Almost discernible images dissolve into gesture and assert that their power is not formalist but metaphysical.”
[Marge Bulmer: Los Angeles Free Weekly, 1988]
“Cool colors are made to smolder and burn, while warm colors are made to seem cool and metallic in an enigmatic reversal of established laws of color harmony. Convex surfaces of carefully modulated color and value gradations metamorphose into concave recesses.”
[Carol Donnell-Kotrozo: “The Dynamics of Illusion,” ARTWEEK, Vol. 11 No. 4, February 1980]
Deborah Remington is widely known for her works on paper and canvas which feature mysteriously illuminated central imagery atop gradient fields. In many of these works, shield-like forms appear: nested and floating in space, these shapes suggest mirrors or armor, at once organic and machine-like. Hallmarks of Remington’s oeuvre include frontal presentation of this semi-serial imagery, a heightened sense of theatricality, and use of intense, specific color.
Remington studied at California School of Fine Arts (now known as San Francisco Art Institute) with Bay Area Abstract Expressionists Clyfford Still, David Park, and Elmer Bischoff, among others, earning a B.F.A. in 1955. In 1954, Remington co-founded 6 Gallery, San Francisco’s first Beat gallery and famed gathering space, along with fellow artists Wally Hedrick, Hayward King, John Ryan, and David Simpson, and poet Jack Spicer; the following year, 6 Gallery hosted Allen Ginsburg’s first public reading of “Howl”. After graduation, she spent two years in Tokyo (1956-58), during which she studied traditional calligraphy, sumi-e painting, and ikebana while supporting herself by teaching American slang to Japanese students and acting in Japanese television and B movies. Upon returning to the Bay Area Remington taught at University of California, Davis, San Francisco State University, and California School of Fine Arts; later, she held adjunct positions teaching advanced painting and drawing at Cooper Union and New York University.
Deborah Remington’s career burgeoned in the 1960s when she had three solo shows at California’s famed Dilexi Gallery, at its locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 1965, Remington returned to the East Coast, settling in New York, where she gained renown for the singular visual language influenced by Abstract Expressionism, Surrealism, and the mechanistic imagery for which she is now best known. Works were soon acquired by San Francisco Museum of Art (in 1965), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (in 1966). From 1967-68, Remington split her time between New York and Paris, where she joined Galerie Darthea Speyer; in fact, her “wildly successful” exhibition there in 1968 was the storied gallery’s inaugural show.
Remington’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions at galleries and museums within the United States and internationally, including Galerie Kimmerich (Berlin); Parrasch Heijnen Gallery (Los Angeles); Wallspace (New York); Mitchell Algus Gallery (New York); Galerie Darthea Speyer (Paris); Oakland Art Museum (Oakland); Newport Harbor Art Museum (Newport Beach); and the San Francisco Museum of Art (San Francisco). Remington has been included in such two-person and group exhibitions as Davina Semo and Deborah Remington (Parts & Labor Beacon); Dilexi: Totems and Phenomenology (Parrasch Heijnen Gallery); Difference Engine, curated by Tina Kukielski and Cory Arcangel (Lisson Gallery); The Coffins of Paa Joe and the Pursuit of Happiness (Jack Shainman Gallery – The School); Women of Abstract Expressionism (Denver Art Museum, Mint Museum, and Palm Springs Art Museum); Expanding Perceptions: Deborah Remington, Beverly Pepper, and Jack Goldstein (Marlborough Chelsea); Painting and Sculpture in California: The Modern Era (San Francisco Museum of Art); and L’art vivant aux États-Unis and Art Vivant, 1965-1968 (both at Fondation Maeght).
Remington was the recipient of numerous grants and awards during her lifetime, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (1984), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1979), and a Tamarind Fellowship (1973), amongst others. In 1999, Remington was elected to the National Academy of Design, and also received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago (Illinois), Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio), Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Oakland Museum of Art (California), Toledo Museum of Art (Ohio), and Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford), among others.
Deborah Remington (1930-2010) came to prominence through her iconic abstract paintings of the 1960s and 1970s. Emblematic and mysterious, these paintings are distinguished by a graphic intensity that is a hallmark of her entire career, which began in the midst of Abstract Expressionism and extended over six decades. The drawings she produced are constantly striking and impeccable, both in terms of faultless technique and clarified intention.
. . .
In the first phase of Deborah Remington’s career, from the 1950s through the mid-1970s, drawing was crucial in the forming of her artistic self. Drawing was a means of advancing her visual thinking and embodying the physical and psychic in graphic form. As her work progressed, she continued to explore the power of limited means used with passion and precision. Drawing was for her always direct, intimate, and cryptically expressive. From the beginning, and through the succeeding decades, her work was poetic in its concision and its capacity for multiple readings of a single image. The artist stated this as an imperative: “Present it so that when you first look at it, it hits you a certain way, but on second look, it’s not what you thought it was the first time.”
[excerpted from an essay by John Mendelsohn in Deborah Remington: A Life in Drawing. Published by the Deborah Remington Charitable Trust for the Visual Arts, 2016.]