Kasmin opens an exhibition of work by American painter Jane Freilicher

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Kasmin opens an exhibition of work by American painter Jane Freilicher
Installation view. Photo: Diego Flores.

NEW YORK, NY.- Kasmin opened a new exhibition of work by American painter Jane Freilicher (1924–2014). Parts of a World is on view at 297 Tenth Avenue from January 21–February 27, 2021, comprising some 15 still lifes spanning the artist’s career from the 1950s to the early 2000s. Together, these works illuminate Freilicher’s interior world, tracing her steadfast attention to the intimate domestic subjects that characterize her scenes—flowers, drapery, and New York backdrops—rendered in the artist’s distinctive style of painterly representation. This is the second solo exhibition at Kasmin since the gallery began representing the Estate in 2017, and the first ever to focus on the artist’s still lifes.

Freilicher’s light-swept canvases are instantly recognizable for their framing of everyday objects within the context of the order, or casual disorder, of the artist’s studios in lower Manhattan and Long Island. Often situating the viewer at the threshold of the inside and outside, her scenes are derived from reality but painted into a fiction.

The subjects recurring most often in these works of Freilicher’s are flowers. Stems and blooms in works such as Coleus and Verbena (1973) and Goldenrod and Landscape (1967) reach upwards to the tip of the picture plane and sometimes almost beyond it. Reflecting on Freilicher’s work, her contemporary Alex Katz remarked, “Flowers are much harder than faces, and much harder than landscapes [...] There are very few people who can paint flowers that well.” Unconcerned by traditional associations between femininity and florals, Freilicher painted instead in the same spirit and dedication as Pierre Bonnard and Henri Matisse—a subtle and unrelenting observation of domestic life.

The exhibition further demonstrates the variance and fluency of Freilicher’s mark making, from tight brushstrokes to a looseness that suggests its subject by collapsing distance or combining multiple perspectives. Lending its title to the exhibition, Parts of a World (1987) renders a vaporous downtown skyline bathed in diaphanous peach above a tablecloth, ghost-like, that holds objects of remarkable solidity. An early work, The Painting Table (1954) takes us into the evening under fluorescent lighting, which nevertheless allows the dissolving of the object into one pale corner. John Ashbery, a close friend of Freilicher’s, articulated this phenomenon: “Her pictures always have an air of just coming into being, of tentativeness that is the lifeblood of art.”

At a time when many are more sensitively attuned to their indoor spaces and the aesthetic pleasure they provide, Freilicher’s commitment to, and belief in, the formal richness of these quotidian domiciliary views engenders a lesson in close looking. The artist’s freely improvised compositions incorporate the inventive reorganization of the same objects over the course of more than 50 years—a cast of characters of which she never tires. Whether it is the warmth of draped fabric sitting under a floral arrangement, a collection of ceramic bowls and plates, plastic nursery pots, or a casual lunch of bread and fruit, the confidence and optimism of Freilicher’s brush convinces us to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.

A Brooklyn native, Jane Freilicher came of age in the era of Abstract Expressionism at the center of a group of influential artists and poets, including painters Willem de Kooning, Rudy Burckhardt, Joan Mitchell, Larry Rivers, Fairfield Porter, Alex Katz and poets John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O’Hara.

Freilicher graduated from Brooklyn College and received an M.A. from Columbia University. She went on to study with the legendary teacher and painter Hans Hofmann, both in New York and Provincetown, Mass. In 1952, she had her first one-person exhibition at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery.

The artist’s work is held in numerous private and public collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; and the Museum of Modern Art, NY. Her paintings were selected for inclusion in the 1995 Whitney Biennial. Recent acquisitions have been made by institutions including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Addison Gallery Of American Art, MA; and Grand Rapids Art Museum, MI.

She was a longtime member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Academy of Design. Her many honors included the National Academy of Design Saltus Gold Medal, the Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild Hall Museum, and the Gold Medal in Painting from the Academy of Arts and Letters, its highest honor.

In 2018, Kasmin presented the exhibition ‘50s New York at 293 Tenth Avenue. Prior to that, a dedicated selection of the artist’s nudes went on view at the gallery’s booth as part of ADAA: The Art Show. Parts of a World is organized in cooperation with Eric Brown Art Group.

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