Oil and Water

Milet Andrejevic Rosemarie Beck Andrea Belag Andrea Bergart Gandy Brodie Paul Demuro Jenny Dubnau John Heliker Earl Kerkam Mark Lijftogt Sangram Majumdar Stephanie Pierce Bill Rice Stephanie Sanchez Stuart Shils Elena Sisto Abraham Storer Bob Witz May 18 - June 13, 2010

Fred Bancroft and steven harvey fine art projects present a group exhibition entitled Oil & Water at two galleries. Organized with art critic/poet John Yau the show deals with the visual dialogue between abstraction and representation. In a recent New York Times article critic Roberta Smith argued for the continuing vitality of representation, writing about the “persistent” and “annoying belief” that abstraction and representation are “oil and water never to meet as one.” John Yau writes, “The idea that abstraction developed out of representation, and represented both a historical advance and higher, purer form of art was an ideological construct, rather than an apprehension of a far more complicated situation.” This show deals with this “complicated situation,” exploring fluidities and connections between generations of abstract and representational artists.

In the 1950s a group of New York based painters incorporated the modernist language of abstraction into a new style of painterly figuration. Included here are rare early examples by John Heliker (1909-2000) and Rosemarie Beck (1923-2003) from the mid-fifties, painted as just as these artists were on the cusp of moving from abstraction into their mature representational work. During the 1950s and early 1960s Gandy Brodie (1925-1975) and Earl Kerkam (1890-1965) both maintained an iconic, albeit highly worked representational image at the core of their painting and yet Kerkam was admired by Abstract Expressionists such as Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Brodie was selected for his first exhibition by Clement Greenberg. While exhibiting at Richard Bellamy’s vanguard Green Gallery Milet Andrejevic (1925-1989) moved from a kind of pop influenced abstraction towards a realist urban pastoral vision of figures outdoors in Central Park. Bill Rice (1932-2006) set his images of young men and women of color lounging near his studio, across from the Men’s Shelter, on East 3rd street, amidst a complex field of washes over the armature of an urban grid. Bob Witz (b.1934) works freely within between abstraction and representation, sometimes in the same painting.

For subsequent generations of painters a dichotomy is far less pronounced. Andrea Belag and Elena Sisto both studied at the New York Studio School in the 1970s where working from life but painting abstractly was the norm. Sisto’s teenage girls and Belag’s abstractions share a suave bravura painterly handling. Stephanie Sanchez and Stuart Shils both emerge from a painterly plein air landscape tradition. Yet this tradition coming out of late Cézanne and Turner embraces a high degree of abstraction. The sunny naturalism of a younger landscape painter Abraham Storer has a ghostly-invented quality that lends his ponds and tents a distinct sense of an abstract void. Andrea Bergart’s geometric abstractions appear to be in the tradition of Mondrian, yet are inspired by the West African textile tradition she absorbed while living and working in Ghana. Paul DeMuro’s abstract paintings with their tufted and scored geometry display the rough handmade quality of tribal weavings. Mark Lijftogt and Jenny Dubnau both employ a highly focused realism on respectively, still lifes and portraits. The precision and intensity of their images underscores the abstract experience of seeing. Sangram Majumdar and Stephanie Pierce both work from life in the studio. Their resulting images of a window, chair or bed may seem abstract divorced as they are, from narrative or context.