Franklin Parrasch Gallery is pleased to present rita ackermann + philip guston, the third in a series of two-artist, cross-generational shows in our Chelsea gallery at 548 west 22 street. Included in this show are two works on paper by Guston (dating from 1966 and 1971), and a new painting by Ackermann (2012).
In the fall of 1970, immediately following his now legendary (then maligned) exhibition of cartoon-like depictions of Ku Klux Klan heads and hooded figures, Philip Guston embarked on a seven month-long residency at the American Academy in Rome. What was originally planned as a well-deserved respite instead became a requisite escape from the tribulations and ridicule of an art world that vehemently rejected Guston’s new mode of narrative figuration. “American Abstract art is a…cover-up for a poverty of spirit…. Anything but this! Let it show! It is an escape from the true feelings we have, from the ‘raw,’ primitive feelings about the world–and us in it,” wrote Guston. While in Rome, far from his critics in New York, the motif of the hooded heads stayed in Guston’s consciousness and became a recurring motif in the body of work, known as the “Roma” series, that he created during his visit.
In 1992, Rita Ackermann moved to New York from her native Budapest, where she had been studying at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts. Instantly immersing herself in the New York art and cultural scene, Ackermann passionately absorbed and took part in the aesthetic discourse among fellow artists, as well as musicians, writers, poets, and filmmakers.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ackermann made numerous visits to Texas before accepting a residency at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX (2009). In west Texas, surrounded by the canyons and prairies that Donald Judd took as his muse, Ackermann embraced the people and objects that were born of this region. Her time away from New York allowed a break from her intense participation in the New York art scene and was a period during which Ackermann experienced a point of departure in her personal development as an artist.
During the fall of 2010, at her studio in Marfa, Ackermann commenced work on what would become an ongoing series initially prompted by a Hungarian poster illustrating fire safety instructions. Influenced, too, by a line from French poet Roger Gilbert-Lecompte’s ‘Vacancy in Glass’ – “To a place whose towers are pillars of fire by day” – Ackermann named this growing series “Fire by Days”.
This body of work marks a divergence from Ackermann’s earlier aesthetic approach, and even her relationship to painting itself; echoing the sea change Guston’s career took some 40 years earlier, Ackermann is now similarly turning away from some of the tropes she had grappled with in favor of her own search for pure painting: “It is interesting,” says Ackermann. “He ended at a point from where I had carved my work out. I would like to master in abstraction what he abandoned.” As the viewer navigates layers of imagery rendered using a vast spread of materials, he is introduced to themes in pairs: power and sexuality, fragility and violence. The viewer ascertains icons and symbols – which carry decades of art historical and social weight – as coming in and out of focus, alternately asserting and resigning themselves, each vying for visual and ideological priority. The conviction with which Ackermann pursues this mastery in “Fire by Days” is made evident by her focus on the repetition of a single image over and over: “I am trying to copy myself.”
Philip Guston (1913-1980) was born Philip Goldstein in Montreal, Canada. He studied at the Otis Art Institute (Los Angeles) in 1930. In 1935, at the urging of long-time friend Jackson Pollock, Guston moved to New York. Though friends not only with Pollock but also Willem de Kooning, Guston abandoned Abstract Expressionism in the late 1960s in favor of his signature approach to expressive, narrative painting. Guston’s work has been the subject of numerous solo museum exhibitions including The Museum of Modern Art (New York), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museo Centro de Arte Reino Sofía (Madrid), and the Morgan Library (New York). Most recently, the Roma series was exhibited at the Museo Carlo Bilotti (Rome) and then traveled to the Phillips Collection (Washington, DC).
Rita Ackermann was born in Budapest in 1968. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (Budapest) from 1989-1992 and then at the New York Studio School from 1992-1993. Recent exhibitions include Shadow Fux with Harmony Korine at the Swiss Institute (New York). Bakos, a major survey of Ackermann’s work, is currently on view at the Ludwig Múzeum (Budapest). On March 15 of this year, the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, will present Rita Ackermann curated by MoCA Executive Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater. A monograph published by Skira Rizzoli, which includes essays by Clearwater, Josh Smith, John Kelsey, Felix Ensslin, and Harmony Korine, accompanies the exhibition.
This exhibition takes place at 548 West 22 Street; hours are 11a-5p Tuesday-Friday, 10a-6p Saturday. For images, biography, and further information, please contact the gallery at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-246-5360, Tuesday-Saturday 10a-6p.