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While abstraction in the United States can undeniably trace its legacy to the impact of European Modernism, it is also a product of a distinctly American ethos and environment. Drawing inspiration from metropolises like New York City to the vast landscapes of the Southwest, abstraction in the United States is a unique response to both rapid industrial growth and immense natural beauty. In their works, Beatrice Mandelman and Jeffrey Wasserman preserve the influence of artists such as Henri Matisse and Fernand Léger—with whom Mandelman studied—but developed their own abstract vocabularies.
Mandelman and Wasserman both emerged from the art world of New York; Mandelman a graduate of the Arts Students League and Wasserman a member of the downtown scene. Wasserman flourished amidst the artists of SoHo in the 1970s and 80s and evoked the dynamism of the city in his works. The two artists also share in a tradition of departure, both leaving the city to seek out a renewed sense of freedom in the natural landscape. In 1944, Mandelman moved to Taos, New Mexico, while Wasserman moved upstate to the Hudson Valley in the early nineties. In New Mexico, Mandelman became the center of a group known as the Taos Moderns, which included artists such as Agnes Martin and Louis Ribak, and encouraged a new style of abstraction influenced by the American desert. Finding a similar sense of the sublime in both the Taos area and the Hudson River Valley, Mandelman and Wasserman engaged, at a different pace, with the vibrancy of the prosaic, mediating abstracted landscapes with a repertoire of memorable symbols and diacritics.
United in this exhibition, the bright and lyrical works of Mandelman and Wasserman convey unique forms of American abstraction. Their work is shown alongside contemporary American artists Maysey Craddock, Dorothy Dehner, Paul Jenkins, Tom John, Larry Rivers, and Theodoros Stamos.
Jeffrey Wasserman, The Garden Gate: A Man’s Estate, 1987, 51 x 58 in.