OPENING RECEPTION: THURSDAY, MAY 27, 2004, FROM 5 - 7PM
A pronounced shift in American Art occurred at the end of World War II. The 1945 Whitney Museum of American Art’s Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting heralded the emergence of the New York School with the debut of works by Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Mark Tobey. In highlighting these artists this exhibition signified a changing of the guard. It also debuted another powerful young talent–Howard Warshaw.
Warshaw was born in New York City in 1920. He trained at the Pratt Institute and the National Academy. He continued at the Art Students League and Columbia University. In 1942, disqualified for military service, he left for Los Angeles in search of direction. He soon found it.
Having tried his hand at animation for Disney, Warshaw’s path as an artist was solidified by the patronage of collector Vincent Price. Securing funds for a short return to New York, Warshaw left with a letter of introduction to Dorothy Miller, associate curator of paintings under Alfred Barr at MOMA. With Miller’s legendary support for emerging talent, Warshaw was introduced to dealer Julian Levy who gave the young artist his first solo exhibition in 1945. More importantly, Levy introduced Warshaw to Southern Californians Eugene Berman and Rico Lebrun. Returning to Los Angeles, Warshaw developed lasting friendships with both artists. Berman’s deep appreciation of baroque compositional elements and Lebrun’s philosophical humanism and expressive draftsmanship formed part of Warshaw’s artistic lexicon. Warshaw’s work evolved rapidly during this period, and he received critical recognition including participation in eight Whitney “Annuals” commencing in 1945.
In 1950, Warshaw accepted a teaching position at Ohio State University. Once there, he regretted the move. Artistically isolated, he found himself alone and without funds. However in this period that he developed what became a lifelong interest in organic cubism, which can be seen in Two Hands Study. This illustrates Warshaw’s system of multiple perspectives capturing the relationships between the object observed and the “extra-painting” or indirect references sought by the artist. After his return to Los Angeles Warshaw began to enjoy national acclaim with multiple bi-coastal exhibitions and awards including exhibitions with dealers Frank Perls in Los Angeles and Jacques Selligmann in New York.
That same year, Warshaw accepted a faculty appointment at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Over the next two decades, he developed a curriculum that emphasized his approach to the human figure, fine draftsmanship, and organic cubism. During this time, his work expanded to include multi-media collage and monumental murals encompassing dramatic cinematic compositions of multiple figures. In his later years, Warshaw began prophetic experiments with commercial printing and mass-media technologies. He died in 1977 at age 56.
This long awaited retrospective presents more than thirty important early and mid-career works, many with extensive exhibition histories. With the artist’s estate privately held for decades, this is an opportunity to see works long held from view. -Edward Cella