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News: UPCOMING EXHIBITION | Montagne at Gazelli Art House, London, May  1, 2024

UPCOMING EXHIBITION | Montagne at Gazelli Art House, London

May 1, 2024

Gazelli Art House gathers innovative collage work from venerated artists Helen Frankenthaler, Nancy Grossman, Grace Hartigan, Lilly Fenichel, Perle Fine, Betty Parsons, Sonja Sekula, Yvonne Thomas, and Michael (Corinne) West in an exceptional survey of Abstract Expressionism.
Preview: May 16th, 6-8 pm
Exhibition: May 17 - July 13, 2024
Gazelli Art House, London 

Montage delivers a shrewd exploration of prominent Abstract Expressionist artists via a curatorial focus on assemblage, collage, and non-canvas artworks. Spotlighting Post-War artists long overlooked until recent decades, Gazelli Art House invites audiences to experience an amalgamation of diverse artistic voices that defined an era. Amidst a notable surge of interest in twentieth-century female abstract artists, ignited by Mary Gabriel’s pivotal book Ninth Street Women, the Montage show at Gazelli Art House offers a fresh perspective, delving into the diverse practices of women in abstraction, while also recognising Europe’s profound impact on the American Abstract Expressionist movement.

Helen Frankenthaler’s works are a fusion of spontaneity and control, evidenced in her famed “soak-stain” technique, where she poured diluted paint onto unprimed canvas, allowing colours to blend organically. In 1973, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Sixty-two Painted Book Covers, showcased Frankenthaler, a book about Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings, featuring a cover by Robert Motherwell and commentary by Barbara Rose. The special edition showcased uniquely painted cloth covers, transforming the book, as curator John J. McKendry highlights, “Frankenthaler, like a true artist-magician, has transformed this book. She has made a book on art into a work of art”.

Nancy Grossman’s collages reveal a striking interplay of fragmented imagery and bold textures, offering a visceral exploration of the human psyche and societal constructs. Through her meticulous arrangement of materials, Grossman, as seen in Untitled (1963), pushes the boundaries of collage as a medium, infusing her work with a raw intensity that captivates viewers and invites contemplation of themes such as power, identity, and vulnerability.

Grace Hartigan, renowned for her fearless exploration of form and colour, anchors the exhibition with her dynamic collages, offering viewers a glimpse into the visceral energy that characterised the Abstract Expressionist movement. The disparate elements in Hartigan’s work mirrors the emotional intensity and spontaneity inherent in this influential movement. During her time residing and working in New York, Hartigan cultivated a enduring fascination with jazz. Her artistic expression seen in Jazz in New York (1957) echoes the syncopated beats and free-flowing nature reminiscent of 1950s modern jazz.

Through carefully arranged fragments of varying shapes and textures, Lilly Fenichel’s dynamic compositions and gestural brushwork emanate an irrepressibly vigorous energy, as seen in Collage IV (1961). Calligraphic forms are a common theme throughout Fenichel’s artwork, as was the influence of nature and Colour Field painting on her practice.

Celebrated for her nuanced approach to abstraction, Perle Fine’s collages are a testament to her mastery of form and balance. Fine’s meticulous compositions reveal a profound engagement with texture and colour, offering a contemplative counterpoint to the more spontaneous expressions present in the collection. During the mid- 1960s, Fine produced a collection of painted wood reliefs, such as Supersonic Calm (c.1966), where individual components appeared fragmented, yet seamlessly integrated into a unified whole.

Betty Parsons’ intuitive use of materials and keen sense of composition are showcased via a selection of collages and wooden assemblages that underscore her role as a catalyst for innovation. Parsons utilised vibrant hues to evoke emotional response, and while her style evolved over the years, her commitment to abstraction remained constant. In 1965, Parsons revisited sculpture, an art form that had been among her earliest mediums. She delved into experimentation with found materials such as driftwood, signage, and disassembled furniture gathered from the beach near her home. Transforming these elements into shapes reminiscent of buildings, toys, or masks, Parsons treated these assemblages with paint in a manner akin to her approach on canvas. This process, evident in works like Sound Melody (1977) and Untitled (Pink, Orange and Gray) (c.1970), breathed new life into these neglected objects, infusing them with the aura of mementos. These sculptures bear a profound connection to Parsons’ enduring fascination with the mysticism inherent in Native American craft and artistic production.

Yvonne Thomas’ intricate layering and sensitivity to the emotive potentialities of colour offer soft landscapes of buoyant, abstract forms akin to the style seen in Collage (1958). Thomas was fascinated by the symbolism inherent in colours and the formation of her works hold an almost lyrical quality.

Sonja Sekula, a luminary whose work often defies categorisation, contributes collages that transcend traditional artistic boundaries. Sekula’s inventive use of materials and layered compositions challenges preconceived notions of space and dimension, Untitled Collage (1959) exemplifies the avant-garde spirit of Abstract Expressionism while reflecting her surrealist influences. Her art gained recognition with her inclusion in prominent exhibitions such as Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of this Century and the Betty Parsons Gallery, as well as the landmark 1951 9th Street Show.

Michael Corinne West’s works, ranging from heavily impastoed Cubist pieces to explosive collage compositions, reflect her intuitive and ever-evolving artistic approach. Through bold experimentation and a fusion of emotional intensity, West’s oeuvre enriches the legacy of New York’s Abstract Expressionist movement, while her exploration of automatism and Surrealist influences, alongside her anxieties about Cold War politics, imbue her work with a profound depth and complexity. One such example is Untitled (1979), a striking piece rendered in charcoal and collage on paper.


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