging and spawned consciousness-raising groups, while gay and lesbian groups struggled for recognition and acceptance; and Fishman became an activist. It was at this point that she began to approach male-gendered forms of painting as a feminist and lesbian. The indignation that Fishman and others in her woman’s group felt found full expression in a series of 30 “Angry Paintings,” each a kind of “portrait” of friends who were artists, writers, and spokeswomen for the feminist cause.

Born in Philadelphia in 1939, Fishman was raised in a conservative Jewish family. Both her mother and paternal aunt were practicing artists who had studied at the Barnes Foundation school. After receiving her BFA degree from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Fishman moved to New York City.

In 1990, a fire at her NYC studio destroyed her tools, equipment and a number of paintings. She moved upstate and, in 1997, began introducing calligraphic marks into her work, derived from Hebrew, Japanese, and Chinese writing. But as Nancy Princenthal, in one of the exhibition catalogue essays points out, abstraction itself operates like a language that is at once structural, metaphoric, and literal.

Louise Fishman: A Retrospective is organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, SUNY, and curated by Helaine Posner, Chief Curator. Generous support for this exhibition has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and by Susan and James Dubin. Additional support has been provided by Lauren B. Cramer, Helen Stambler Neuberger and James Neuberger, and Sara and Michelle Vance Waddell. Support is also provided by the Friends of the Neuberger Museum of Art and by the Purchase College Foundation.

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