“Stuart Davis, Gorky, and myself have formed a group and something original, purely American is coming out from under our brushes.”
—John Graham, in a letter to collector Duncan Phillips, December, 1930
At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists in the United States began to define an American style of art. While figurative modes such as Social Realism found popular support in museums, many artists sought to elevate nonobjective art as the style of the future. Rosenberg & Co. is pleased to present Out From Under Our Brushes, an exhibition of works by artists who explored the possibilities of abstraction in a decidedly American context.
A large number of methods and styles emerged from the pursuit of American Modernism, but scholars generally agree upon several shared traits: an indebtedness to the “spatial inventions” of Cubism and an emphasis on a work of art’s material presence. Many of the artists represented in this exhibition attended the Art Students League under teachers like John Sloan or Hans Hoffman and inherited avant-garde ideas that contributed to an emerging American aesthetic. Groupings—such as the Vanguards that surrounded John Graham, Alfred Stieglitz’s circle that included Alfred Maurer, Arthur Dove, Max Weber, and Marsden Hartley, or the formally organized American Abstract Artists, whose founding members included George L. K. Morris, Balcomb Greene, and Esphyr Slobodkina—dedicated to the development of modernist styles, provided artists a means for innovating beyond the influence of European abstraction.
American Modernism is also deeply linked to the geographical experience of the country itself. On the one hand, as the city of cultural capital shifted from Paris to New York, artists flocked to the American metropolis. On the other hand, artists notably participated in what William C. Agee describes as “that old American habit,” of departing the city in favor of the vast American landscape. Unique settings, such as New Mexico, as painted by Louis Ribak and Beatrice Mandelman, or the lush vistas of upstate New York or Maine provided the backdrop for distinctly American interpretations.
Together, the works brought together in Out From Under our Brushes explore the legacy of American Modernism: from interpretations of nonrepresentational styles that were developed in Europe, to the wild and sophisticated compositions that emerged at midcentury, and ultimately to the refined abstractions seen in works by contemporary artists such as Tom John and Derek Uhlman. While diversified in form, these works belong to a shared history of defining American Modernism.
Artists in the exhibition:
Morris Barazani, Hans Burkhardt, Dorothy Dehner, Arthur Dove, John D. Graham, Balcomb Greene, Marsden Hartley, Paul Jenkins, Tom John, Robert Keyser, Beatrice Mandelman, Conrad Marca-Relli, Alfred H. Maurer, George L. K. Morris, Reuben Nakian, Louis Ribak, Larry Rivers, Judith Rothschild, Esphyr Slobodkina, Theodoros Stamos, Kenneth Stubbs, Derek Uhlman, Jeffrey Wasserman, Max Weber