Bill Rice: paintings & works on paper

June 2 - July 1, 2011

Press

“Outside in lieu of atmosphere there’d be a beautiful haze no dirt in it each drop of water forming a sun there whose name the same for all things would be DELICIOUS TOTAL ENCOUNTER”
– Aime Cesaire from Lost Body

Shfap presents Bill Rice: Paintings & Works on Paper from June 2 – July 1, 2011. The exhibition will include a selection of works spanning the course of Rice’s career, mostly gathered from the artist’s estate. This is the first solo exhibition of Rice’s work since 2005. A catalogue with essays by Joe Fyfe and Ulla Dydo will accompany the exhibition. The exhibition will include a compilation of film clips featuring Rice, put together by Jacob Burckhardt.

Bill Rice (1932-2006) was a fixture of the Lower East Side cultural underground. He was a film and theater actor and a scholar, as well as a visual artist. In theater and film he worked with Burckhardt, Jim Jarmusch, Robert Frank, Gary Goldberg, Jeff Weiss, Scott and Beth B, Jim Neu and Andrew Horn. In collaboration with writer Gary Indiana he formed a garden theater in the backyard of his studio at 7 east 3rd Street on the Men’s Shelter block. Along with his friends, photographer/artist Richard Morrison and writer Larry Mitchell, Rice made exhibitions in his studio that included the work of Barbara Ess, Robert Gober, Chris Wool, David Wojnarowicz and Jack Smith among many others. He worked with the Gertrude Stein scholar Ulla Dydo and Edward Burns on books about Stein for many years, and also did extensive, unpublished research on Picasso’s Demoiselles D’Avignon.

Rice studied painting at Middlebury College in Vermont in the late 1940s and came to New York City in 1953. He began as an abstract painter, but his subject became the nocturnal street life of the Lower East Side. His gritty scenes of multiethnic encounters and tenement architecture are simultaneously edgy and explicit yet retain an inherently romantic vision. Rice was a singular painter in both subject and style – not allied with any particular generation or school. Holland Cotter wrote in The New York Times “the pictures with their thin washes of oil paint, are at once rigorously geometric in structure and smokily gestural as abstract Phillip Gustons.” Rice wrote of his paintings, “Ideally I would like to invest the rectangle – the basic unit in any city scape – with the sensuality, color, texture, I find in the streets. I like to record the young, elegant, black, Asian and Hispanic men who know how to move and glow in what would otherwise be a dreary landscape.”

Rice’s New York Times obituary quoted writer Larry Mitchell, who termed Rice “’the last Bohemian,’ chronically short of money, interested only in happenstantial fame, rarely traveling more than a few blocks from his home.”

Rice’s paintings were exhibited in 1984 at The Patrick Fox Gallery and in 1987 at 56 Bleecker Gallery. Richard Milazzo selected Rice’s paintings for a show at Sidney Janis Gallery in 1996. The last exhibition before his death was at Mitchel Algus Gallery in 2005.