David Richard Gallery presents Natural: Paintings from 1963 to 1966, an exhibition of artworks by Anthe Zacharias in her first solo exhibition with David Richard Gallery and her first in New York since 1974.
The presentation focuses on a series of paintings from a seminal period in the artist’s career that punctuated a transitional period in the early 1960s whereby Zacharias developed her own visual language and moved away from Abstract Expressionistic painting. Most of these paintings were presented at the Great Jones Gallery in New York in 1965 and 1966. This presentation also chronicles further progression during that three-year period towards realizing the artist’s bigger vision and aspirations for her artworks. Specifically, the paintings opened up with more breathing room, brighter colors and greater influence of forms observed in nature.
In the 1950s, Zacharias painted in an Abstract Expressionist style with an emphasis on mark making using the palette knife and brush, her focus was on the “stroke” within a limited range of colors. In the early1960s, she wanted to loosen and open up her work, move away from uniform brush strokes and focus on her application of pigment. This expanded her color palette as she explored the oil medium with thin translucent glazes to make her paintings more luminous. Her work, only temporarily, developed an Impressionistic feel as she worked out her approach to capturing luminosity. She then began to introduce forms that emerged out of the color and then receded back into color. These forms were initially vertical and then morphed into more circular and bulbous shapes. At that point, in 1962 she made a decision to give herself more freedom to focus on color, movement and gestural formations that were inspired by nature.
Zacharias said in a personal communication dated March 8, 1963, “It is exciting for me because now I am involved with many elements of painting at the same time such as space, form, line, color, light and movement. Before I could only handle a few of these elements at a time, but now working with all of them seems natural.” She further stated, “I no longer paint small strokes but spread my paint on with a brush so that you cannot tell when a color ends and another begins. The colors in the paintings are deep and rich but they are not primarily one color such as different varieties of red or blue but of many. It seems that my knowing how to handle paint has caught up somewhat with my ideas on painting.”
Later that year, Zacharias said on July 24, 1963, “My painting isn’t going along too badly. The pictures are really swinging and moving around and no longer are placid color experiments. I have large areas and focuses of detail when you look close. . . The movement and the liveliness of the pictures is what strikes you most.”
The Director of the Great Jones Gallery, Janet Kayshian, visted Zacharias in the 1964-65 timeframe at her Pearl Street studio. Zacharias was invited to participate in the inaugural exhibition titled, “Drawings”, in autumn 1965 at the gallery’s new location at 645 Madison Ave in New York City. She exhibited pencil drawings alongside other artists, including Louise Bourgeois. Zahcarias was also included in a three-person show in January of 1966 and had a solo exhibition in Autumn of 1966.
Cindy Nemser reviewed Zacharias’ solo show in Arts Magazine in the September-October, 1966 issue, Vol. 40, No. 9, p. 60 and said, “Soft, sensuous forms reminiscent of plankton or algae floating just beneath the surface are the dominant motif of this first one-man show. These graceful amorphous shapes appear and disappear like bright shadows immersed in sunny areas that entice the viewer with their cheerful elusiveness. The abstract organic surface patterns link these works with the creations of Pollock and Gorky, but the gaiety and optimism of the color combinations make one immediately think of the School of Paris … The buoyant forms happily participate in a spirited but serene game of hide and seek which leads them all over the picture plane. . . ”
About Anthe Zacharias (b 1934):
Zacharias was born in Albania. Her parents immigrated to the United States and she grew up in New York on the west side of Manhattan in Hell’s Kitchen. She attended Queen’s College from 1952 to 1956 where she studied under art historian Robert Goldwater as well as John Ferren and Barse Miller. She then went to the University of California, Berkeley, where she met Mark di Suvero and studied with George McNeil and Erle Loran, receiving her M.F.A in 1957.
Returning to New York, Zacharias exhibited at the legendary March Gallery in the late 1950s and early 1960s alongside di Suvero and received recognition and mention form Dore Ashton. Between 1960 to 1968, she lived and painted in an old sea captain’s residence at Coentis Slip near South Ferry in the same area as some of the most renowned figures in the art scene of that time: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Mark di Suvero, Agnes Martin, James Rosenquist and Robert Indiana.
In the mid-60s, Zacharias exhibited at the Great Jones Gallery along with Louise Bourgeois and in the early 1970s, at Green Mountain Gallery in Soho in Lower Manhattan. In the mid-1970s, Zacharias became somewhat reclusive and avoided exhibiting in galleries. However, she continued to paint every day in her studio and evolve her own visual language and experimental methods of application on new and novel supports. Also, from the 1980s through 2000, she was closely associated with Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, Queens and working with local children groups and teaching. She worked on two large commissions for the Park, including a brightly colored 35-foot mural. In 2006, Zacharias contributed a work to the “Peace Tower” shown at the Whitney Biennial of that same year. She continues to paint, albeit on a much smaller scale.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)