Thursday, June 04, 2009

Alice Neel at Zwirner

Wow! this is a must see exhibition, along with the late Picasso's, the best of the season.

David Zwirner is presenting two concurrent exhibitions of Alice Neel’s work, the first since announcing its representation of her Estate.
• Alice Neel: Selected Works at David Zwirner, at 533 West 19th Street, May 14 through June 20, 2009.
• Alice Neel: Nudes of the 1930s at Zwirner & Wirth, at 32 East 69th Street, May 6 through June 20, 2009

Alice neel is a painter I have always been aware of, but almost entirely through the occasional reproduction here and there. Over the last few years I have rediscovered her work. This occurred the best way possible, accidentally, primarily in group shows, as an answer to the reflexive question "who did that?"

So last week when my painter friend Biff Elrod said to me, "Alice Neel has a knockout show at Zwirner" I took the subway uptown and we went to see it together. He was right, the exhibition of Alice Neel's early works at Zwirner and Wirth (69th Street) were gritty precursors to her later paintings.

A few days later we walked over to Chelsea to see the Picasso's, on the way we stopped by Zwirner (20th Street) only to be surprised with the other half of the exhibition. The element of surprise, stumbling upon an exhibition you didn't expect and finding that it exceeds all of your expectations, well that's really nice.

I'm not going to say a whole lot about these works, I've just seen the exhibition once and I am sure that there are other writers who can fill you in on the details of her life. (There's also a video available, which I haven't seen yet)

What I will say is that these paintings stand above almost all other representational paintings made in the latter part of the twentieth century. They represent the full complexity a pictorial image is able to present, both visually, conceptually and psychologically.

The images below are in chronological order. The 1930 painting Rhoda Myers Nude is at Zwirner and Wirth Gallery uptown, and the rest are at the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea.

Alice Neel
Rhoda Myers Nude
Oil on canvas
29 3/4 x 26 inches, 75.6 x 66 cm
At Zwirner and Wirth Gallery (32 E 69th Street)

The next two were painted during the heart of WWII. Sam and Hartley is a poignant image of the darkness felt in those years.

Alice Neel
Sam, Snow (How like the winter)
Oil on canvas
30 x 24 inches 76.2 x 61 cm

Alice Neel
Sam and Hartley
c. 1945
Oil on canvas
30 x 27 inches 76.2 x 68.6 cm

1950's, the male dominated anti-representational period of Greenberg and the Abstract Expressionists

Alice Neel
Ballet Dancer
Oil on canvas
20 1/8 x 42 1/8 inches 51.1 x 107 cm

Alice Neel
Oil on canvas
32 x 20 1/4 inches 81.3 x 51.4 cm

Alice Neel
Rita and Hubert
Oil on canvas
34 x 40 inches 86.4 x 101.6 cm

Alice Neel
George Arce
Oil on canvas
36 x 25 inches 91.4 x 63.5 cm

1960's, the look in the eyes of Cindy is priceless and her handling of the plaid on the dress is wonderful.

Alice Neel
Oil on canvas
28 x 18 inches 71.1 x 45.7 cm

Alice Neel
Jerry Sokol
Oil on canvas
40 x 28 inches 101.6 x 71.1 cm

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