To inaugurate the Fall art season, Sullivan Goss will present an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and pastels from the Estate of Frenchborn American artist, Leon Dabo (18641960). With eighteen works created between 1885 and 1954, the exhibition seeks to discover the threads that tether his three principal periods and his three main mediums together. Accordingly, works from his early Tonalist period will be intermixed with his later floral series and his final Provençal work.
Leon Dabo was a phenomenally productive and successful artist whose career spanned the nineteenth and twentieth centuries – an epoch of momentous change in the world of art. In turn, Dabo was unusually urbane, seeing much that he admired in the wispy Aestheticism of Whistler, the moodiness of American Tonalism, the dreamy Symbolism of Rédon, the calligraphic virtuosity of Chinese painting, and the bold brushwork and vivid colors of Cézanne and Matisse. In a body of work covering some seventy years, he assimilated them all, creating a cosmopolitan vision marked by its preference for fineness in line, form, color, and emotion – qualities that moved with and against the trajectories of Modern art as the twentieth century wore on.
“Art for Art’s Sake” is often cited as the rallying cry of the Aesthetic Movement with which Whistler and Oscar Wilde were associated. It sought beauty at the expense of all else, even morality. For Dabo, it seems that the search for beauty was itself a moral and ennobling enterprise.
Sullivan Goss has represented the artist for almost three years and has published three books related to specific bodies of work. Generally, these books have sought to clarify and even simplify the story of Dabo’s artistic development – to divide his work into digestible chunks. Art for Art’s Sake looks for the commonality in his “different styles” and mediums to embrace the complexity of his output. Thus, for example, the vertical spray of an autumn tree in Lavish Fall Light, c. 1900 seems perfectly at home next to the vertical arrangement of blossoms in Vase Blanc from 1937. The many other connections uniting Dabo’s works are left to the viewer to find.
3:43 | Jeremy Tessmer