Sunshine and shadow play amid the trees
In bosky groves, while from the vivid sky
The sun’s gold arrows fleck the fields at noon,
Where weary cattle to their slumber hie.
How sweet the music of the purling rill,
Trickling adown the grassy hill!
While dreamy fancies come to give repose
When the first star of evening glows.
—“July” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1852–1916)
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery presents Summer At Its Best, a group exhibition that celebrates the halcyon days, sultry nights, and scenic vistas of our most beloved season. Summer At Its Best traces nearly a century of American painting, sculpture, and works on paper, providing visions of the season’s fleeting passions, leisurely idylls, and chromatic richness.
The exhibition borrows its title from a 1968 painting by Alma Thomas included in the show that encapsulates the spirit of the presentation in both form and concept: arraying daubs of saturated, warm colors in rhythmic sequences across the canvas, Thomas masterfully captures the flitting light and vivid palette of summer’s landscape.
Summer At Its Best offers an abundance of juxtapositions that reveal unexpected harmonies in the eclectic selection of works on view. Expressionistic gestures inspired by the rise and fall of the sea are the prevailing formal and thematic concerns of ceramicist Toshiko Takaezu’s Ocean’s Edge vessels from the early 1990s, as well as Beauford Delaney’s fauvist portrayal of a day spent sailing off the coast of Maine (1951) and Norman Lewis’ masterful abstraction of the sea’s upheavals, Seachange (1976). A standout example of Delaney’s swirling, allover paintings of pure light is situated in conversation with a Joseph Cornell box of the late 1950s, where an anthropomorphic sun excerpted from the compulsive collector’s library of printed matter beams down over a collage dedicated to the souvenirs of distant travelers. Other exhibition highlights include Heaven (1967) by Benny Andrews, a psychedelic scene of an otherworldly paradise that anticipates the fantastical landscape of his monumental 1975 collage painting Utopia, the sixth and final work in his landmark Bicentennial Series. Reginald Marsh’s depiction of Coney Island’s clamorous midsummer crowds presents a roiling, baroque scene of urban leisure, which is offset by more intimately-scaled seaside works by Milton Avery, James Daugherty, Dorothy Dehner, Louis Elshemius, Robert Gwathmey, and Fairfield Porter.
Masters of abstraction Sam Gilliam, Jack Tworkov, Michael Goldberg, Mark Tobey, and William T. Williams provide vision-encompassing canvasses of high-keyed color and exacting materiality, while a “bush” bronze by Harry Bertoia (1915–1978) and a verdant, hedge-sized Norman Bluhm (1921–1999) painting provide overtones of flourishing botanical life. Bask in the sunshine of solar-themed works by American Surrealists Boris Margo and David Hare (1917–1992), or contemplate the mathematically precise concretism of a major diptych by Alfred Jensen (1903–1981), Twin Children of The Sun #14 (1974). Emphasizing the profusion of life brought about by its titular season, the exhibition is bookended with floral-themed works by Blanche Lazzell, Charles Ethan Porter, William Zorach, and—in her singularly inventive way—Yayoi Kusama.
Five artists included in Summer At Its Best are the subject of major institutional exhibitions open across the country this summer. Bob Thompson: This House Is Mine is on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia through September 11, 2022, and has received resounding critical acclaim at each of its previous venues. Originally curated by Diana Tuite for the Colby College Museum of Art in Waterville, Maine, the exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue published in association with Yale University Press.
On view at The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut through November 21, 2022, is a stunning group of paintings by Charles Ethan Porter as a primary component of the exhibition David Hartt: A Colored Garden. In conjunction to this exhibition, Hartt has designed and planted a circular garden on the property’s south lawn, populated by sequentially blooming flowers that correspond to the varieties represented in the nine Porter works hanging in the House’s Painting Gallery.
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery’s successful exhibition Be Your Wonderful Self: The Portraits of Beauford Delaney, which opened at the gallery in September 2021, has traveled to the Ogden Museum of Southern art in New Orleans, Louisiana, where it will be on view through July 17, 2022. An accompanying catalogue of the exhibition with a comprehensive chronology and new scholarship by Delaney scholar Mary Campbell is now available.
Celebrating Sam Gilliam’s sixty-year-long career based in Washington, DC, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden recently opened Sam Gilliam: Full Circle, an exhibition of the eighty-eight-year-old artist’s most recent body of paintings; open through September 11, 2022, the new works are contextualized among select historical works demonstrating his recursive yet unfailingly innovative practice.
Finally, Art and Race Matters: The Career of Robert Colescott will open at the New Museum in New York, New York Thursday, June 30, closing October 9, 2022. Curated by Lowery Stokes Sims and Matthew Weseley for the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, Art and Race Matters comprises over fifty Colescott paintings and works on paper that represent the breadth of the artist’s career, in which “he combined appropriation with transgressive attitudes in a way that nobody else has done,” Sims asserts.
After a year of intensive looks at some of our most pioneering artists, we are pleased to offer this respite dedicated to the joys and pastimes of the season.
Summer At Its Best includes work by Benny Andrews (1930–2006), Milton Avery (1885–1965), Mary Bauermeister (b.1934), Harry Bertoia (1915–1978), Norman Bluhm (1921–1999), Robert Colescott (1925–2009), Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), James Daugherty (1887–1974), Elaine de Kooning (1918–1989), Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), Dorothy Dehner (1901–1994), Beauford Delaney (1901–1979), Thorton Dial (1928–2016), Louis Eilshemius (1864–1941), Claire Falkenstein (1908–1997), Jared French (1905–1987), Sam Gilliam (1933–2022), Michael Goldberg (1924–2007), Morris Graves (1910–2001), Robert Gwathmey (1903–1988), David Hare (1917–1992), Alfred Jensen (1903–1981), Lee Krasner (1908–1984), Yayoi Kusama (b.1929), Blanche Lazzell (1878–1956), Norman Lewis (1909–1979), Boris Margo (1902–1995), Reginald Marsh (1898–1954), Agnes Pelton (1881–1961), Charles Ethan Porter (1847–1974), Fairfield Porter (1907–1975), Esphyr Slobodkina (1908–2002), Toshiko Takaezu (1922–2011), Alma Thomas (1891–1978), Bob Thompson (1937–1966), Mark Tobey (1890–1976), Jack Tworkov (1900–1982), William T. Williams (b.1942), and William Zorach (1887–1966).
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York